New Feature In Google Drive Improves Interoperability with Microsoft Office

Google's new feature in Drive allows users to make comments directly on Microsoft Office files without requiring Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader local applications or end-use licenses.

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Organizations using Google Drive to store and share files in the cloud now have an easier way to interact with Microsoft Office files, PDFs and image files.

Google has introduced a new feature in Drive that lets users make comments directly on Microsoft Office files, and other files without requiring Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader local applications or end use licenses.

Staring this week, Google Drive users can simply use the preview pane to comment on almost any file in Drive irrespective of format. They can receive replies to those comments from even people that are not using G Suite, said Google Drive software engineer Eric Zhang, and product manager Birkan Icacan in a blog Feb.7.

Comments made in Drive Preview are now exported to the underlying file so when users open up the file they can see the comments made in Drive Preview, according to the company. "Let’s say your coworker opens a file on her Windows laptop using MS Word, she will see your comment in the file and can reply right from there," Zhang and Icacan said.

In addition to making file-level comments in preview pane, users can now also make inline or anchored comments with the new feature. For instance, a user can highlight a sentence in an Office Word document and attach a comment to it or do the same with a single cell in an Excel spreadsheet.

The commenting feature eliminates the need for users to open up other tools in order to complete tasks. Instead, they can now open Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft Office files in Google Drive preview and make comments, give feedback, assign tasks and collaborate in other ways.

The improved interoperability with Microsoft and other environments is important in situations where project teams have to work with heterogeneous files and tools in order to get work done, the two Google engineers noted. For example, a project team that has to collaborate with an external agency, or is trying to negotiate a contract with a client or preparing specifications will need the ability to deal with multiple file formats with minimal disruption.

The new ability to comment in Drive's preview pane is only one example of the growing interoperability between Google's G Suite lineup of office productivity tools and Microsoft's Office application suite, Icacan and Zhang said.

In addition, Google also offers a Drive plug-in that makes it easier for users to save an attachment in an Outlook email to Drive or insert files from Drive to an Outlook email. Similarly, users also already have the ability to convert a Microsoft Office file to a Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets file. In addition a previously available Office Compatibility Mode feature lets users edit Office files without having to fully convert them to a Google file format, they added.

The new feature is available on all G Suite editions.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.