Hi there, I’m Shane. I’m a sales engineer and car enthusiast, but today I’m a blogger.
One of the most common questions (objections?) I hear when talking to people about Google Apps is, “Does it work offline?” If you’re a Google administrator, you might get asked this question from people in your company.
The simple answer is yes. Yes it can.
But, I always come back with a counter question: When are you ever working offline? I find that people often forget that we are in 2015.
The internet is practically everywhere you ever go
I personally carry with me a laptop, Nexus 9 tablet, and a Samsung S4 phone (I know, it’s old). Between all these devices, being without internet is an incredible rarity. Obviously at home and the office I have WiFi networks available.
Traveling? I haven’t been to an airport in the last two years that doesn’t offer WiFi access. And that includes the municipal airport in Durango, Co.
Go ahead. Look it up. I’ll wait.
Even while airborne, the majority of continental US flights offer onboard WiFi that’s more than enough to get you access to the majority of Google’s services. You can work while enjoying that tomato juice, cruising at 35,000 feet.
If I’m ever at a site without WiFi available, then I use my trusty S4. I can either use Google’s truly impressive mobile app suite to take care of small tasks, or flip on tethering and switch use my laptop for the full experience.
I remember being tied to my desk to hook to a phone line with my 9600bps trying to look at the contents of the Sears christmas catalog, now the sum of all human information is at our fingertips almost anywhere you go. It’s staggering, really.
There are only two legitimate arguments I’ve come across for why offline access is a necessity:
1) I have to work from a truck in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere.
2) I have to work on a flight without WiFi.
I’m not only here to tell you that it’s 2015 and we have internet virtually everywhere. I’m also going to tell you exactly how to get work done in these circumstances, service by service.
Gmail has multiple options for offline use.
For your laptop or Chromebook, Chrome has an app called Gmail Offline. This app allows you to set a period of time you want your emails to stay in your inbox (30, 60, 90 or days). If you install the Gmail Offline Sync Optimizer plugin for Google Chrome, messages will automatically stay synced as new messages are received.
With this setup, If you find yourself offline and attempt to load Gmail, you’ll automatically be redirected to the offline version installed on your computer. As soon as you reconnect to the internet, any changes you’ve made while offline will automatically be re-synced back to Google and you’ll resume using your familiar Gmail interface.
As for your mobile device, it is already storing content locally for offline access. Everyone understands that while cellular service is really good these days (did you ever try to use a phone in the 90s?) it’s still not perfect. So the Gmail app automatically stores the last 30 days of mail on your phone, and can be set to store more if you’d like. Again, coming back online with your phone or tablet will automatically re-sync the data changed back to Google.
On a laptop or Chromebook, simply opening the settings menu in Google Calendar will reveal the “Offline” option. This will install the Calendar plugin, and automatically begin syncing your primary calendar. If you need to manage more calendars, you can add them later through the offline settings option.
Currently, you can view your calendar, and respond to RSVP options while in offline mode, but new entries aren’t supported. That’s why we fall back on recommending you use your mobile device to create calendar entries if needed.
On your mobile device, if you have Google Calendar installed, you’re ready to go. The Google Calendar app automatically keeps all of your appointment data stored locally so that you won’t miss a beat.
Google Drive has full functionality offline, and all you need to do to enable it is to check one little box. Once you’re in drive, go to Settings > Settings. When the window pops up, click the checkbox for “Offline”, and save it. Drive will automatically sync anything in native format that’s in your “My Drive” folder. It’s always a good idea to give that folder a once over before you unplug, to make sure you’ve got your needed files.
On the mobile side of things, Google Drive, Docs, and Sheet applications all have offline functionality, but they recognize that the storage space on your mobile device is more valuable, so you’ll need to specifically select documents you want to make available offline. Once you do that, they will be updated automatically after any changes, and a local copy will be stored.
Between these three categories, we’ve covered 99% of the offline needs for Google Apps users. If you’ve got different or unique needs, please post them in the comments below! We’d love to hear about interesting cases, and what you’ve done to address those needs