We have gotten through three weeks of 30 Days With...Google Docs. We are entering the home stretch of the project, and we haven't addressed one of the most crucial questions to ask when considering Google Docs--what do you do when you can't connect to Google Docs?
One of the first questions that comes to mind for me whenever anyone talks about "the cloud" is, "that's great, but what do you do if the service has an outage, or you just can't find an Internet connection?" With free Wi-Fi on virtually every corner, it is not the issue it once was, but it is possible that you may not be able to connect to Google Docs for some reason, and then what? You just can't get any productive work done?
I am not just picking on Google Docs, either. If you follow my writing, you will notice a theme. The idea of what happens when you rely on a cloud service but can't connect to the cloud is a recurring pet peave. I mentioned it as a fatal flaw for the Chromebook, and I pointed it out as a serious concern when it comes to cloud music streaming services.
Well, some of you may be familiar with Google Gears, and using Google Gears to sync content for offline access. The problem with Google Gears is that Google pulled the plug on supporting Gears as an offline content solution a year ago.
A Google Docs support page explains, "As of May 3rd, 2010 we've temporarily removed support for offline access in Google Docs through Gears. We know offline access is important for some of you, and we're working hard to bring a new and improved offline access option to Google Docs."
The current solution for working offline--as described by Google in the support page--is to download whatever files you might want to work on offline, then, after you work with them and modify them offline, upload the files back to Google Docs. The solution is hardly elegant, and it is a rudimentary Band-aid that takes away many of the benefits of working with Google Docs in the first place.
I have to admit that when Google said to expect a new solution, I was thinking a month...maybe three. More than a year later, Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome, revealed that Google has been using the new solution internally, and that we can expect it to be available sometime later this summer.
In the meantime, you could use a solution like Memeo Connect Reader. Memeo Connect Reader is an app available for iPhone and iPad that syncs your Google Docs files for offline viewing. Although the Memeo Connect Reader app itself does not provide editing capabilities, if you have a compatible app that does--like DocsToGo--you can export files to work on them.
For a fee, customers of Google Apps can get the more robust Memeo Connect product which can sync Google Docs files to a Windows or Mac PC and does provide for editing. At least with a solution like that, Google Docs could still have some functionality offline.
We'll have to wait and see what Google brings to the table. After taking more than a year to engineer a replacement for Google Gears, though, it better be good.