View Word Docs in Gmail


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We use Gmail for our law practice, and although I use MobileMe for my personal email, I still think that Gmail is superior. Gmail is fairly widely used, which helps create programs like Etacts and other third-party plugins to enhance the program. The latest addition to its functionality is that you can view Word docs from within your web-based browser.

Faster and easier

In many cases, you only need to view (rather than download) the Word docs that you receive in your email. With the new feature in Gmail, you can open the Word docs and view them faster. Downloading an attachment and opening it in MS Word usually takes longer—a minute or so.

Even if you do need to edit the file, you can also do that with Google Docs. Again, the upside is that is probably faster than using MS Word. At the same time, Microsoft did just unveil a cloud-based version of MS Office. Using that program, however, would still require you to download the file and upload it to your online MS Office account.

Easy viewing on the move

I use an iPhone, which does not run a mobile version of MS Word. If someone emails me a document (and the majority of attorneys use MS Word), I may need to view it on my phone. Google Docs can now read those files, allowing me to view them on my phone, within the browser.

If the Word doc turns out to be something important, or something that needs to be modified, I can pull out my laptop or head to a desktop. But with the new Gmail feature, you can at least view things on the move, and then decide if it is worth running back to the office.


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  • Larry Rose

    Randall, you say that Google Docs can now view the document? I thought your point was that you could view it from within GMail, not Google Docs?

  • Randall Ryder

    If you receive a document in Gmail, you can click on view, and it will open in Google Docs, inside of the same browser.

  • Clayton

    I haven’t quite figured out if or how we’re going to use it, but have you all looked at Syncplicity ( It seems to work just fine with Google Docs. I can create a new document with Google Docs and the new file will show up as a MS Word doc in the designated folder on my computer.

  • Shawn Dryer

    Regarding Gmail, until recently–when I started practicing on my own–I used Gmail as well. Many readers may already know this, but there’s a way to establish an account with Gmail that allows you to use your own domain name (which in my case is rather than the domain. And it’s free.

    I found out, however, that in its terms of service, Google appears to reserve the right to look at the contents of your email communications; I believe they even say they can post the content on the Internet if they want to. (I did not take the time to study the document like a “Philadelphia lawyer” — I’m a Pittsburgher anyway — but that is the interpretation I took away from it; maybe I’m wrong.) The fact that the ads that showed up when I was using Gmail often exhibited an uncanny relationship with the content of my email communications (which would be expected to make the advertising more effective) makes me think they actually do look at the content. If so, I thought this posed problems in terms of maintaining the confidentiality and privileged status of client communications. So I moved my domain to a different hosting service. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Was this an overreaction?

    Any insights appreciated.


  • Look a little closer at the Gmail privacy policy. I’d say you were overreacting, and possibly not reading closely enough. You don’t lose privilege just because Google computers show you some ads. If you did, your clients would be giving up the privilege every time they read your message in their Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or other free e-mail account.