When you search for non-web based files, like documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc., the Google results feature a link to a web-friendly version of the data. I noticed that this page is enhanced with several useful links, at least for Excelfiles (.xls and .xlsx).
After clicking on "View as HTML" next to an Excel spreadsheet in the Google search results page, you have three additional options to the top right:
- you can download the original file directly, without going back to the search page. The link also mentions the file size;
- you can get a direct link to the Google-generated HTML version of the file;
- and you can edit a copy online, using Google's own service, Spreadsheets!
The enhanced HTML page appears even if you are logged out of your Google Account and in localized versions of Google Search (I have seen it on google.de).
For now, other file types don't seem to have these new features: I have tried the other Office formats and they have the old page, without any new links. I'm sure they will be added in the near future.
With this integration between Search and Docs, Google is clearly trying both to improve the web experience for users and to promote it's own product at the expense of other competitors, especially Microsoft. Introducing these links for the most common file types could be a good strategy to support Google Chrome OS, since it bypasses the need to store the file locally before editing or saving it elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft will introduce something similar, tying Bing search results to Office Live.