Google Gears is a free open source application and browser plugin that you can use to sync web applications to your computer for those times when you do not have internet access. It also has the capability to work on both Firefox and Internet Explorer web browsers; and Linux, Windows, Windows Mobile and Mac operating systems.
Like most Google products, Google Gears is still in beta, but it definitely gets the job done!
Why would I want Google Gears? I have a hour commute every morning and afternoon. I want to make the best use of my commute time, so I sync my Google Reader and Zoho Writer to Google Gears, so I can read and write offline and when I get back to an internet connection, I can sync again and my read items will be read and my new articles will be updated and uploaded.
I also like to go out and enjoy a little sunshine, since it is finally Spring here in Jersey. Unfortunately, my favorite park does not have Wi-Fi. So, if I sync up my browser before leaving home, I can mosy on over to the park, enjoy some sun and sandwiches, and get to catch up on reading my feeds or updating my to-do list!
Basically, Google Gears is a great tool for those who do not always have access to the internet but would like to be able to use websites while offline.
Sounds interesting, so how do I get it? Visit the Google Gears website with your favorite browser – it currently only works with Internet Explorer or Firefox – and run the installation program. If you already have Google Gears installed, the website will let you know! Once the program is installed, you can now begin using it.
Screenshot of Google Gears Installed Page
Where and how do you use Google Gears? Two of my favorite online applications – Google Reader and Zoho Writer, work with Google Gears. Additional sites that work with Google Gears are Remember the Milk and Google Docs. There is a Greasemonkey Script available if you’d like to make other sites work with Google Gears. This script works for many sites, but be warned – the directions can be a bit overwhelming for less advanced computer users.
When you visit a Google Gears-enabled site after installation, you will first see a popup that asks you if you would like to allow this site to access Google Gears. If you want your computer to ALWAYS access Google Gears on a certain site and you don’t want to see this popup again, be sure to click the “I trust this site. Allow it to use Google Gears” and press “Allow”.
On your first visit to Google Reader after installing and allowing Google Gears to access the page, you will see a green button to the left of “Settings” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Click this button to begin synching the current content to your computer.
Google Gears downloads 2000 Google Reader items, but only when you manually ask the program to do so. When you are offline, you will be able to view items, star them, and share them. When you get back online, just sync Google Gears and Google Reader again to update your account.
Note: you cannot access your “Trends” or “Friends’ shared items” or “Share with note” while in offline mode.
Google Docs also works well with Google Gears. Once you set up Google Docs with Google Gears, it will automatically check to see if your browser is offline or not, and start syncing your documents if you are online. Unfortunately, you cannot manually switch to offline mode.
With Google Docs, you have the additional option to add a desktop shortcut that lets you launch Google Docs website and edit Google Docs documents in offline mode.
Excellent online to-do list service Remember the Milk (RTM) also works well with Google Gears. RTM does check to see if you are online or offline, but you can also manually switch to offline mode. It also adds a desktop shortcut, so you can quickly access RTM when you are offline.
Some settings, such as changing your settings or contacts, can’t be done offline. But, for basic list making and updating, RTM with Google Gears works great.
Finally, there is a Zoho Writer – online alternative to Microsoft Word. With Google Gears you can use Zoho Writer to work with your documents offline in a Word-like interface. Just like Google Docs, Zoho Writer only lets you edit Word documents, not spreadsheets or other file formats.
Google Gears could be a lot more useful if it were intergrated into more web applications, but currently, it has 4 strong useful web services for its backbone: Google Reader, Zoho Writer, Remember the Milk and Google Docs.
What sites or services would you like to see integrated into Google Gears?
How does Google Gears work for you?
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