When Google Apps was born there was an understanding that, being a cloud service, you needed the internet to access your Gmail. But things have changed. We now have various options to access your data in Google Apps offline via different devices and different applications.
A point to note is that Google Chrome is required for all offline functionalities.
Gmail was one of the first applications to allow offline access. Offline access is available in Google Apps via the Offline Gmail App from the Chrome Web Store. This has just been redesigned to have the same look and feel as the iPhone and iPad Apps. When the offline app has been installed in your Chrome browser it will run in the background and keep your email updated. If your internet goes down, or your catching a plane or are somewhere without wifi, you still have access to all of your emails.
As above, offline access for Google Calendar happened at the same time as Gmail with the Google Calendar App. Once installed you can choose in the calendar settings to “Turn offline on”. Once enabled all of your calendars will be available offline.
Google Drive is in the process of rolling out offline access for each of its core Drive products; Google Docs (documents), Google Sheets (spreadsheets) and Google Slides (slideshow).
Google Drive App is available for PC and Mac. When connected the Drive tool syncs items in your “Drive” to your PC; it works like cloud file storage program DropBox. Things like Microsoft Office documents and other formats will sync between the desktop and cloud. Google Docs files will have icon links in the folder. Clicking on a Google Docs link will open it in the browser.
The second part of this process is to provide fully functioning offline apps. The first one to go offline was the Drive app Documents. When you are offline you can access, view, and edit the document, just as if you were online. Next was the ability to open and edit presentations in Google Slides offline.
Google Drawings and Forms have recently been changed to allow offline editing. The only app that we are waiting on if an offline version of Google Spreadsheets which is coming soon.
What comes next
Google is attacking the desktop world. The Chrome browser and ChromeOS operating system is a large part of this strategy. Chrome or Chrome devices such as Google’s netbook Google Pixel will be the gateway to cloud applications and will handle documents locally.
Three things have happened over the last couple of weeks that have signalled the end of desktops and applications as we know it.
The introduction of Chrome device management and remote management which were recently rolled out into the administration panel. You can set users’ welcome pages, whitelisting and blacklisting sites, network settings, and many more items. The highlight is that you can push out marketplace apps and extensions to your users from the control panel! Technically this is called group policies or System Center Configuration Manager for the cloud.
Secondly Google just recently announced Chrome-packaged apps. These apps are fully installed in the browser have chrome security and protection, and all data is stored locally.
A developer site had this explanation for how Chrome-packaged apps work.
Packaged app pages always load locally. This allows apps to be less dependent on the network. Once a user installs an app, they have full control over the app’s lifecycle. Apps open and close quickly, and the system can shut apps down at any time to improve performance. Users can fully uninstall apps.
The final piece to the story was the release of the Office Offline Viewer. This app will allow you to natively view Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel in the browser from a website link. Currently in Beta and only available in the developer edition of Google Chrome, this is a work in progress but it already works really well. The next phase for this project I suspect is to provide full Read / Write options for Microsoft Documents in the Google Chrome browser without the need for an installed version of Microsoft Office.
Offline is an exciting space right now.