Google to restore offline storage to Apps by year end

Google removed the offline capability for Google Docs as it works toward supporting the HTML5 specification

Google is working to restore offline storage capabilities for its Google Apps productivity software and should have it done by the end of the year, according to a senior company official on Wednesday.

Google had engineered the ability for Docs to store content on a user's desktop, which gave the Web-based word processing application capabilities more similar to desktop client applications such as Microsoft's Word. It did that by using Gears, its open-source browser plug-in that created a fully searchable database and a local cache for JavaScript to run the application offline.

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But in May 2010 Google removed this capability for Google Docs as it moved toward using those same type of features within Gears, but using the HTML5 specification. It did keep the offline capabilities for Gmail and Calendar products.

The HTML5 work is progressing. "I think in the near future you will see the offline capability return to the Apps suite," said Matthew R. Glotzbach, director for product management of Google Enterprise, during a press briefing at the company's London office.

Taking away Docs' offline features probably didn't help Google position that Apps suite -- which includes word processing, spreadsheet and many other functions -- as fully featured as Microsoft's desktop Office suite, with which it competes.

But in the long run, the move to HTML5 appears to be a sure bet, as most modern browsers now support the specification.

Google has already integrated HTML5 support in its Gmail product for devices including Apple's iPhone. The Safari browser is compatible with HTML5, and users can download their Gmail when online and the access it when they don't have a connection, Glotzbach said.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com.

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