Google Apps Off Line

I don’t use Google Apps much to process documents or data for two reasons: 1) If it is not a text file on my hard drive, I am suspicious of it and 2) I spend enough time with no internet access (not much, but easily 5% of my on line time) that I don’t want to rely on that. But I do like the idea of having all my stuff readily available and the tools always hand. And I have that. I just got it a different way than by using Google Apps.

But depending on the semester, over the last couple of years, Julia has been using Google Apps more or less, depending on the paranoia or luddite level of her immediate school environment. Some teachers refuse to let students use Google Apps, and it is interesting to see how kids use these tools anyway and try to “get away with it.” I suspect she’ll be using them more and more in the future.

So it is good news that today Google rolled out off-line Google Appsk in a preliminary way, with plans to do more:

When we announced Chromebooks at Google I/O 2011, we talked about bringing offline access to our web apps, and now we’re taking our first steps in that direction. Gmail offline will be available today, and offline for Google Calendar and Google Docs will be rolling out over the next week, starting today.

Since I tossed Firefox off my computers a few weeks ago and replaced it with Chrome, it does not matter to me that this is a chrome app, but I suppose that is a bit annoying to those who don’t use the browser. On the other and, if you think of Chrome with off line gmail as an app (your email app!) that isn’t so bad.

I should mention that the reason I dropped Firefox is that I write, and I write for and on the web, and I resent having to not use a browser interface, ever, to do any of that writing because crashes are so common that work is often lost. Now, as I said earlier, if it is not a text file on my hard drive, I’m suspicious of it, so the truth is that I was not really writing on the browser … I write everything in emacs and copy/paste. But even though I say I do that, I don’t really. Who writes Google+ and Facebook updates and comments in a separate editor? Between Facebook’s quirks and Firefox’s instability (with zero add-ins I quickly add) it was absurd that after all these years of software and hardware development that a basic tool should be essentially broken out of the box.

Other than a 48 hour period between system updates when Chrome got unstable for me last week, that hasn’t happened. in this browser. But I digress.

Google Calendar and Google Docs let you seamlessly transition between on- and offline modes. When you’re offline in Google Calendar, you can view events from your calendars and RSVP to appointments. With Google Docs you can view documents and spreadsheets when you don’t have a connection. Offline editing isn’t ready yet, but we know it’s important to many of you, and we’re working hard to make it a reality.

Seeing the docs and not being able to edit them might be worse than not seeing them. I’d be tempted to copy and paste into an editor, thus creating uncontrolled version proliferation.

Anyway, to get this working for you, click the gear icon (you know about the gear icon, right)? Then just mess around and it will work.

You can read more about it here


  1. #1 Bryan Elliott
    August 31, 2011

    I keep Git repos on my personal hosting, and gist out documents as I need. Wrote a neat little server app to do the heavy lifting of setup, sync, and maintenance (for example, all XML formats get pretty-print so they’re readable – including xml-based office docs).

    Yeah, it means I need a couple of local apps to work on things, but git and libre office are both portable; if they’re not available, I just run a package off my hosting and they are.

  2. #2 Dan J
    August 31, 2011

    I dislike the online apps because of the possibility of connection issues, and for my own security paranoia. I *like* having the files on my hard drive.

    I do write my blog posts in my browser, though. I’ve recently started using Chrome much more frequently than Firefox, but never really experienced any stability issues like that. (Ubuntu 11.04, FF 6.0 w/lots of add-ons).

    I like the idea that Google is making these tools available for off-line use, but I think I’ll stick with the text editors I already use.

  3. #3 Ema Nymton
    August 31, 2011

    Some teachers refuse to let students use Google Apps, and it is interesting to see how kids use these tools anyway and try to “get away with it.”

    Wait, what? Refuse to let students use Google Apps? Why?

  4. #4 Dunc
    September 1, 2011

    If it is not a text file on my hard drive, I am suspicious of it

    Hehe… If it’s something I really want to keep (such as brewing records), I still use pen and paper. And after a recent IT incident, I’ve started learning how to do my brewing calculations with a slide rule… There’s a lot to be said for human-readable non-volatile media and simple, mechanical calculating machines. (Although I have to admit that my handwriting is less human-readable than might be ideal.) 😉

  5. #5 dean
    September 1, 2011

    I keep files for my students on-line so they can access them after they lose hard copies. I post processed photos for the little league and travel baseball times i shoot for, so parents can pick and choose. (originals are on three different portable hard drives.)

    “I still use pen and paper””

    So do I: I have a think for fountain pens (I learned how to write with my mother’s pens in the 60s and haven’t quit: I now have her pens) for letters, etc and: I began keeping journals when we were in the process of adopting our first son 17.5 years ago. Started same for the second boy 14 years ago. Sort of a personal family history for them, and it gives me a good excuse to sit in a comfy chair, sip on a good whisky, and write with a good pen on nice paper. Storing all of the journals is, however, getting to be an issue.