Google gears up offline access for Web apps

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Also high on the list of objections to hosted applications is that many of them lack an offline, or desktop PC, component, which prevents users from accessing them when they aren't connected to the Internet. The Gears project aims to address, and in fact eventually stamp out, this problem.

"It's a big shortcoming. It's one of the main ones people mention" for online applications, Smith said. "This [Gears project] isn't a silver bullet. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done."

Currently, Google's own Apps suite of hosted collaboration and communication applications offers what officials acknowledge is rudimentary and less-than-convenient offline access: it lets users export and import files to and from equivalent desktop applications, such as Microsoft's Word and Excel.

"The offline experience is definitely a hole in the product," Rajen Sheth, product manager with Google's Enterprise unit, said several weeks ago.

As part of Wednesday's announcement, Google is providing offline capabilities to its online syndicated feed manager, called Reader, the first concrete example of what developers can accomplish with Gears, Google officials said.

Smith said the Reader example is a fine one but the real excitement will be generated when Google does the same for its Gmail Web mail service and for Docs & Spreadsheets, the online word processor and spreadsheet software that is part of Google Apps.

Gears works with all major browsers and operating systems. It is available online. Google also has a Developer Day Web site where it will webcast the U.S. and U.K. events and post photos, presentations and related material.

Other expected announcements include the following:

  • Google Mashup Editor, an experimental online code editor designed for creating mashups, or online applications built using components such as services and data from existing Web sites. Mashup Editor will simplify the creation of AJAX user interfaces, according to Google.
  • Google Web Toolkit, which has been downloaded more than 1 million [m] times since its release in May 2006, will get support for Gears in its API Library.
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