Google just announced it's extending the drag-and-drop functionality in its online office suite, Google Docs. A few weeks ago, it introduced an image uploader for docs that worked the same way as the new feature does - you simply drag a file from your computer's and it will immediately upload to "the cloud," (the cloud, in this case being the Google Docs online service). Today's upgrade now brings drag-and-drop to the file upload page, where it serves as an easier way to move your off your PC's hard drive and into Google Docs.

The file uploader isn't really a ground-breaking new feature - after all, plenty of sites today are offering drag-and-drop uploads - if anything, it's a long overdue upgrade for the Google Docs service. However, it comes at an important time for Google as it continues to compete with Microsoft Office, one of Microsoft's biggest cash cows to this day.

Microsoft arrived late to the Web Office game, introducing its own online suite in July. Microsoft is also deeply integrating its Office Web Apps into Facebook, we discovered last week, and it will also be integrated with Facebook's newly announced messaging platform. Facebook and Google, although seemingly dissimilar services, are actually two of the biggest rivals in the Internet industry today. Facebook has been poaching top Google engineers left-and-right and is attempting to "out-Google" Google by organizing the Internet through social relationships and "likes" instead of algorithms and analyzing links, as Google does. If successful, Facebook could not only cut deeply into Google's advertising business, but could become people's default search portal, too. Meanwhile, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft's Bing search engine, which is integrated with Facebook's search. (Microsoft's $240 million 2007 investment in Facebook doesn't look so crazy now, does it?)

Two days ago, Google unveiled a counterattack against Microsoft's stalwart suite. It launched a service called "Google Cloud Connect" that allows people still using Office to take advantage of Google Docs' Web-based collaboration features within Office. The product arose from Google's acquisition of DocVerse from earlier this year. With Cloud Connect, files created in Microsoft Office are synced to Google's "cloud" but can still be used in Office for editing purposes.

The goal, of course, is not to improve life for Office users, necessarily, but to make the transition from the desktop to the cloud easier and less cumbersome.

Drag-and-drop is just another example of this ongoing push to get people to leave Office behind.

Google also announced another minor feature today which allows you to hide the title bar above the document editor by choosing either View -> Compact controls or pressing Ctrl Shift F (Cmd Shift F on Macs).