For people who use their laptop primarily for browsing, the Chromebook has been a solid budget option for over a decade, progressing from so-so to excellent in recent years. But even after the Chromebook’s long evolution, it still doesn’t allow you to directly install Windows or Mac software. That includes the Microsoft Office desktop versions. Also, although Chromebooks have access to the Google Play Store and can run millions of Android apps, the Android versions of Microsoft Office, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive are no longer supported on Chromebooks.
However, when the Android apps stopped being supported on Chromebooks, another option — and in my opinion, a better one — took their place.
Progressive web apps are like app versions of a website. They give you an app-like experience but with more features like offline use, the option to pin them to the taskbar, support for push notifications and updates and access to hardware features. You can find Microsoft Office 365 PWAs including Outlook and OneDrive, and they work great on Chromebooks. Here’s where to find them and install them so you can still use Office on a Chromebook.
Sign in to Office 365
Open the Chrome browser and go to Office.com, which is the landing page for Microsoft Office 365 online. If you already have an Office 365 account, just sign as you normally would. If you don’t have an Office account, you’ll need to create one. You can use any personal email you want for the account, and setting it up is a straightforward process: put in your email, set up a password, verify your email, and prove you’re not a robot.
Install the Office 365 PWA
Once you’re signed in to Office 365 in Chrome, an Install icon will appear at the top right of the address bar. It looks like a computer monitor with a downward pointing arrow. Click on it and it will pop open a prompt to install Office 365. Also, if you only want a single app like Word or Outlook, the same install option in the address bar will appear when you point the browser to the specific apps.
The install happens fast and in a matter of moments; a window will open that looks exactly like the online version of Office 365. It is essentially a browser window but with the features of Microsoft Office mobile apps.
Ready to work
Since the PWA behaves like installed software, you can do things like pin it to the taskbar, get notifications, work offline and easily resize it. The rest of the experience is the same as using the web versions.
Now, if after using the PWAs you’re missing the look, feel and tools of the desktop software, well, you still can’t install them directly on the Chromebook. But, you do have other options to run Windows software on a Chromebook.