ThinkFree online has been providing an online/offline office suite of Web apps for many years. Their Web-based Office service is free and includes 1 GB of storage for documents. As for working with documents offline, ThinkFree relies on their own propriety sync tool called ThinkFree Manager. ThinkFree Manager works with ThinkFree Office, which is basically a full Java desktop office suite of apps that synchronizes all changes to your ThinkFree Online account. In that regard it works like an Adobe Air app.
There’s a trial version that you can install if you want to check it out. They’ve informed us that there’s no official expiration date for the trial version, so it’s basically free for now. There is a premium package with more bells and whistles that will run you $50 per user per year.
Zoho’s online apps were the first to offer offline access to documents created with their Web-based tools. Ironically enough, they beat Google Docs to the punch by using Google Gears! At first, you could only view Zoho documents offline, but they quickly added the ability to edit documents offline as well. In order to start using Zoho Write in offline mode just click on the Go Offline link at the top of the screen.
The Google Gears screen will appear requesting permission to allow integration. Click allow and Zoho Write will be available in offline mode.
Here’s a video tutorial of Zoho Write in offline mode.
Google Docs responded to the request for the ability to work offline and incorporated Google Gears integration just as Zoho has done. Once you’ve enable Google Gears you will see the Online/Offline status indicator change accordingly. Look for it at the top right of your Google Docs screen.
You’ll see the Google Gears security screen asking if you want to allow it to work with Google Docs. Click Allow and you’ll be able to work offline in no time at all.
It’s important to note what exactly you can do with Google Docs while in offline mode. At this time, you can view all documents, spreadsheets and presentations while offline, but you can only edit documents. The other negative thing to keep in mind is that you cannot create any new document, spreadsheet or presentation while offline. This one feature is enough to prevent many offices from officially replacing their open license agreement with Microsoft for their Office licenses. People need to be able to create and edit any and all kinds of Office documents online or off.
Here’s a brief screencast of how to work with Google Docs in offline mode:
Two Ways to Export Everything Out of Google Docs
If you’re an avid Google Docs user and none of these services does it for you, then here are two ways that you can export (download) all of your documents, spreadsheets and presentations out of your Google Docs online account. By doing this, you will have copies of your documents even when you’re offline. Obviously, you’ll have to upload any of the documents you change while offline, but at least you’ll have them all. If nothing else, it’s a good way to backup all your files.
Firefox Script Method
If you’re a Google Docs user who uses Firefox, you can use the Google Docs Download greasemonkey script and the Firefox Download Manager to download and export all of your Google Documents in batch mode instead of one at a time.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Install Firefox 3
2. Install Greasemonkey
3. Install the GoogleDocs Download Script
4. Install DownTHEMall: Firefox Download Manager
5. Go to Google Docs and select the documents you want to export (to select all documents in a folder/tag remember to click the Select All option at the bottom of the screen).
6. Click on the new Download Your Documents menu and select the format you want to use for your documents.
7. Your selections will appear in a new page like this:
8. Right-click and select DownloadThemAll. Select the local folder you want to download/export your Google Docs to in the Save Files in: field. Click Start to download.
9. That’s all folks! You’ve just setup a way to export all of your Google Docs any time you want or need them offline.
Free Online Backup Method
Syncplicity is a backup service that just left beta and offers the unique ability to download all of your documents from Google Docs and keep them synchronized on your local computer. This means whenever you make changes to documents online they are synchronized with the copies saved on your computer and vice versa. The good news is that you can do this for free with up to 2 GB of documents. They have premium plans if or when you need more coverage.