Sunday, 20 July, 2008

Google Docs, Gmail and Google Calendar getting offline access

It seems that this year Google's most popular web applications will work offline. After Google Reader and Google Docs, two other services will integrate with Gears.

Google Docs' word processor is introduced offline access. With the free Google Gears extension, users will quickly able to read and edit their files even when they have no Internet connection.

You'll know you have the feature when you see a little "offline" menu item in the upper right of your document window in Google Docs.

Offline access for Google's spreadsheet and presentation app will follow after the word processor rollout is complete.

Google Docs will not, at first, let users create new documents though offline. The feature's first-use case is, "I'm amending a document and I lose my Internet connection," Document creation capability will come ultimately.

Of course, users will not be able to collaborate in real time when offline, or see if other users are simultaneously modifying a document they are editing in offline mode. Google Docs will "do its best" to reconcile changes made by multiple users when one or more are offline.

Offline access is a must compulsory feature to make Google's productivity suite a competitor to Microsoft Office. However Google Docs' feature set, while improving over time, still falls far short of the functionality available in the Microsoft suite.

The only other Google application to use Google Gears currently is the RSS reader, Google Reader. A few other apps use Google Gears, such as Remember The Milk.

In the past months, Google accidentally enabled the option in Google Calendar and some users saw the dialog illustrated below: "To view and edit the next 3 months of your Google Calendar when you're not connected to the Internet, click OK."

Google will add SyncML support for Gmail contacts next month. He thinks this is "related to the sync that they worked on with Apple for 3G iPhone". SyncML is a standard for data synchronization supported by a lot of companies. "SyncML is most commonly thought of as a method to synchronize contact and calendar information between some type of handheld device and a computer (personal, or network-based service), such as between a mobile phone and a personal computer."

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