Better Office Doc Preview appears in GMail

Mike Halsey MVP
Jun 28, 2010
Updated • Jun 26, 2017
Gmail, Google

The web mail war is raging on with the continued roll out of Microsoft's new Hotmail service.  Now Google is coming back with new features to it's own GMail service, the first of which was quietly announced over the weekend.

The company has added a one-click preview for the world's most common file format, Microsoft Word documents.  In a statement on the GMail blog they said...

If you receive Microsoft® Word files as attachments in Gmail, you can now view them with a single click — no need to download, save, and open files with a desktop application when you just want read them. The Google Docs viewer that allows you to view .pdf, .ppt, and .tiff files in your browser now supports .doc and .docx formats too.

Just click the "View" link at the bottom of a Gmail message and the viewer will take it from there. If you decide you want to edit the file, clicking "Edit online" will open it in Google Docs, or you can download it to your desktop from there.

Clearly here though the reason for this is a push to remind people about the company's own Docs service, their cloud office 'suite' after the recent launch of Microsoft Office Live, the new free on-line version of Microsoft Office 2010 featuring the ribbon.

Whatever their commercial reasons for doing this, it's going to be a good move for consumers as anything that makes users lives easier will always be a good move.  However is there a potential security risk with this new one-click viewer.

Word documents, lets not forget, are also a favourite for virus writers to hide their malicious code in.  Having the user being able to open the file in the browser could be a god-send for them, potentially being able to expose a user to a virus without their PC's anti-virus software seeing it.

Which brings me back to how do you want to preview and open your files.  Is this new feature excellent and a real time saver, or is it a huge security risk waiting to happen.  I for one will continue to download all attachments and virus scan them before opening them.

Update: In the most recent version of the feature on Gmail, Google added several new options to it.

You can now click on a attached document to preview it right in the browser. There is also a link to Google Docs now which provides you with editing capabilities, and two save options. First the regular save option to the local system and then the second new option to save the document on Google Drive instead.

Better Office Doc Preview appears in GMail
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Better Office Doc Preview appears in GMail
Google announced a new feature for its Gmail service that enables users to preview Office document files directly on the Gmail web interface.
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  1. DanTe said on June 29, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Opening it with Google Docs is probably safer than opening it with Microsoft Office as the embedded scripts will not run.

    The only problem I have with viewing via Google is that I’ve noticed that the document one had viewed is stored on Google’s server for “your benefit” until you noticed it and physically delete it. I’ve avoided viewing Anything via Google thereafter.

  2. said on June 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Doesn’t most anti-virus software have the ability to read email … before and/or as the file is being opened?

  3. Deepak said on June 28, 2010 at 9:47 am

    wasn’t this feature to view word docs already present?

  4. Locutus said on June 28, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I have to disagree about the last part. If you open the file in Google Docs, you’ll have an even smaller chance of catching the viruses, due to the fact that Google Docs strips out most .DOC formatting stuff, leaving just images, tables, and stuff like that.

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