Gmail adds Word attachment previews

Google introduces a one-click preview for Word .doc and .docx files attached to Gmail messages, but some kinks still need to be worked out

Googlie Marc Miller has announced a new feature for Gmail: If you receive a Word .doc or .docx file attached to an email message, with one click you can preview the document inside your Web browser -- no Word required. With a second click, you can open the doc in Google Docs and edit to your heart's content.

At least, that's the intent. In my tests, the execution left something to be desired.

[ The InfoWorld Test Center pits Google Docs versus Microsoft Office Web Apps. | Keep up on the latest in cloud developments with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing newsletter. ]

I found the Gmail preview for .doc files has some serious shortcomings when confronted with Word files that include graphics. The pictures frequently appeared in the wrong location, regardless of how the picture was inserted in the document. Pictures in line with text stood the greatest chance of appearing correctly. Pictures with wrapping turned on, ones that appear inside tables, or ones made to float above or below text rarely rendered correctly inside the browser.

I also had trouble with formatted text files not paginating correctly. One-page letters in Word turned into two-page letters in the Gmail previewer.

Remarkably, in some cases I had documents that didn't render correctly in the viewer, but when I clicked once again to edit in Google Docs, the file righted itself.

In other cases, I found that .doc files didn't look right, whereas the same file saved in .docx format (the Word 2007/2010 format) appeared in the online preview flawlessly.

It's definitely a version 1.0 product. The long-established Gmail previewers for .ppt, PDF, and TIFF files work much better.

Once you have the .doc or .docx file opened in Google Docs, sharing the file and allowing multiple editors is one-click easy. Some day, Google Docs may supplant SharePoint -- no Microsoft Office required -- but that day hasn't yet arrived.

The wonderful thing about a dancing bear is not how well he dances, but that he dances at all.

Woody's ode to dancing bears, "Windows 7 All-In-One for Dummies," taps the Ursus Two-Step at bookstores worldwide.

This article, "Gmail adds Word attachment previews," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.