Microsoft 365 integration has started on ChromeOS

A few months ago I decided to give Microsoft 365 a try on my Chromebook. I was pleasantly surprised because using Microsoft 365 on a Chromebook has improved significantly recently. Using apps such as Word, Excel and OneDrive works fine from the ChromeOS browser. You can also improve the experience by installing them as a PWA. Find out how to install apps as a PWA on your Chromebook.

The one thing missing is integration between ChromeOS and Microsoft. I found this rather frustrating, so found a way to integrate OneDrive with the Chromebook file explorer using a third-party app. The third-party app works fine, but the good news is Google and Microsoft have already confirmed they will be working together to help integrate MS 365 with ChromeOS.

I recently came across an article on the About Chromebooks website and was surprised the integration appears to already be happening. A quick change of a ChromeOS flag and it’s now possible to get OneDrive integration on ChromeOS without using a third-party app. However, I would recommend updating to ChromeOS 115, as I had connection problems when trying it on a Chromebook while still using ChromeOS 114.

It’s a work in progress

ChromeOS flags are something you can enable to get early access to potential updates. They generally work fine, and you simply need to enable a flag to get the functionality behind it. The good news is that the functionality offered when using flags improves over time before the feature is rolled out to the stable channel by default. Also, many ChromeOS flags can be enabled on the stable channel, which means you don’t have to use the less stable developer channel.

I’ve had a quick look at how the flag currently works, and it appears to be a straightforward process. Once enabled you get an ‘open with’ option, which starts the OneDrive integration process. This worked all ok, but it installed the Microsoft 365 app, when I already had it installed. Essentially ending up with two Office 365 apps on my Chromebook. No big issue, as I simply removed one of them, however, it does show that it is in the early stages.

How to enable OneDrive integration in ChromeOS

If you use Microsoft 365 and OneDrive then you may want to check out how the integration works. It’s worth doing because having access to OneDrive from the ChromeOS file explorer is a great benefit.

OneDrive integration from the ChromeOS file explorer
OneDrive shows on the ChromeOS file explorer when enabled

To enable OneDrive integration on ChromeOS you simply need to install a ChromeOS flag. All ChromeOS flags can be found by typing the following into your Chrome Browser address bar:

chrome://flags

Then simply search for the flag #upload-office-to-cloud and change it from default to enabled. It should look similar to the image below. Once you’ve enabled the flag you need to restart your Chromebook.

upload-office-to-cloud ChromeOS flag

Starting the integration process

Once you’ve followed the above instructions you then need to start the integration process. There may be many ways to do this, as the way I did it didn’t feel like a natural way of kickstarting the integration. That being said, it works all fine, so I’d use this method unless you know of another way. It may also change in the future due to the flag being constantly updated.

Download a Word document to your downloads folder. Once you have a Word document in your downloads folder right click and choose ‘open with’ and then choose Microsoft 365 or OneDrive. You’ll then be taken through the process, and you should be notified when it’s all completed. You can watch the video further up this page if you prefer to see it visually.

Once the process has been completed you should see that OneDrive is now accessible from your ChromeOS file explorer. You will now be able to access your OneDrive files, and it should make it easier to open MS Office files stored either locally or in your Google Drive.

Summary

It’s great to see that Microsoft and Google have already started the integration between Microsoft 365 and ChromeOS. I’m sure the integration will get even better before it’s officially released on the stable channel without having to enable a flag.

A few things to note is how it works when opening an MS Office file on your Chromebook. If the file is stored locally in your downloads folder; when you open the file it will be moved to your OneDrive and removed from your downloads folder. This is because it’s OneDrive that allows for the file to be opened either in Word or Excel.

If you open an MS Office file that isn’t stored locally. For example, if you open a file that is in your Google Drive. The file will stay in your Google Drive, but a copy will also be transferred to your OneDrive. This essentially means you will end up with two copies of the file, which isn’t ideal.

What I do know is that integration between Microsoft 365 and ChromeOS is crucial for both Google and Microsoft. The future of computing is all about cloud computing, so it’s vital that all software providers start to realise that consumers do not want to be held back simply because of the type of computer OS they are using. This is a positive step and removes the necessity to use Google Docs when using ChromeOS or Microsoft Office when using Microsoft Windows.