Everyone says they don’t like web apps because they don’t want to have to work through their browser. They don’t want to have to be online to use their text editors, and they don’t want to have to load every single thing, especially when they’re not sure about the quality of the connection they’re on.
Well, I tell people, Google Docs can integrate almost seamlessly into your desktop environment, operating with it as if it were a desktop application. All you need is Google Gears. Google Docs Offline mode allows you to take Docs offline, along with all of your files, and then work from your hard drive, with or without an internet connection. Going offline is as easy as clicking “offline”, and allowing your files to sync.
You can even place a “Google Docs” icon onto your computer that loads Google Docs (or reader or gmail) in its own window in whatever browser you use. Turn off the navigation bar (Mac Safari: Command-shift-\ | Mac Firefox: hit the upper right hand window button | I’m sure you can do this in windows too) to save some screen real estate and fool the people around you into thinking you’re using a desktop based editor.
Then, if you go offline, lose connection, or otherwise are unable to connect to Google, a yellow bar will appear telling you that you’ve gone offline, and are now saving your content to your hard drive. Returning online is as easy as getting your connection back, and pressing the “save” button, at which point it will sync your local files and online files. A great feature for people who want to use Google Apps like any other desktop program.
The real use for this, however, comes in integrating it with the rest of your workflow. For instance, today when writing this blog post I wanted to get away from noise and distraction of the office. I decided to take my netbook and move into a quiet corner. Pre-Docs this would require me to use a thumb drive to move the document from the PC to my latop, then copy it over. Further many of the tools I require (image editing, coding, etc.) are on my work PC, meaning that at some point I will need to transfer files from the netbook to my work PC using a thumb drive, VPN, or some software like Dropbox. To make matters worse, my netbook has MacOS with Pages on it, while my work PC has Windows with MS Word. Compatible, but somewhat strenuously.
Sure, none of this takes any meaningful effort, but with Docs it’s not even an effort. In fact, it doesn’t interrupt the work process what-so-ever. I can literally leave my netbook in the corner, walk to my PC, look at what I’ve written, take a screen shot, crop it, shrink it, save it as a thumbnail, embed it into the doc (if I want) and then walk back to my netbook and continue writing.
I write as if using any other word processor. If I am online it mirrors everything to my work PC as I write. If I’m offline it saves to my drive and when I get online I hit save and it syncs right back to my work PC.
It’s all there, still open as I left it, but now updated with all the work I did off in my quiet corner. No browsing network drives, thumb drives, no configuring network applications to sync through the company firewall, nothing. I just sit down and continue to work.
This will work in the quiet corner of your office, in the coffee shop downstairs (though beware using a public connection while dealing with sensitive files), or even in the park, allowing you to work anywhere, internet connection or not.