Sunday, March 4, 2018

3 Ways Google Drive and MS Office Can Live Together in Harmony

- Coke versus Pepsi
- Star Wars versus Star Trek
- Google Drive versus Microsoft Office
These are the timeless struggles of humanity.

So you are using Google Drive and its productivity tools such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides. But you still have Microsoft Office files from years and years before. What can you do with all of those existing Office files? Is there any way for your Microsoft files and your Google Drive to live in harmony?

Although Microsoft Office and Google Drive can often be thought of as competing products, they actually can work together in many ways. Google allows you to store all of your Office files in Drive, and then once they are there you can use them in three main ways:

  • You can convert your MS Office files into Google format
  • You can leave the files in MS Office format and then do light editing with a helpful extension
  • You can leave the files in MS Office format, but then open and edit them locally in Office with the Drive File Stream tool

In this blog post we will take a look at all three of these options and how they work. You may end up using all three, or find just the one that works best for you and your specific needs. See below for all the details.

Session Resources

 Session Agenda - "Using MS Office in Google Drive" - Google Document link
 Session Slideshow - "Using MS Office in Google Drive" - Google Slides link

Uploading Files

Before you can begin to work with MS Office files in Google Drive, you need to get the files into Drive. Google allows you to upload and store non-Google files, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files, as well as many other types. If you are using G Suite for Education, there is no limit on the size of your Google Drive, so you can upload as many files as you wish.

To upload a non-Google file into your Google Drive, do the following:

  • Go to Google Drive as normal.
  • Click the "New" button in to the top left.
  • Click "File upload" to select and upload an individual file from your computer.
  • Or click "Folder upload" to select an entire folder to upload from your computer (this will upload all of the files and subfolders in the selected folder).
  • The file(s) will then be uploaded.

Alternately if you prefer to drag and drop files, you can do that to upload files when using the Google Chrome web browser.

  • Open up Google Drive as normal.
  • Open the folder on your local computer with the file(s) you wish to upload, using Windows Explorer for example.
  • Drag and drop the file from your local computer onto Google Drive.
  • The file(s) will then be uploaded.

Now that you have your MS Office files saved in your Google Drive, if you double-click on any of them you can open a preview of the file to see what it is. However, by default you are not able to edit the Office files in your Drive. We will now look at the options for how you can work with these Office files.

Option #1 - Convert MS Office Files into Google Format

The first option for working with MS Office files in Google Drive is to convert the files from Office format into Google format. For example:

  • Microsoft Word files can convert into Google Docs
  • Microsoft PowerPoint presentations can convert into Google Slides
  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheets can convert into Google Sheets

Note: Because MS Office and Google Drive tools have some differences, files will not always convert perfectly. For example, there are some features that Word has that Google Docs does not (and vice versa) such as page borders. If your original Word document had a cute school bus page border going around the document, that will not be included in the new converted Google Doc version of the file (at least until Docs adds page borders at some point).

To convert an Office file to a Google version, do the following:

  • Locate the Office file in your Google Drive.
  • Right-click on the file and choose "Open with" and then choose the corresponding Google tool for that file type (Docs, Slides, or Sheets)
  • If you do not want to right-click, you can also select the Office file, then click the "3 dots" button in the top menu bar, and then choose "Open with" and choose the corresponding Google tool for that file type (Docs, Slides, or Sheets)

A Google version of the Office file will now be created in the same folder as the original Office file. The original Office file will still be there as well, so now you will have two versions of the file. You can now open and edit the new Google version of the file.


  • You are able to edit the file in Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets, so you can take advantage of all the special Google features sure a collaboration with others, Version History, Voice Typing, Add-ons, and much more.


  • Some files may not convert perfectly if the original Office file used a feature or formatting that was specific to MS Office and not yet supported in Google Drive.

Option #2 - Do Light Editing of the Office Files with the Office Editing Extension

The second option for working with MS Office files in your Google Drive is to use a special Chrome extension that lets you do light editing of the files without converting them into Google format. This can be a convenient option if you need to keep the file in Office format, or if the file does not convert well into Google format.

To do light editing of an Office file in Drive, do the following:

  • First you need to install the Chrome web extension "Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides" - Chrome web store link
  • After you have the extension installed, go to Google Drive and locate the MS Office file you wish to edit.
  • When you double-click on the file to open it, you will no longer get a preview of the file, but instead the file will open in a light web-based version of Word, PowerPoint, or Excel.

  • This tool will let you do minor editing to the MS Office file, while still keeping it in MS Office format.
  • When you save the file, it will simply save and update the Office file in your Drive.

Note: If you decide later that you do want to convert an Office file into Google format, you will need to do that a little differently if you have this extension install. Instead of using the directions covered in Option #1 above, you would do the following:

  • Double-click the Office file to open it in the light editor.
  • Next click the "File" menu in the top left.
  • Finally click "Save as Google Docs" (or Sheets or Slides).
  • This will make a Google version of the file.

If you decide you do not want to use the "Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides" extension, you can always uninstall it later by right-clicking on the extension and choosing "Remove from Chrome".


  • You are able to do light editing of MS Office files without having to convert them into Google format.
  • This can be helpful for files that do not convert well.
  • This can be useful for people who do not own MS Office, or can not run MS Office (like on a Chromebook)


  • The web-based Office editor is very light, so it is just for basic edits. It does not replicate the features of the full versions of Office.
  • Since the files are not converted into Google format, you cannot take advantage of the special features in Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Option #3 - Store Office Files in Drive but Edit Locally with Drive File Stream

The third option for working with MS Office files in Google Drive is to use the Drive File Stream tool. With this program installed you are able to:

  • Have all of your MS Office files stored in your Google Drive
  • But also have a folder on your local computer that shows all of the files that are stored in your Drive
  • And then you can open the MS Office files on your local computer and edit them with your own full version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • But when you save the edited files, they get saved back to your Google Drive.

This can be a great way to get the benefit of storing all your Office files in the cloud, while still being able to edit them locally with the full version of Office. Here's how it works:


  • First you need to install the Drive File Stream program on your local computer.
  • Note: This program can be installed on Windows and Mac computers, but not Chromebooks.
  • You can download the program by going to Drive, clicking the gear icon in the top right, and choosing "Download Drive File Stream".
  • Alternately use can use this direct link:
  • After you install the program you will need to log into your Google account with your email and password.


  • Now that Drive File Stream is installed, you will have a new "drive" on your computer where you can find all of your files from Google Drive.
  • Open Windows Explorer (on a Windows PC for example) and open your new "Google Drive File Stream" drive.
  • You will find "My Drive" and "Team Drive" (if you use Team Drive)
  • You can now browse through your files and folders to locate the MS Office files you want.
  • When you double-click on an Office file it will open locally on your computer using your own full version of Office.
  • You can now edit the file as normal in Office.
  • When you are done and you save the file it will save back to your Google Drive.

Offline Access

With Drive File Stream, the files are not actually being stored on your local computer. The "drive" that gets created just has shortcuts to your actual files which are being stored in the cloud in your Google Drive. The files get temporarily downloaded to your computer just during the time you are working on them.

However, if you want to save a local copy of any files, you can do that. This can be helpful if you are going to be offline for a while and want to make sure you can still work on certain files. Here's how:

  • Browse through your "Google Drive File Stream" drive to find the file(s) you want.
  • Right-click on a file and choose the "Drive File Stream" menu.
  • From that menu, click "Available offline" if you want to have a copy of the file saved locally to your computer rather than just being saved in the cloud.


  • MS Office files can be saved in Google Drive so they are accessible anywhere.
  • But the MS Office files can be opened locally on your computer to be edited with your full versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.


  • You have to have the full versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel installed on your computer.
  • Does not work on Chromebooks.
  • Since the files are not converted into Google format, you cannot take advantage of the special features in Docs, Sheets, and Slides.


Before Drive File Stream, there were other options for opening files locally from your Google Drive. These options are still available as alternatives to Drive File Stream:


Microsoft Office and Google Drive are both amazing tools. For the most part they both do very similar things… word processing documents, multimedia slideshows, and spreadsheets. However there are certain things Office does that Drive does not, and there are things Drive does that Office does not.

They are both tools, like a hammer and a screwdriver. The key is to know which tool to use in which situation to make the best use of the resources you have available. Thankfully with the options described above, it is not an "either/or" situation. You and your students can benefit from both suites, and Office and Drive can live and work in harmony.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at

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