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Open Office docs right in your browser with Chrome Office Viewer

Google's new tool adds an extra layer of convenience to Chrome, but it's not quite ready for prime time.

If you're trying to run your business without spending money on Microsoft Office, you know the occasional hassles that go with being on the receiving end of Office documents.

Google hopes to minimize that hassle with the Chrome Office Viewer extension, which makes it possible to view Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint slide decks right inside the Google Chrome browser. Just a click a link to any such file and presto, it opens.

The extension is compatible with both the Windows and Mac versions of Chrome. At least, it's supposed to be. On my Windows 7-based system, I couldn't install the extension, which is currently in beta. The Chrome Web Store issued me this message: "This application is not supported on this computer. Installation has been disabled."

What's more, the handful of user reviews in the store suggest that the extension definitely needs to have its beta kinks worked out.

(Update: According to a Google rep, Chrome Office Viewer requires the latest beta (v27) of the Chrome browser. I'm still using the current stable release, v26, hence the compatibility issue.)

This has the potential to be a very handy tool for anyone who relies heavily on the Google ecosystem. According to Google's description, the Chrome Office Viewer offers the added benefit of malware protection: "We added a specialized sandbox to impede attackers who use compromised Office files to try to steal private information or monitor your activities."

Until Google irons out the bugs, you'll have to rely on the "old-school" method of viewing Office documents in your browser: using Google Docs.

And while we're on the subject of Chrome, be sure to check out Black Menu, which puts all your Google services just a click away, and OneTab, which greatly reduces tab clutter.

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