Google Expands Docs Offline
Google's over-the-Internet software for editing, uploading and sharing office
documents, known as Google
, can now be used offline, Google software engineer, Philip Tucker said
The development, announced with little fanfare, represents another step in
the evolution toward Internet-based or "cloud" computing.
Google Docs allows users to work with a wide range of file formats, including
DOC, XLS, ODT, ODS, RTF, CSV and PPT, and make many of the basic formatting
and editing changes for free that are available on hosted word processing, spreadsheet
and presentation software packages.
"Cloud computing is great," wrote Tucker, "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. With Google Docs offline, I
can take my little piece of the cloud with me wherever I go."
So long as users have an Internet connection and a Web browser, changes to
documents are saved "to the cloud." When a connection is lost, however, features
are sacrificed. In the initial release of Google Docs offline, it is still possible
to view and edit word processing documents and save changes on a local computer.
When the Internet connection is restored, documents are synced up again with
Lost or interrupted connections are a bigger problem in many parts of the world
than the issue of needing to work on a plane, said Google's David Girouard,
vice president for enterprise business worldwide in an interview with GCN.com
yesterday. Girouard is delivering the kickoff keynote address at the annual
FOSE 2008 Conference and Exhibition which
begins in Washington, D.C. today.
Offline support for presentation and spreadsheet documents are not yet available,
according to Tucker. No date was mentioned for their release. And Google Docs
offline is only available in English at the moment; but efforts are underway
to roll out offline access in other languages. It will also be available to
Google Apps users soon. Domain administrators that want it now can opt-in via
their control panel, said Tucker.
Google Docs offline uses Google
Gears, an open source browser extension that lets developers create Web
applications that can run offline. Gears is still in the early-access stages
of release. It provides three key features, according to Google: a local server
needing to contact a server, a database to store and access data from within
the browser, and a worker thread pool to make Web applications more responsive
by performing expensive operations in the background.
The move comes as somewhat of a surprise to Google watchers. Earlier this month,
in another interview with GCN.com, Matthew Glotzbach, the director of enterprise
product management at Google, indicated that the company had no immediate plans
to adapt Google Docs for offline use.
Wyatt Kash is the editor in chief of Government Computer News (GCN.com).