March 31st, 2008 | Published in Google Docs
We know that many of you have been waiting for offline access to Google Docs, and I'm happy to tell you we'll be rolling it out over the next few weeks, starting today with a small percentage of users.
Here's why I'm excited about this development. My migration from the desktop to 'the cloud' started with my Gmail account. I could access my mail from anywhere, search it all in one place, and never need to migrate to a new account. It was great. Then I started using Google Calendar to organize my schedule all in one place.
So now I find myself with this drive to make my desktop as sparse as possible, both in data and software. I want to move it all into the cloud. There are still times I use my desktop word processor, but I want to minimize context switching between apps. Cloud computing is great, but you need the cloud to make it work. On an airplane, on the shuttle commuting to work, or at home when my cable modem goes down, I want to work on my documents. And, until now, that usually meant saving a copy and editing on the desktop.
Now there's a better solution. With Google Docs offline (powered by Google Gears), I can take my little piece of the cloud with me wherever I go. Once enabled, I have a local version of my document list and editors, along with my documents.
As long as I have an Internet connection, every change I make is saved to the cloud. When I lose my connection, I sacrifice some features, but I can still access my documents (for this initial release, you can view and edit word processing documents; right now we don't support offline access to presentations or spreadsheets - see our help center for details). Everything I need is saved locally. And I do everything through my web browser, even when I'm offline (the goodness that Google Gears provides). When my connection comes back, my documents sync up again with the server.
It's all pretty seamless: I don't have to remember to save my documents locally before packing my laptop for a trip. I don't have to remember to save my changes as soon as I get back online. And I don't have to switch applications based on network connectivity. With the extra peace of mind, I can more fully rely on this tool for my important documents.
One more note: Offline access is only available in English. We're working on offline access in other languages. It will also be available to Google Apps users soon, and domain administrators that want it now can opt-in via their control panel.