Tuesday, 01 April 2008 08:01

Google Apps moving offline

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The big drawback of Google Apps and other examples of software as a service is that when you lose the Internet connection, you also lose access to your data. But that problem is beginning to evaporate.

One of the promises of Google Gears was that it would allow web applications to keep working when a connection dropped out (eg, due to the vehicle passing through a tunnel) or when the link was unavailable (eg, in a WiFi-free coffee shop).

After some months, Google Gears has begun to make its way into Google Apps, beginning with the word processor.

By caching code and data, Google Docs Offline allows existing word processing documents to be viewed and edited offline. A status indicator shows whether the application is running on or offline, or if the offline mechanism has failed for some reason.

When the link is restored, any changes made are synchronised with the Google Docs servers the next time Google Docs is used on the same computer and browser.

For security reasons, Google recommends that Docs Offline is not used with shared or public computers.

The offline feature is being rolled out to Google Docs users over a period of weeks. An Offline link at the upper right corner of the Docs list indicates that a particular account has offline access.


The ability to view spreadsheets and presentations offline will be added "soon". The creation of new word processing documents is also planned.

Google Apps Offline requires the installation of Google Gears, which is available for Windows XP and Vista (Firefox 1.5 or later or Internet Explorer 6.0 or later), Windows Mobile 5 or later (Internet Explorer 4.01 or later), Mac OS X (10.2 or later and Firefox 1.5 or later) and Linux (glibc 2.3.5 or later, libstdc++5 and Firefox 1.5 or later).

Initially, offline access is only available in English.

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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