Run Excel on Chromebook with Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS

Users running Excel on Chromebooks might quickly run into the limitations of the Android app for Chrome OS. As a lightweight mobile app, it does not have all of the features that professional business users need. And just like the browser apps in Microsoft 365, Google Sheets is far from being an ideal substitute for many business use cases. So how can users use the fully functional Office 365—including Excel—on Chromebooks?

Limitations of the Microsoft Office Suite on Chromebook

Thanks to cloud computing, Microsoft Office is now available on almost any device and a range of different applications: mobile apps, web applications and desktop applications. Any device with a browser or an app store can use Office in one form or another. But that doesn’t mean that the user experience and features are the same everywhere. On Chromebooks, users can install Office apps from the Play Store for Android. These are both available as standalone mobile applications for Word, Excel, etc. or as the more recent Office app containing all the applications in one package. But these apps are optimized for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. On a laptop such as a Chromebook, they are not an ideal solution for every case.

One reason for this is that an online connection is required if you want to use Excel for Office 365 on a Chromebook. You need a stable internet connection to access documents and spreadsheets in the web-based application on the browser or the Android app. The Office apps for Android allow only offline access to recently used files on the Chromebook. This is not a practicable solution if you are collaboratively working with shared files such as reports. The Chromebook‘s solution to keeping files available offline at any time is to mark certain files in Google Drive as “available offline”, which again is not an ideal solution unless colleagues also save the shared files in Google Drive.

But mobile solutions cannot provide all the features of the full desktop versions of Office applications, and this is where their limitations are really exposed. Business is averse to any workplace devices that do not come fully featured. The lightweight mobile versions of Excel are not designed to cope with complex documents such as Excel spreadsheets with macros, complex pivot tables and other files that have come to blight business life. For example, conventional Excel and Word files can include links to other local files, which is not possible in the web and mobile versions. Another feature missing from mobile Office apps, apart from optimization to laptop format and access to offline files, is compatibility with older Office file formats.

Although a Chromebook looks like a regular laptop, it’s applications for Microsoft Office lack the full desktop experience users are accustomed to and many companies need in their daily business. In practice, there is no full-featured alternative to Office 365 (or Microsoft 365 as it’s now called) for routine business operations. Many departments find that Excel files develop rapidly into something so complex that a mobile app, even one with very minor limitations, cannot offer them all the features or performance they need.

Benefits of Running Native Microsoft Excel on Chromebook with Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS

However, there is a solution for using the fully functional Microsoft (Office) 365 on Chromebooks: Parallels® Desktop for Chrome OS allows you to use the full, genuine Office suite, including Excel, on the Chromebook. It does this by allowing you to use Windows as a virtual machine along with all the major Windows applications. That means no more limitations on features and compatibility with Excel on Chromebooks. We use the real Excel application instead. It takes only one click to launch the virtual machine with Windows and gain professional levels of productivity not previously possible in this form on Chromebooks.

Parallels has the option to open a Chromebook to a whole world of Windows applications as if it were a fully functional Windows PC—when needed. All of this happens within a secure sandbox in an encrypted environment that can be started and closed at any time without affecting work currently being done in Chrome OS. Users can manage files locally on the system in the VM, just as they do normally in Windows, something Chrome OS does not permit outside the Download folder. And what’s even better, Chromebook users gain access to Windows-focused network resources and printers in the company and vice versa (the Windows VM can also access all of the printers available in Chrome OS). As Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS offers pass-through of most of the Chromebook’s hardware and connectivity to the Windows VM, employees have the same convenience and functionality as they have with a native Windows notebook. That means, for example, that they can use smart cards for authentication or integrate external hard disks.

One particular benefit is that Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS combines both systems: Chrome OS and Windows. So, users and applications can access their Windows system files via Chrome OS, too. Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS allows users to handle demanding Office tasks involving Excel and other software during their daily work on a Chromebook without having to sacrifice functionality, file access or applications.

Find out more about Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS today.