According to a post on the Google Docs Blog, Google Gears, a Firefox extension that enables users to create and edit files without an Internet connection, will bless Google Docs with offline access in the coming weeks. The rollout will begin today with a small number of users.
At first launch, word processing documents can be read and edited in offline mode, while spreadsheets will only be able to be read (but not edited). Support for Google Presentations is in the pipeline and will not be initially available. Naturally, collaboration on documents that have been created offline will not be available until the new document has been synced when the user comes back online. On a related note, it is currently unclear how smooth reconciliation of offline documents will be.
Google Documents has been in dire need of offline access in order to realistically compete other office suites including Microsoft Office and Zoho. Users of office productivity suites don’t always has connectivity to the Internet.
Currently, the only Google product to use Google Gears is Google Reader allowing for offline access to RSS news items. Google is not first in offering offline access of productivity apps through Google Gears, having been beaten to market by Zoho and Remember The Milk.
Google Gears for Google Docs will require Internet Explorer 6 and above or FireFox 1.6 and above (not including Firefox Beta 3) on Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is currently no support for other browsers including Safari, Flock, Opera, or the various mobile browsers.