Send Office documents using WhatsApp

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The popular messaging system, WhatsApp supports sending documents between users.  It’s a fast, simple and reasonably secure way to get a file from ‘A to B’.

It’s an lesser known feature of some secure messaging apps, in addition to their main use for texting, sending pictures and make free voice calls.

Sending a document

There’s an attachment or upload button on the device screen while chatting.  WhatsApp will send Office documents (.docx. .xlsx .pptx) and PDF files.

iPhone

Choose the document file from a storage location on your device, including synced cloud storage.

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Source: WhatsApp

Android

The paperclip icon opens a small menu of attachment options (Audio, Camera, Gallery, Location, Contacts and Document).  Click on Document and select the file from the device.

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On a Windows phone there’s also a paperclip icon to add files to a chat.

WhatsApp Web

The WhatsApp web browser option lets you use the service on a desktop machine within a browser window.  It looks and works much the same as WhatsApp on devices.

From a chat, there’s a paperclip icon at top right of the page, click on that, then the document (dark blue) icon.

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Limits:

There’s a limit of 100MB to any attachment (increased from a much lower limit in the past).  That should be more than enough for most Office documents (.docx .xlsx etc).

The document should be saved on the sending devices storage, not in a cloud location.

Receiving a document

If you’re on the receiving end of a chat, click on the document and it should open using the default app for that type of file.  Most likely, Office for iPhone/Android etc.

From that app you can save a copy of the document to your device or cloud storage.

Take the usual precautions before opening a document via WhatsApp.  The same danger of a malicious document applies to files received via WhatsApp as to files arriving via email, web sites, memory stick or carrier pidgeon!

Security note

WhatsApp is not considered properly secure by those in the know.

It now has ‘end to end encryption’ meaning that messages and attachments are secured between your device and the receivers.  However, there are concerns about the lack of security in the way information is stored on devices.

WhatsApp servers keep a lot of information about when, where and how you use the app (a bit like call logs kept by phone companies).

Better security is available using Signal (which doesn’t support sending documents) or Wickr (which lets you send files but is perhaps excessively secure for regular use).

WhatsApp is certainly more secure than Microsoft’s Skype or other Microsoft messaging services.

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