Google's word processing application will now work offline, much to the delight of frequent-flying knowledge workers.
Google is set to answer a frequently ringing bell by making its Google Docs
word processing application available offline, the company said March 31.
Over the next few weeks, the company will let users edit word processing
documents in the Google Docs SAAS (software as a service)
application without a Web connection.
Users will be able to go to docs.google.com
without a connection and work on
Google Docs. When users do go online, the changes they made while working on documents
offline will appear.
Google said it is enabling Docs to work offline by using its open-source
applications such as Google Reader.
This is an important feature that will let users create, documents,
revise them and save changes while traveling in planes, trains and
automobiles where there is no Web access, or in places suffering from low
latency and spotty Internet connections.
Such a feature is particularly important for traveling knowledge workers who
want to work on documents and reports.
Offline access is also important to help Google keep up with smaller SAAS
rivals such as Zoho and Transmedia, both of which have been offering offline
access to their word processing applications, Zoho Writer
and Glide 2.0,
since August 2007.
More broadly, Google sees Docs and its broader Apps suite as an online
alternative to Microsoft's Office applications. Microsoft is countering with a hosted apps project of its own,
Microsoft may be behind on the SAAS front, but Google has a long way to go
before Docs catches a whiff of Office's success, according to Forrester
Research analyst Kyle McNabb.
McNabb said anywhere from 400,000 to 800,000 people have called up Docs
& Spreadsheets URLs on a monthly basis, compared with 90-plus million
downloads of OpenOffice.org and the 500 million desktops that have Microsoft
"With this feature added, more people may use Google Docs &
Spreadsheets as an alternative to Microsoft Office, especially if they can tie
Gears into their mail and calendaring support," McNabb said.
Google said offline access for Docs is rolling out first to consumer users,
followed by a launch to Google Apps domains for businesses. Businesses that
want their Google Apps users to try it out now can opt in using the admin
Moreover, users can expect offline access for most Google Apps in the
future, according to a company spokesperson.
"We're working to make more Web applications and
functions work where connections are unavailable (including editing
spreadsheets and viewing/editing presentations, and bring[ing] offline
functionality to other apps)," the spokesperson said in an e-mail March 31.
"But this gives a taste of the future, when you'll always be able to
access the cloud."