Cloud Connect toolbar syncs Office files with Google Docs

Google's free add-on for versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 2003, 2007, and 2100 makes it easy to save, share, and sync DOC, XLS, and PPT files to Google Docs.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

With all the talk lately about working in the cloud, you might think desktop applications were about to go the way of the dot-matrix printer. In fact, running our everyday apps off the desktop remains the norm, especially in organizations. And considering the slow pace of technology change at most companies, the norm isn't likely to change anytime soon.

Still, there's no denying the long-term trend toward Web-hosted applications and storage. Facilitating the transition from local to remote apps is Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, a toolbar that adds a Sync button to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for storing DOC, XLS, and PPT files to your Google Docs account. I tested the toolbar in the 2010 versions of the three programs.

Related links
Comparing Microsoft's Office Web Apps with Google Docs
Web services that replace desktop apps

One-click file syncs between Office and Google Docs
The first time you open Word, Excel, or PowerPoint after installing Cloud Connect, you're prompted to sign into your Google account to grant the "third party" access to your data. After you sign in to Google, you're asked to grant access to specific services; in my case, these were Google Docs and Google Contacts.

The Global Settings dialog opens for resetting the default automatic sync to manual (only when you press the Sync button). The option to disable Protected View for documents synced with Google Docs is unchecked by default.

Google Cloud Connect Global Settings dialog
The Google Cloud Connect toolbar adds a Sync button and other options for linking Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to Google Docs. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

The toolbar appears prominently below the ribbon in the Office 2010 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. To sync a file, simply open it and click Sync. Seconds later the sync is confirmed and a Share button joins the Sync button on the right side of the toolbar.

The synced file's URL is shown in the middle of the toolbar along with a drop-down menu on the right. Menu options let you copy the file, see a revision history, and view and remove the Google information embedded with the file. You can also change the sync default setting.

Cloud Connect has only a handful of other settings. Access them by clicking the button labeled Google Cloud Connect on the left side of the toolbar and choosing the first of the three options (the other two are Help and About).

Save one version or multiple copies of files on Google Docs
It took just a few seconds for my test Office files to appear in Google Docs after syncing them in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, although none of the files I synced was larger than 1MB. All the files opened for editing in Google Docs without a hitch.

When you download a file you edited on Google Docs and reopen it in its native desktop app, an alert appears above the Cloud Connect toolbar warning that the file was downloaded from the Internet, so it could be dangerous. Click the Enable Editing button to unprotect the file.

MS Office 2010 protected-file warning
When you open files you've downloaded from Google Docs in the 2010 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you have to unprotect the files to edit them. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

If you rename a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file you've synced to Google Docs, you're given the choice of saving a second (or third or fourth) version of the file or creating a new version of the file with its own revision history.

Google Cloud Connect Document renamed or moved dialog
When you rename a file you've synced to Google Docs, you can add to the current version history or create an entirely new file. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Back in Google Docs, you can choose among the versions by highlighting the file on the home screen and clicking the Manage link next to Versions in the right pane. Depending on which sync option you choose, the file may retain its original name even after you've changed its name in the corresponding Office app. This can be confusing, but it isn't difficult to sort through multiple versions of files on Google Docs to find a specific one.

Plenty of people have sworn off desktop applications entirely in favor of their Web counterparts, but most of us will continue to bounce back and forth between working with files and apps stored locally and using their cloud equivalents. Google Cloud Connect brings the two universes closer together and promises to make the transition from software to services simpler--though not quite seamless.