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View Docs and PDFs Directly in Google Chrome

Would you like to view documents, presentations, and PDFs directly in Google Chrome?  Here’s a handy extension that makes Google Docs your default online viewer so don’t have to download the file first.

Getting Started

By default, when you come across a PDF or other common document file online in Google Chrome, you’ll have to download the file and open it in a separate application.

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It’d be much easier to simply view online documents directly in Chrome.  To do this, head over to the Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer page on the Chrome Extensions site (link below), and click Install to add it to your browser.

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Click Install to confirm that you want to install this extension.

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Extensions don’t run by default in Incognito mode, so if you’d like to always view documents directly in Chrome, open the Extensions page and check Allow this extension to run in incognito.image

Now, when you click a link for a document online, such as a .docx file from Word, it will open in the Google Docs viewer.

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These documents usually render in their original full-quality.  You can zoom in and out to see exactly what you want, or search within the document.  Or, if it doesn’t look correct, you can click the Download link in the top left to save the original document to your computer and open it in Office.

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Even complex PDF render very nicely.  Do note that Docs will keep downloading the document as you’re reading it, so if you jump to the middle of a document it may look blurry at first but will quickly clear up.

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You can even view famous presentations online without opening them in PowerPoint.  Note that this will only display the slides themselves, but if you’re looking for information you likely don’t need the slideshow effects anyway.

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Adobe Reader Conflicts

If you already have Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader installed on your computer, PDF files may open with the Adobe plugin.  If you’d prefer to read your PDFs with the Docs PDF Viewer, then you need to disable the Adobe plugin.  Enter the following in your Address Bar to open your Chrome Plugins page:

chrome://plugins/

and then click Disable underneath the Adobe Acrobat plugin.

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Now your PDFs will always open with the Docs viewer instead.

Performance

Who hasn’t been frustrated by clicking a link to a PDF file, only to have your browser pause for several minutes while Adobe Reader struggles to download and display the file?  Google Chrome’s default behavior of simply downloading the files and letting you open them is hardly more helpful. 

This extension takes away both of these problems, since it renders the documents on Google’s servers.  Most documents opened fairly quickly in our tests, and we were able to read large PDFs only seconds after clicking their link.  Also, the Google Docs viewer rendered the documents much better than the HTML version in Google’s cache.

Google Docs did seem to have problem on some files, and we saw error messages on several documents we tried to open.  If you encounter this, click the Download link in the top left corner to download the file and view it from your desktop instead.

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Conclusion

Google Docs has improved over the years, and now it offers fairly good rendering even on more complex documents.  This extension can make your browsing easier, and help documents and PDFs feel more like part of the Internet.  And, since the documents are rendered on Google’s servers, it’s often faster to preview large files than to download them to your computer.

Link

Download the Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer extension from Google

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  • Published 06/8/10

Comments (2)

  1. Strodtbeck

    “Ultimate Google doc viewer” is another great extension for viewing docs in Google docs viewer.

    A great reason to use these extensions is the latest security flaw in PDF files. By not downloading the files you won’t have to worry about someone trying to launch malicious code on your computer.

  2. Jon

    Allowing the browser to display a PDF is a security vulnerability. Best practice would be to deselect that option within Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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