Why is the Android version of Microsoft Excel not compatible with Chromebooks? (Updated)

Over the past few days, I’ve had a number of readers ping me via email and social media to complain about Microsoft Excel on Chromebooks. And they have every right to complain: The Android version of Excel can’t be installed on a range of Chromebook models, including my Pixelbook.

There are a few big issues here.

First, Microsoft’s own support site explains that all of the Office apps for Android can be installed on Chromebooks that work with Android apps. Clearly, that’s not true.

Second, this issue has been around since at least November, which is roughly nine months. People have complained to Google about it on the product forums as well as to Microsoft. From the research I’ve done, both companies are quietly pointing the blame to each other. That doesn’t help anyone.

Lastly, many of the Chromebook owners that previously used — and to want to continue using — Microsoft Excel on their device are paying Office 365 subscribers. Yet they can’t use that subscription on the Chromebook when it comes to Excel.

So what’s going on?

Honestly, I have no idea, at least not yet. I’ll be reaching out this week to some of my Google contacts to try and get some additional information from its side. And nine days ago, I reached out to the official Microsoft Support account on Twitter. Typically, the folks who run that account are pretty quick to respond to questions.

On this request, however? Nothing. Radio silence.

If you really wanted to install the Android version of Excel right now, you could search for the .apk file and sideload it on your Chromebook, but there are two issues with that.

You have to put your device in Developer Mode, which reduces security and you’re installing an Android app from an outside source that may be untrustworthy, which is another security risk. Plus you have to stay in Developer Mode because you decide to revert your Chromebook to the safer mode, it will wipe your data and you’ll have to re-install apps. That will likely bring you back to square one when it comes time to re-install Excel.

I don’t consider sideloading the app a valid workaround as a result.

While I do my due diligence, all I can recommend is that you help by considering these actions:

  1. Consider starring this issue in the Google product forums so the company knows you are impacted.
  2. Visit the Google Play Store on your Chromebook, search for Excel and submit a bug report if the Store says the app isn’t compatible. The quickest way to do that is to press Shift + Alt + I and fill out the form.
  3. Reach out to the MicrosoftHelps Twitter account to report the issue, link to this article and to ask what the root cause and/or solution is.

I don’t know if this problem is a political one between Google and Microsoft, a technical one on either (or both) end or something else entirely. It may even be a combination of issues. However, it’s unacceptable that people who want to use Excel — some even paying Office 365 subscribers — can’t do so when the other Office apps for Android are working just fine. This nine month situation has gone on for nearly nine months too long.

Update on August 15: There’s a short term and long term fix, which I’ve outlined here. Yay!

25 thoughts on “Why is the Android version of Microsoft Excel not compatible with Chromebooks? (Updated)

  • August 13, 2018 at 1:12 pm
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    We had a similar issue with Google Play Movies and Netflix on Chrome OS devices that doesn’t have a touchscreen.

    Those incompatibilities where fixed with updates to both apps.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 1:17 pm
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    I just checked mine and it installed on my Pixelbook. I am running Beta version of Chrome OS

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 1:32 pm
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      Thanks Brett. I’m on Dev Channel and can’t install it. I just got a reader email from someone on the Stable Channel and he can’t install it on his Pixelbook either. This is all very strange.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 1:19 pm
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    Works fine on my HP Chromebook X2. It looks like you may be running the canary version of Chrome OS, which may not be fully compatible with Microsoft we may be one step behind one Chrome OS compatibility.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 1:31 pm
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      Appreciate the info. I’m on the Dev Channel, not Canary. If I was on Canary, I’d have to be in Developer Mode which would let me sideload the app. 😉

      Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 1:31 pm
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    I tried last week on Beta / Pixelbook, no go. Play Store quit when I tried to leave a review.

    Back on Dev, still can’t install Excel either.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 1:46 pm
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    I am going to bite it and say just ditch Microsoft office and start using libreoffice(especially when you have linux app support). just set the default to microsoft format and be done with it. I have perpetual office license for mac & windows from msdn. I also have 365 from work but i plan on completely using libre.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 2:13 pm
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    Seems to work okay on my Asus C302. I thought you *had* to be an Office 365 subscriber to install on devices with screens larger than 10.1″.

    The feature set really isn’t much better than the free Office Live version, though. Only good for very basic uses. Really hope MSFT continues to develop it and narrow the gap with the Windows version. It’s just not really good enough imo.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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      You need the subscription to edit documents if your screen size is larger than 10.1″, but you can install the apps for viewing without the subscription. That happened when larger Android tablets arrived a few years ago. Last year, Microsoft allowed Chromebooks to install any of the Office apps for Android on Chromebooks; there’s a link in the article to their support page indicating that’s still the case.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 3:23 pm
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    I’m glad that it installed on my Pixelbook last month when I set it up. Actually Excel was installed on my i5 version Pixelbook and when I got my i7 Pixelbook all my apps came over. Though if I go to the Google play store now, it shows Excel is not compatible… Very strange?

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 3:57 pm
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      Yup. Very strange.

      Reply
      • August 14, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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        I am seeing the same contradiction. The Google Play store states my “device isn’t compatible with this version”; yet, when I search for Excel in the Play store I get the message that the app is already installed (which it is and it runs wonderful).

        Could there have been something in an update that stripped the compatibility? There is no such contradictions in other MS apps.

        I see something similar with the NHL and MLB apps. Both are produced by the same company and serve the same feature, albeit for different sports. However, the NHL app installs and runs like a charm on my Pixelbook, whereas the MLB app has the incompatibility issue similar to Excel.

        Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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    My question is out of academic curiosity, as I hope to never need a MS Office 365 subscription. But doesn’t Excel for Office 365 work as a Web app? If not, why not? And, if so, do capabilities of the Android app somehow exceed those of the Web app? By “capabilities,” I mean performance or responsiveness or usability or offline availability, for example.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 4:48 pm
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      I’m not a heavy Excel user these days so I’ll let someone else compare/contrast the web/Android versions. In any case, yes the Excel for Office 365 can be accessed for viewing spreadsheets, but you need the subscription for editing them online.

      Reply
      • August 14, 2018 at 10:29 am
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        I use Office 365 for work, the Android version of Excel is far better than then the web version. In fact the web version of Excel is so bad before I could get the Android version working I would move my file to Google Sheets do my work there then move it back to One Drive to share with my team.

        When it comes to the web version of Office Google Sheets, Doc and slids are far superior than MS Office on the web. Google isn’t quite there vs the desktop version. Yet.

        Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 9:30 pm
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    My understanding is that Microsoft doesn’t want any Chromebooks with screens larger than 10. 1″ to use any of the Android office apps.

    The end result is that more people will decide to use a competing product.

    Reply
    • August 14, 2018 at 10:25 am
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      Microsoft’s official support page for installing Office apps on Chromebooks says nothing about screen size. Any Chromebook that officially supports Android apps can install the Office apps. Note that this issue is only happening with Excel, not with Word, for example. If all of the Office apps were limited by screen size, none of the Office apps would install on certain Chromebooks but that’s not happening.

      Reply
        • August 15, 2018 at 10:44 pm
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          Correct. That’s still in effect for the ability to edit Office docs, but not to install the Office apps. Also, I’ve added an update to the post above: Microsoft is addressing the installation issue.

          Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 2:35 am
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    I’m guessing it’s because google and microsoft have agreed to leave that feature for campfire.

    Reply
    • August 14, 2018 at 3:46 am
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      Instead of Campfire I’d prefer to have Droplet.

      Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 2:48 am
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    I am able to get it to run on my Asus C100P. I think you might be running into a licensing issue with the screen size. Microsoft limits it what will install based on the screen size.

    Reply
    • August 14, 2018 at 10:23 am
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      Nope. Microsoft’s official support page (linked in the article) explains that Office apps for Android can be installed on any Chromebook that officially supports Android apps. No mention of screen size requirements.

      Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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    For all of those commenting on screen size policy limitations and suggesting alternative applications or Office substitutes, thank you for your efforts but they are missing the mark. What Kevin’s article is highlighting is something of a different nature. Since early this year, Office for Android apps have been working fine on chromebooks regardless of screen size, per Microsoft’s policy. Just in the past couple of weeks, the Android Playstore has started indicating that Excel is not compatible for a number of chromebook users. If Excel is already installed, it continues to work. It just can’t be reinstalled or installed to a new device. This is not the case for Word or Powerpoint. What would be most helpful is to report here on whether Playstore shows Excel as compatible on your device, whether or not you have it installed. If it is incompatible, follow Kevin’s instructions in the article to call attention to the problem at Google and Microsoft. Thanks.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 8:07 pm
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    I just noticed the Microsoft Flow app is stating my Pixelbook “is not compatible” either. It seems that Microsoft is pulling apps off larger screen devices. This is frustrating.

    Reply

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