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How to set up offline access in Google Drive

If you need to work with documents, spreadsheets, or presentations in Google Drive when a network connection isn't available, Offline Access is the way to go. Jack Wallen shows you how it's done.
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Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on

How many times have you been mid-commute or on a trip with no internet access and you need to access documents in Google Drive? Although those days are probably few and far between (especially with the ability to tether a laptop or desktop to your smartphone's cellular data), there have been times I've found myself without a mobile signal and no wireless -- yet I still needed to be able to dig into a document.

This scenario occurs every time I fly. I need to write, but don't want to pay the exorbitant fees for in-flight Wi-Fi. When that happens, I'm glad I've set up offline access for files in Google Drive. 

Let me show you how to make this work. 

Requirements

To successfully set up offline access, you'll (obviously) need a Google Drive account and you'll also need to use the Chrome browser. Unfortunately, the offline capability is only available to Google Chrome. The good news is that it works with ChromeOS, so if a Chromebook is your mobile device of choice, you'll have no problem with this. If you use another OS, such as Linux, macOS, or Windows, you will have to install and use Chrome to manage offline access.

That's it. Let's make some magic.

How to enable offline access to Google Docs/Sheets/Slides

1. Install the Google Docs Offline extension

Open Chrome and point it to the Google Docs Offline extension page. Once there, click Add to Chrome (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The Google Drive Offline Access Extension.

Installing the Google Docs Offline extension in Chrome.

Image: Jack Wallen

When prompted (Figure 2), click Add Extension.

Figure 2

The Add Extension prompt for Google Offline Access.

Finalizing the installation of the Google Docs Offline extension.

Image: Jack Wallen

2. Enable offline access

The next step is to enable offline access in Google Drive. Log into your Google account and go to drive.google.com. In the new window, click the gear icon near the top right and click Settings from the popup menu (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The Gear Icon popup menu showing the Settings entry.

Access the Google Drive Settings window from the gear icon.

Image: Jack Walen

In the resulting window (Figure 4), scroll down until you see Offline.

Figure 4

The Google Drive Settings window.

Enabling Offline access in Google Drive Settings.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click the checkbox associated with Create, open, and edit your recent Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides on this device while offline.

Once you've taken care of that, click DONE and that's it. You can now use Google Drive Offline in Chrome to access your Docs, Sheets, and Slide, whether you have an internet connection or not.

A "just in case" option

Every now and then I have a document that I absolutely must have access to and don't want to necessarily trust the global offline access method. When I'm faced with such a scenario, I always make sure I enable offline access to that document specifically. Taking care of that is really simple. Here's how:

  1. Open Google Drive in Chrome.

  2. Navigate to the Doc/Sheet/Slide in question.

  3. Right-click the file.

  4. Click the ON/OFF slider for Available Offline (Figure 5) so that it's in the ON position.

The above steps will guarantee you have offline access to that one file (in case the global method doesn't work).

For anyone that travels a lot (and has to work while they do so), enabling offline access to Google Drive can make a world of difference in your ability to be productive without a network connection.

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