Google Docs is a free web-based office suite for creating, editing, managing, sharing, and collaborating on text, spreadsheet, and presentation documents. It doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles you get with Microsoft Office, or even free and open source alternatives such as LibreOffice. But for many people Google Docs is good enough to replace a full-fledged office suite — and the support for real-time collaboration with other users over the internet gives the online office suite a bit of an edge.
But there’s one big problem: Google Docs is virtually useless if you don’t have an internet connection. That means if you want to work on your documents in an internet-free zone such as an airplane or subway, you currently have to export your files and open them in a different program. It also means that if you’re using a Google Chromebook, which by its very nature, doesn’t run any desktop office apps, instead relying on web apps like Google Docs, you simply can’t edit your documents without an internet connection… yet.
Google has promised to add offline support for Google Docs using HTML5 so that you can cache documents in your web browser for access when you’re not online. Now the folks at Google Operating System have posted what may be one of the first images of the new user interface for Google Docs offline.
A reader sent in the image which showed up briefly. Google has a way of gradually rolling out new features to a select group of testers before making them widely available. The picture shows an extra toolbar at the top of the screen which shows tools for going online or offline. There’s also an indicator to show when an internet connection has been lost.
The new features will almost certainly be built into future versions of Chrome OS. What’s less certain is how they’ll work with the Chrome web browsers for Mac, Windows, or Linux and competing browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, or Safari.