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.
Hey @MicrosoftHelps are you getting questions about Excel being not compatible for installation on Chromebooks? Seeing dozens of reports that it can't be installed from the Play Store. This is from a Google Pixelbook but replicated on other devices. pic.twitter.com/27sZszgYSr
— Kevin C. Tofel (@KevinCTofel) August 4, 2018
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:
- Consider starring this issue in the Google product forums so the company knows you are impacted.
- 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.
- 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!