Posted by: Staff | 03.08.2010

Google Gears Overview

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What is Google Gears?
 

Google Gears is a browser plug-in that allows certain web sites/applications to run in offline mode.  This means that with Gears installed on your (Firefox) browser, you can access Gears enabled websites (or parts of them) without connecting to the internet.  Gears works by storing crucial components of web applications (data, code, etc) locally on your computer.  The local version runs whenever connectivity to the web version is interrupted or absent.  Work done offline is then stored and used to update the online version when connectivity is reestablished. 

Google Docs, Offline Mode and Gears

Google Docs are great, easy to use and simple to create.  However, being web-based, they are impossible to access without a network connection which can be problematic when traveling or otherwise disconnected from the internet.  Thankfully. Google has used Gears to create a solution to this problem.  Now, with Gears installed on your browser, Google Docs can be accessed in Offline Mode.  When Offline Mode is enabled, your documents are downloaded to your computer’s hard drive where you can work on them when not connected to the internet.  When you reconnect, any changes you made offline are synced with the online version and available for collaboration and sharing.  Syncing is automatic and fairly quick, although the initial sync (where your documents are downloaded to the hard drive) can take a few minutes.

Drawbacks

Gears is still very much a product in development and it is not a perfect solution.  In fact, Google is no longer seeking to develop Gears beyond its current (limited) format, although the current functionality will continue to be supported. Furthermore, only Google Docs can be edited in offline mode; Presentations and Spreadsheets can be viewed but not edited.  Also, new documents cannot be created offline (Google recommends that users open a few blank documents before going offline as a workaround).  All in all, Gears and Offline Mode can be used to make Google Docs more usable if circumstances do not allow for full net access but may not be the optimum solution in the long term.

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Responses

  1. If there is a company out there that wants to take on Google (hello MicroSoft), I think this is the opening. If Google is not going to develop an off-line solution, then someone else should.

    Even with high speed connections, we have issues with staying on-line 100% of the time. This seems like the ideal answer. I would love to have my web based email account use this to speed up the response time.

    What does anyone else think?

  2. Well, Microsoft has already planned to offer Office Web Apps to complement Office. Basically the pair would allow you to create documents offline in Office. Those documents would be copied online for editing/viewing via Office Web Apps. You could also edit those documents offline from another computer provided you log in to OWA.

    Their strategy for products these days is basically to provide an offline solution that works fine on its own, and *then* provide an online service (or use an existing service) for sharing the files and for accessing them from other computers.

    Windows Photo Gallery is a good example of a product that works fine offline (lets you edit, tag, and categorize pictures) and has an online service that allows you to retag, rename, and share pictures.

  3. Based on my limited experience with it, I think Office Web Apps has the potential to be pretty fantastic. But I think there may still be a ways to go until it’s sufficiently easy-to-use and seamless.

    But I can’t stand using Google Docs for anything remotely serious, so for me, for now, the Microsoft model wins.

  4. windows 7 brought in standalone programs for document, picture, movie, etc editing for use with microsoft live….if most of the community didn’t use macs, it would be pretty advantageous to use microsoft live instead


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