Could you be productive without offline document access?

Could you be productive without offline document access?

Summary: When Google announced last month that it was making more functionality available to Google Docs users, company officials mentioned in passing that offline access to its productivity suite would be suspended, starting May 3. Today is that day.

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When Google announced last month that it was making more functionality available to Google Docs users, company officials mentioned in passing that offline access to its productivity suite would be suspended, starting May 3.

Today is that day. And Google is proceeding according to plan. The part I didn't realize until today is Google isn't offering a date when offline access, built on top of  HTML5, will be restored.

There are some caveats, as a Google official noted when I checked in today to verify the offline suspension. Users of Google's Gmail and Calendar won't have their offline access removed. But the rest of the suite is losing offline access capabilities. From a Google spokesperson:

"On April 12 when we launched the new Docs editors, we also announced that we'd be temporarily discontinuing support for Google Docs offline access beginning today. There are a small number of users that use offline Docs and we are committed to bringing back improved offline support for them in the future, taking advantage of new technologies like HTML5 and advancements in modern browsers, but we don't have a specific date to share at this time.

"In the meantime, users can export files to their computer to access them offline or use a document management application from Syncplicity or Memeo."

Hmm. I don't know about you, but I operate offline more than online when creating and editing documents, presentations and spreadsheets. A lack of offline access -- sans jumping through a bunch of hoops -- would hurt my productivity.

While I have decent Internet access at home and work, I seldom find good, dependable free Wifi when I am on the road. I have to use my EVDO card, which is capped at 5 GB per month (with hefty fees if I go beyond that limit). I also prefer the "safe rather than sorry" route, meaning I compose and edit my documents offline so that if/when I lose my Internet connection, I don't lose all my info along with it. Maybe someday, if/when, Internet access really is ubiquitious I'll change my ways.

The ability to collaborate on documents and save them to the Web is all well and good. But those things wane in comparison to offline access, in terms of importance.

Maybe I'm an atypical office worker. But I'm curious about other "information workers''" habits. Do you work as much (or more) offline as you do online?

Topics: Data Management, Banking, CXO, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Google, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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18 comments
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  • What are they thinking?

    I agree with you and work in a similar way. I store a lot of my docs on SharePoint, but like the fact that if the connection is lost, I can save to my hard drive. What happens if you're pulling an all-nighter to complete an important report, and you lose your internet connection?
    dxhunter@...
  • Need offline

    Our firm often needs to produce work by a deadline that cannot be extended. We could never risk missing such a deadline due to a power or communications problem - we've got laptops, UPSs, and even a battery-powered printer for the worst-case scenario we hope never happens.
    1DaveN
  • No offline access.... WHAT?

    Sorry, but that is not a good way to do business.

    Offline happens. I do all of my document work offline, and it's stored offline as well. 100% online only document editing is quite a laugh.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Totally shortsighted

    I cannot believe that Google killed Gears. That was the reason why I started using Google docs in the first place -- to have real-time collaboration AND offline access.

    Now it is a dream away again. Back to MS office I go.
    kfoeller
  • Another reason I never really used Google docs.

    Another reason why I never really used Google docs,
    and why I still, to this day, use an IMAP client to
    cache my email for offline access.

    Even when offline access was active, it was pretty hit
    and miss IMO. You're relying on a cache which is,
    frankly, unreliable. Sometimes it doesn't cache at
    all, and sometimes the page isn't loaded completely
    into the cache.

    It just wan't there all of the time when I needed it.

    The nice thing about installable apps is I [b]know[/b]
    they're there when I need them. I don't have to worry
    about whether or not they've been cached. I just know
    that my installed applications are there and waiting
    for me.

    You just don't get that kind of confidence with online
    apps. Sorry, you don't. And as much as we dream about
    the internet being everywhere, I'm just not seeing
    that being reflected in reality, sorry.
    CobraA1
  • Offlline is important as you can't ensure that

    you will allway be online when you need to be.
    AllKnowingAllSeeing
  • Absolutely

    I don't even remember the last time I used a computer offline and I'll bet many people 35 and under don't either.

    Also, providing users with Google Docs does not make Office magically disappear. Let the 10% who think they need Office, keep it. Give the rest of the organization Google Apps and get the best of both worlds. $50/user per year - are you kidding? Why would you not roll that out? That's probably what they're paying per month for cell phones. The internal video functionality itself is worth the $50 ... then you've got Docs, Gmail, Calendar, Sites, IM - voice & video, spam & virus, 25GB inboxes, Forms - $50 bucks.

    I used to think finding an internet connection was difficult as well. Trying over and over again to 'add a network' but then I got a Mac. Now the computer finds and adds the network, printers too. I just turn the computer on and use it.
    @...
    • I wish it were that way everywhere. But it isn't.

      "I don't even remember the last time I used a
      computer offline and I'll bet many people 35
      and under don't either."

      On trips (especially to relatives in rural
      areas), during the occasional power outage, in
      areas that are covered with "you've gotta pay
      to use" wi-fi.

      It happens more often than you'd think.

      And it's not always that the connection is not
      available - sometimes the connection is weak or
      overloaded and agonizingly slow.

      Frankly, it's not the dream world in cyberspace
      everybody paints it as being.

      "Now the computer finds and adds the network,
      printers too. I just turn the computer on and
      use it."

      My PC does that too - in certain areas. But
      it's not always that way. Your mileage may vary
      depending where in the country you are and what
      is offered in the area.
      CobraA1
    • I do

      Two nights ago my Internet was kicked due to some very powerful thunderstorms moving through the area. I shutdown my desktop, unplugged, and then used my laptop. At somepoint I noticed I wasn't online anymore. It didn't come back up til morning.

      Offline happens. Thankfully, I have my locally installed apps which enabled me to continue working on a presentation I am preparing for school.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Where are they?

    I'm curious what folks like DonnieBoy would be saying if MS removed offline access to documents for MS Office and required you to have an internet connection to access your information.

    (I'm pretty sure the terms "baroque" and "8.5x11" would come up.)
    KTLA
    • Don't tempt them.... lol

      NT
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Could you be productive without offline document access?

    I would guess that Google is suspending that feature in order to make the application more like a true document management application that forces users to check out documents locally in order to edit. This would provide automatic document versioning upon check in and will prevent multiple copies of the same document on everyone's computer. Not to mention the additional benefits of document activity auditing.
    JMW09
  • RE: Could you be productive without offline document access?

    While I agree in principle that it matters, it's not
    actually going to affect my life -- I don't think I've
    ever actually used Google Docs offline.

    (It's actually quite rare that I'm offline: one reason
    why sharing via GDocs works well for all my personal
    uses...)
    jducoeur
  • RE: Could you be productive without offline document access?

    I've only been doing this "computer stuff" for 53 years, and I've NEVER let some other party be responsible for my document storage. It's just insane!

    So, Google Docs is not for me, nor for any of our clients, because the Internet is still in its early days of evolution. Eventually, we may get to reliable connections, trustworthy providers, solid security and (relatively) bug-free software. But, 2010 isn't yet that year.

    I'll stick to M$ Office, or Open Office, and share my documents through "the cloud," but storing everything in "the cloud" and trusting others' behavior is for boobs and idiots.

    "Cloud computing" is just old wine (now vinegar) in new bottles; SaaS has never gained a significant foothold, and Outsourcing enthusiasm waxes (with new deals) and wanes (when we find the crap buried beneath the pretty GUI).
    CAOgdin
  • RE: Could you be productive without offline document access?

    This is interesting in light of the approach we took in developing Office 2010, as I described in http://bit.ly/9of8wq. One that reflects how essential our products are in the professional and personal lives of over half a billion customers around the world, and one that is designed to help these many customers be more productive in real ways.
    Takeshi Numoto
  • Offline provides more information

    I work almost online all the time, and although this can distract me a little bit, still I have access to all the information I need. And I stay in touch with business relations. On the other hand if your job does not require online access than indeed I can decrease your productivity. Thanks for this interesting post!
    Mick van Est
  • RE: Could you be productive without offline document access?

    I have to say that in some cases offline working is much better, especially due to the fact that there are no distractions such as Twitter or the Internet in general. On the other hand, working online provides you with access to a lot of new and up to date information that can contribute to your work. Maybe a balance would be the best way to go, but how do you determine that balance?
    TuneUp Utilities
  • RE: Could you be productive without offline document access?

    There is a new software that has a free version for consumers (not free for business use) which
    automatically synchronizes with Google Docs and documents can be edited offline with
    MS Office or Open Office.You can search and organize files on your computer Apply labels, browse folders, move documents.It is also a complete document management tool for the PC.
    Take a look at http://www.busydocs.com
    vik.s