I’m really late to this party. Both the Official Google Blog and the Official Google Docs Blog announced offline support coming in Google Docs this afternoon, and this is the first chance I’ve gotten to write about it. So I’ll publish a brief description (more details are of course available from Googlified, Google Operating System, and Lifehacker; strange lack of Google Blogoscoped so far) and a short commentary.
Everyone has probably heard of Google Gears by now, that open-source browser extension that lets Web applications enable offline functionality. Google Reader uses it (until now the only Google service to do so), as does Remember The Milk (which I love, except for the flawed sharing). Supposedly Google Calendar is in the works, and Haochi said Gmail is “possibly” going to get it.
Google Docs’ offline functionality works only for documents at the moment; spreadsheets and presentations will have to wait. And it’s only available in English. Rather than rehashing everyone’s prose, I’ll just shamelessly use the same YouTube video. (It is featured on nearly all the sites I mentioned above, BTW. I wish Google had continued using Google Video embeds though.)
So now you know how it’s supposed to work. I can’t test it myself because I haven’t got it yet — and I probably won’t for a while, judging from past experience with Gmail IMAP. Update (04/01): This paragraph should have mentioned a few restrictions. The feature is only available in English for now, and it’s being rolled out to everyone over the next few weeks, which means most people probably won’t be able to use it for a while, like me.
What I’m glad about is that it — at least purportedly — continuously saves the data required to go offline, like RTM does. There’s no planning to go offline like Google Reader makes you go through. (It always annoyed me how you couldn’t get images, even, offline; but I digress.)
To summarize, it looks like the offline feature will be killer. I know Zoho Writer has had this for a while, including the ability to edit offline, but they started with just viewing; Google took longer and launched with all the functionality they could. And Zoho’s suite, as far as I know, still requires you to manually prepare to disconnect from the tubes.
This battle of the online office suites gets more interesting by the day. I wonder what’s in store next week…
Update (04/19): Some time in the last week or so, I got access to this feature. I don’t use Google Docs every day, so I’m not entirely sure when it showed up. But it wasn’t there at the beginning of the week; I’m sure of that. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be especially useful, really, because of one little caveat: No new documents. Harrumph. Fortunately I’m not offline much.