Snow Leopard was a remarkably painless upgrade for me, but one particularly important piece of software was broken: Google Gears.
For those who don’t know, Gears is Google’s framework for storing browser data offline. It works with many Google services as well as some third-party products. I use Gears primarily with Site Specific Browsers (SSBs) like Mailplane and Fluid, which give me offline access to Gmail, Google Reader and Remember The Milk.
These are some of my most used programs, and as such it became eminently obvious to me after the Snow Leopard upgrade that Google Gears was no longer working. To be clear, not all Snow Leopard installs will cause Google Gears to stop functioning. If you do a standard upgrade, Gears functionality should be carried over. Rather, it’s those like me who see a new operating system update as an opportunity to do a clean installation that will run into problems.
Specifically the new 64-bit version of Safari includes updated security features that are incompatible with Google Gears. If you tried to install Google Gears for OS X you would get a warning telling you that Google Gears won’t install on a version of OS X higher than 10.5. Now this makes some sense since Gears simply won’t work with the 64-bit version of Safari, but it also means that other programs like Mailplane and Fluid, which will work fine with the current version of Google Gears, are unable to get access to it’s features.
Thankfully, the helpful folks who developed Mailplane have created a hacked installer for Google Gears that skips the version check and allows you to install the program in Snow Leopard. You can pick up the modified installer here. As with any hack, proceed at your own risk, but my own experience has been flawless. Once I installed this version of Gears, Mailplane and Fluid were once again able to take advantage of the offline features of sites like Gmail.
Even with this version of Gears installed you won’t be able to use Gears with 64-bit Safari. If you do want to use Gears with Safari you will need to run it in 32-bit mode. This can be done easily by right-clicking on the Safari package, choosing Get Info and putting a check in the box next to “Open in 32-bit mode”. Those of you who use Gears with Firefox may be wondering what all the fuss is about as Gears works fine with that browser. That’s because Gears for Firefox is actually a Firefox extension, rather than an operating system service as Gears for OS X is.
I hope this helps out all those other Snow Leopard users who depend on Google Gears and lost the functionality during a clean install. Hopefully Google updates Gears to work natively with Snow Leopard soon so workarounds like these are unnecessary.