Chrome OS new beta adds in-browser Office document editing

By Alexandra Burlacu | Jul 02, 2013 12:05 PM EDT

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Google's latest Chrome OS build adds native Microsoft Office file editing to the dev channel, allowing users to edit Word and Excel files in-browser.

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The new feature is in beta for now, but signals good things to come. Google is clearly keen on making its Chrome operating system increasingly better and the latest pre-final releases stand proof, adding notable abilities to Chromium mode.

Developer Francois Beaufort was the first to announce the new tweaks after finding this intriguing note in Chromium code review: "Improved Quickoffice editing about: flag."

"If you still have to deal with Microsoft Office files everyday on your Chrome OS Device, you can start to breathe: Chrome OS users can now experiment with editing Microsoft Excel and  Word files," touts the developer.

As previously mentioned, the new document editing abilities are available for Microsoft Word and Excel files, with no mention of PowerPoint yet. Considering Google's QuickOffice acquisition back in 2012, however, it's quite safe to assume that PowerPoint will eventually get the same treatment.

For now, users of a Chromebook or some other Chrome OS device on the dev channel can try out the new features of the latest build by navigating to chrome://flags > Enable > Restart Now. After restarting the system, users will be able to access the latest feature.

This is an important addition for those working with Chrome, as many users would much rather have native editing options instead of all the Google Docs import-export hassle. Working with Google Docs may not be very difficult, but it's not the easiest way either. Having a native editor inside Chrome OS, however, promises much easier Microsoft Office document editing, marking an important step forward for Google's operating system iteration of Chrome.

As Beaufort points out, this is just the beginning and, as expected with beta modes, things may be somewhat buggy. Consequently, those experimenting with the new build can help Google improve it by filling quickoffice bugs and reporting to the Chrome issue reporting interface, attaching their Office files if possible. Pre-set fill-in-the-blanks should make the process easy enough.

Integrated Microsoft Office file editing was a notable absence from Chromebooks. Even the Chromebook Pixel, the highest-end Chrome OS machine on the market, lacked this important feature. Chrome OS had no great solution for modifying Word, Excel or PowerPoint files, which makes the new addition a very important step in the right direction.  

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