Microsoft has been installing the Google Docs Offline extension – which as the name suggests, allows you to work offline with Google’s web-based office tools, Docs, Sheets, and Slides – since the release of Edge 114.0.1823.58 (which happened two weeks back).
As the change is still in the process of rolling out, not everyone running that version (or later) will have it yet, but it’s inbound for all users.
The caveat is that when installed, the extension is not enabled by default, so it’s just sitting in the background doing nothing.
Microsoft notes that: “The Google Docs Offline extension will be pre-installed and will be disabled by default for Microsoft Edge users.”
However, the company adds: “When a user navigates to Google Docs, the extension will be auto-enabled.”
So, when you visit the Google Docs site, the extension will be turned on.
Analysis: This is a bit of a head-scratcher, for sure
What’s going on here? For whatever reason, Microsoft has decided that Edge users will benefit from having this particular extension put in place, in case they do use Google’s online productivity apps. It’s a bit of an odd one, considering that you might expect this to happen with a Microsoft service, but not a Google one.
The really mystifying bit is that this is coming to browsers without Edge users being informed at all. Yes, the feature (if you can call it that) is documented in the release notes for the Edge stable version, but who actually reads through those? Not many folks.
Microsoft explains in those release notes that this is a “controlled feature rollout” and that if you haven’t got it yet, check back as the rollout continues. There’s no mention of you possibly not wanting the extension, mind – save for a note to admins (in a business setting) on how to use policies to block the auto-installation of the Google Docs extension. That’s no help for everyday users, though.
This started happening in Edge’s Canary (earliest test) version, as noticed a few weeks ago by keen Edge-watcher Leopeva64 on Twitter, who observed that it’s a default extension in Chrome, so this might be something Microsoft has pulled over from Chromium (the engine the powers both Chrome and Edge).
Whatever the case, it seems a very strange decision. Some might think it’s not so bad, as the extension won’t do anything if you don’t use Google Docs, but it’s still an unnecessary something sitting there in the background. And with concerns raised of late in some circles about Edge starting to get bloated, you’d think that Microsoft would be keen to avoid this kind of stealth installation behavior at all costs (moves elsewhere in testing indicate this is indeed the case). All in all, then, this is a puzzling move, to say the least.
Want to remove the extension, or check if you’ve got it? Click on the three dots icon in Edge (top-right) and then click ‘Extensions’, then ‘Manage Extensions’, and check the list – if it’s there, you can click ‘Remove’ to do just that.