Google's Gears Needs More Cogs On The Wheel - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
4/9/2008
08:59 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Google's Gears Needs More Cogs On The Wheel

As an everyday user of Google Docs, I was excited when Gears finally became available so that I could write while offline. I downloaded and installed Gears on both my computers, but in the end it was a waste of time. Right now Gears only supports Reader for me; I haven't been granted access to Docs in an offline mode yet. And this brings me to

As an everyday user of Google Docs, I was excited when Gears finally became available so that I could write while offline. I downloaded and installed Gears on both my computers, but in the end it was a waste of time. Right now Gears only supports Reader for me; I haven't been granted access to Docs in an offline mode yet. And this brings me to my big complaint: Google, why announce new features when not everyone can use them?It's quite maddening, really. Google adds new features to its software all the time, but rolls it out in batches to select sets of users over a period of time until everyone has them. I understand that Google has many data centers that are distributed all over the place these days. Some people access one data center for this set of services, and another data center for that set of services. The end result is, however, that not all users can take advantage of new features right away.

This ticks me off because I actually want to use the new features, but can't. When Google started rolling out its Gmail 2 software, it was more than six weeks from the first announcement of availability before I was able to access the new software. So far, same goes for Gears. I have a version that only half works.

After installing Gears, you will notice a little green circle next to your account name in the upper right-hand portion of the screen. Clicking that little circle takes you from offline to online mode and vice versa. If that green circle isn't there, you can't work offline. Right now, even though I've installed Gears, I only have that green circle on the Reader application. Having offline access to my feeds is nice, but is something I will really only use once in a while.

What I really need is access to Google Docs when I am offline. How long do I have to wait until my version of Gears/Docs will do what Google says it will do?

In case you're interested, here is a list of applications that Google says are supported by Gears (if you're lucky):

• Google Reader - Feed reader from Google - The Gears integration was added in May 2007 - It lets you read the most recent 2,000 posts offline, without having access to images and enclosures. You can also star posts or tag them.

• Remember the Milk - Task management application - The second application Gears-enabled, six days after Google Reader - Most of the functionality is available offline. "Not only can you access your lists, but you can add new tasks and notes, edit existing tasks (complete, postpone, prioritize, tag, and change due dates to your heart's content), use your own personal tasks search engine, create new Smart Lists, and more."

• Zoho Writer - Online word processor - Supports Gears since August 2007, with an important update in November and Windows Mobile support since March 2008 - A number of recent documents can be viewed and edited offline

• PassPack - Online password manager - Launch date: September 2007 - "With the Offline Version, you can download your data from your PassPack account, then access and manage it whenever you wish. This is not a read-only version, you are free to make changes and save them locally. To synchronize your online and offline accounts, use the backup and restore functions."

• MindMeister - Online mind mapping - Launch date: November 2007 - "The MindMeister Offline Mode allows users to work on their mind maps even when they're offline, i.e., not connected to the Internet. All changes will be saved locally and synchronized back into your MindMeister account the next time you go online," explains a help page.

• Buxfer - Personal finance manager - The Gears support was added in January 2008 and was extended to Windows Mobile in March - The application has the option to store the authentication information offline. "You will have the convenience of not needing to login into your financial institution repeatedly, as well as the peace of mind that your private information is secure and completely under your control!"

• Autodesk Labs Project Draw - Create diagrams online - Launch date: January 2008 - The application can run in the offline mode and sync files later when you reconnect

• Google Docs - Online word processor - Experimental launch for a small percentage of users - March 2008 - You can view and edit documents offline

• Picasa Web Albums Mobile - Photo sharing - Offline support for Windows Mobile 6 touchscreen devices, April 2008 - You can view photo albums offline

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