Google Docs was once an application that was “like Microsoft Word” or “like PowerPoint”, and could read and write files from those programs as well as Excel. But mainly, you understood that you were editing your file and storing it, in Google’s proprietary format.
Then, in January 2010, Google announced that they would allow users to store any file format in their Google Docs environment. That started to look like another cloud storage offering. Frankly, it didn’t make a lot of sense to upload files you cannot even open in that environment. Google took a big step toward addressing that week, making some key formats natively viewable within Google Docs.
On their blog, they say:
The Google Docs Viewer is used by millions of people every day to quickly view PDFs, Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint presentations online. Not only is viewing files in your browser far more secure than downloading and opening them locally, but it also saves time and doesn’t clutter up your hard-drive with unwanted files.
Today we’re excited to launch support for 12 new file types:
- Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
- Microsoft PowerPoint 2007⁄2010 (.PPTX)
- Apple Pages (.PAGES)
- Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
- Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
- Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
- Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
- PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
- TrueType (.TTF)
- XML Paper Specification (.XPS)
Not only does this round out support for the major Microsoft Office file types (we now support DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS and XLSX), but it also adds quick viewing capabilities for many of the most popular and highly-requested document and image types.
In Gmail, these types of attachments will now show a “View” link, and clicking on this link will bring up the Google Docs Viewer.
For me, one of the few annoying aspects of how Gmail and Google Docs work together has been that, in the early days, simply opening up a Word document in my Gmail would automatically create a document in Google Docs, or that it wouldn’t allow me to preview it, and would force me to download the file. Now, I will simply be able to View these documents, and have them disappear into the browser cache at the end of the session.