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Google adds PowerPoint viewer to Gmail

Heightens battle with Microsoft

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The Office wars continue. Today, Google stepped up its challenge to Microsoft Office, adding a PowerPoint viewer to its online email client, Gmail. Google users can now open mind-numbing business presentations inside their browsers – without opening Microsoft software on the desktop.

Using Google’s browser-based word processing and spreadsheet applications, Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets, users can already do much the same thing with Microsoft Word and Excel files. Google has yet to introduce a full-fledged application for creating and editing presentation files, but in April, at San Francisco's Web 2.0 conference, CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed that such an app was under development.

"Gmail's new slideshow feature allows users to open a slideshow of a Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT) file without having to download it to your computer," says a Google spokesperson. "This feature was a 20 percent time project for a few engineers. This is a Gmail feature and is not related to our plans to incorporate presentation-sharing capabilities into Google Docs & Spreadsheets."

Gmail automatically links users to its new viewer whenever they receive PowerPoint attachments via email. "Click ‘View as slideshow’ at the bottom of the message," reads the new page at the Google Help Center. "This will open your slides in a new browser window. You can navigate between slides by clicking the left and right arrow buttons at the top of the screen, or by choosing a specific slide from the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the screen."

The dropdown menu - which requires the Adobe Flash Player - also allows users to play an entire presentation automatically (choosing between two different speeds) or download it to disc. The rub? The viewer doesn't handle files saved in Microsoft’s new PowerPoint 2007 format. ®

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