Offline Google Docs coming later this summer

The Google Docs team has started an AMA on reddit and they are answering people’s questions and giving some insights on what to expect in future versions of Google Docs. One of the most requested features for Google Docs that would give Microsoft another black eye is the ability to edit documents offline. Product Manager Jeff Harris says:

You’re going to see offline start to roll out later this summer. We used to have offline with Google Gears, but it became pretty clear that plugins weren’t the right approach. We’ve been reimplementing offline using HTML5 standards like AppCache, File API, and IndexDB.

We’re some of the first webapps that are really putting those standards to the test, so it’s taken a while to iron out the kinks.

Well, we will launch in whatever incremental pieces make sense. But the long term direction is if you access a Doc URL while offline, it should open the local copy of the doc and let you edit. When you go online all your edits get synced in the background. You should also be able to see a list of your docs while offline.

We’ll need to work through all the tricky problems with how to merge conflicting edits. It’s fun stuff.

This definitely sounds promising, and if a late summer release is targeted, it will put it toe-to-toe with Apple’s iCloud service, closing off the gap before it is even opened. Not all answers are clear and to the point. The team was quite vague on giving any information regarding Google Docs on mobile devices, saying things like “The mobile experience is very important to us and the current implementation is just start. Look for great things in mobile soon.” There’s a lot of typical junkie redditor comments but if you dig through the thread you might find some other useful snippets like:

For the “Untitled document” problem … it’s definitely something we’re thinking about. The nuance is that we want to provide a consistent experience across our editors, and it’s much harder to autotitle something like a drawing or a spreadsheet. But I’ve got a 12 “Untitled document”s in my doclist now, so we haven’t found the right balance.

At a minimum, we should be prompting when you try to close a doc without a title (and autofilling the start of your doc in that prompt).

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1 thought on “Offline Google Docs coming later this summer”

  1. This is fantastic. Google Docs is one of those products that, oddly, Google gives attention to, but still doesn’t seem to rise to the height of some of their other properties like Gmail, YouTube, or even Calendar.

    Still. Most document editing I do is via Google Docs, and most places I do work at are connected to the internet. But it would be nice to have an offline editor for those times when I’m away from a connection. I tried a couple weeks ago to write a piece while on a flight and the Google Docs app for Android was simply atrocious. Looking forward to a lot of improvements to that app.

    Also, a tablet-friendly version would do wonders for Honeycomb. Just saying.

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