Over the years, Google has done much to alleviate the pain of editing Microsoft Office files on Chromebooks, but in my opinion, the progress has felt like walking through mud. The only time we see significant improvements to this experience is when Google feels like making them. I’ve had a support ticket submitted since 2019 that complains about some of these issues, and no one addressed it. (23 days ago it was finally moved)
We have an on-going investigation in an internal doc (can’t be published here). But one thing to share is to re-confirm this issue reproduces on stock Android 11 as long as the user is using the internal Files app (Settings > Storage > Files) and not the Files By Google app where files open as editable instead of read-only.Chromium Bug report from 2019, comment from last year
Now, a new update in ChromeOS Canary, which was spotted a little while ago by C2 Productions on Twitter, shows the company testing out a new pop-up dialogue for Office Editing on its laptop operating system.
In the Files app, double-clicking a .docx or another Office-type file in your local storage will now present you with an option to either open it in Google Docs or Microsoft Office itself. Of course, you’ll have to have the app installed in order to trigger this, as well as the “Enable Office files upload workflow” developer flag enabled.
to be fair, you’ve been able to select which program you’d like to open your files in for a few years now by selecting the “Open with” dropdown at the top of the Files app. This additional in-your-face pop-up is just more helpful and takes the burden off of the user to think about manually swapping the default program. Most device owners don’t do this, in my experience, and I can see why this change is being made.
What’s even more interesting, however, is what else this flag enables. Another image, which was also provided by C2 Productions, shows off a new “Move and Upload option for Office documents. You see, in order to edit files in the installed Office program, it has to be in One Drive. In the past, my frustration with writing traditional files on a Chromebook came from exactly this. No matter what I did to modify them from the local storage or Google Drive, they would open in ‘Read only’ mode.
Okay, so the simple solution all of these years was to get a few lines of code to automate the copy-and-paste process of moving your docs into Microsoft’s cloud? Well, why didn’t they think of this sooner? Choosing “Microsoft Office” from the aforementioned pop-up then presents you with the option to do exactly that – move your information over to Google’s biggest competitor and allow you to use their tools.
It’s effectively an arrow pointing out of Google’s house saying “We tried, we can’t fix it – just go use the other guys”. It wouldn’t be right for me to skip mentioning the fact that Google Docs’ “Native Office Editing” updates have been really well implemented, but most people still prefer the name brand that Microsoft has brought to the table for the past few decades, and I can’t blame them.
I only care that this issue is permanently resolved and becomes a thing of the past. Anyone who chooses to use a Chromebook over a Windows machine should still be able to edit their files without the two companies fueding and pointing fingers at each other. I spent countless hours going back and forth between Google and Microsoft and both of them blamed the other for the ‘Read Only’ problem. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than we’ve had up until this point, so I’ll take it.