March 31, 2008 |
One of the issues surrounding Google Docs is getting them to translate into the real world and work offline as well as they do online. Google has released a new helper application to make it easier to synchronize your online Google Docs with your offline life. They are calling it Google Gears.
Even though Google Gears launched to the public this week, it isn't fully operational yet. It currently only works with Picasa Web Albums (on mobile devices), Zoho Writer, Google Reader and in limited capacity on Google Docs Spreadsheets. Google says it will be rolling out functionality on the rest of their Google Docs applications over the next few weeks. The rollout will occur gradually and will hit different users at different times.
Google Gears is available for Internet Explorer or Firefox. It works on PC, Mac and Linux based machines. The big surprise isn't that it has been released to the public, but that it has been in development since last May. With Google's normally speedy track record from concept to release, the fact that it isn't completely operational yet seems strange.
If you go to a Google Apps site that is ready to use Google Gears, you'll see a link on that site to download the plug in for your browser. If you can't wait that long, you can grab the plug in yourself from the plug in page for Google Gears. Grabbing the plug in early will allow it to alert you when other apps become compatible, and give you a chance for immediate syncing as each App goes live with Gears compatibility.
Some say Google, via Google Gears, is trying to compete with Microsoft in the desktop applications market, and that Microsoft is trying to compete online with Silverlight. That may be true to a degree, but I don't see them as direct competitors for the same market. They both appeal to very different user bases, who use them for very different things. Either way, Google's Gears is a much needed addition to the Google application family. Being able to take your data with you and use it wherever you need it is vital as life and work become more portable.