Google has been trumpeting its plans to ditch its Gears extension for offline access for quite a while, and now we've got a final cut-off date. Gears will stop working on all Google sites from December 1 this year, and soon afterwards Google will stop people from downloading the extension.
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Windows/Mac/Linux: Most developers did a bang-up job preparing their extensions for the Firefox 3.5 update, but on the Firefox 3.5 release day, one very popular extension didn't make the cut: Google's browser plug-in, Gears.
Roughly one month after Google Apps users got it, Gears-powered offline access comes to all Google Calendar users. The same limitations apply, but it's not a bad way to ensure access to your agenda. Head to your calendar page and hit the "Offline (beta)" link to start the syncing process. If you don't have Google Gears installed, you'll need to do so, and you'll be prompted to install shortcuts to GCal on your computer. The first sync only applies to your primary calendar, though—click the green checkmark in the upper-right and hit "Offline Settings" to bring more of your calendars offline. I didn't notice any kind of limitations, but Alex at Google Operating System wrote that his calendar only synced Feb. 4 through June 4 of this year when he synced his calendars today. The big missing Feature Elephant in this online room is that you can't create new events while you're offline to sync up later. How will GCal offline be useful to you? Tell us your take in the comments.
On the heels of Mozilla's location-aware Geode extension for Firefox, Google announces that Google Gears will get a geolocation functionality for laptop Wi-Fi users, so you can get local news and searches without manually entering your location.
Zoho Mail, a web-based email client long in private beta in the Zoho office suite, is now publicly available. Those with Zoho accounts and Google Gears installed will notice that you can hit an "Offline" button to download a pre-set number of sent mail and inbox messages, and reply to them for sending when you're back online. Zoho Mail features both traditional folders and label sorting, or use of both, and POP import/export, with IMAP access promised in the near future. Zoho Mail is a free service, requires a sign-up with Zoho.Zoho Mail
Google Gears, the browser plug-in that lets you access your favourite webapps when you're not online, is now out of beta and available for the Safari browser for Macs (in addition to Firefox on all platforms). Gears gives you offline access to Remember the Milk, Zoho Suite, Google Docs, and more webapps.
If your love for Safari has kept you from making the jump to Google Gears, you're in luck: a beta version of Gears for Safari has just been released. It's a Mac only beta, so expect bugs if you download it. Thanks Josh!
Windows/Mac/Linux (Firefox or IE7): PassPack, an online manager for both your computer and web site passwords we've previously mentioned, has created an offline version using Google's Gears add-on. That alone makes PassPack a more useful tool, but you can also download PassPack onto multiple computers, online or off, and sync your password management between them all (assuming the offline computers can make a one-time connection). As Adam noted, the site goes a long way to explain its encryption and privacy measures; if that sounds kosher to you, its offline version makes PassPack much more helpful. Fans of Adobe Air apps should check out PassPack's "Desktop" AIR app. PassPack's offline version requires Google Gears, which runs on Firefox and Internet Explorer; hit the link below for installation instructions.PassPack—Offline Version
Windows/Mac/Linux: Google's offline-enabling browser plug-in, now simply called "Gears," has been updated to 0.3 with full support for Firefox 3. In addition to the general convenience of having one less extension to pull out Firefox 2 for, Gears adds a dialog to create a nice-looking desktop icon for most sites that support it, and it's been released for all three platforms running Firefox at once. The Webware news site notes that Google is working on Gears versions for Safari and Opera (IE is already supported), so stay tuned.Gears
If you've stored your slide deck online in Google Docs, you don't have to worry about the internet connection going out when it's time to get onstage. The big G completed its rollout of offline access to spreadsheets and presentations using the Google Gears Firefox extension/Windows application. You can't edit the sheets or slides you open offline with Gears, just view them. If you haven't given it a try yet, here's a video demo of how Gears works. Now if they'd only Gears-enable Gmail for offline browser access to your email... even with IMAP, that would still be useful.View your presentations and spreadsheets offline, too
Google Docs is getting offline access baked in with Google Gears starting with a small number of users today, the Official Google Docs blog reports. We're not seeing it yet (are you?), but when we all do, it'll work the same way Gears works with Google Reader. Hit the play button above for a charmingly cheesy demonstration. (Bonus points to anyone who catches the Office Space reference in the video clip.)Bringing the cloud with you
Google's offline-enabling project Gears released a version for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 devices last night, and mobile web apps like online document editor Zoho Writer and money manager Buxfer have already thrown their hats into the not-always-mobile ring. It looks like documents are read-only in Zoho at this point, but, like its desktop brother, Zoho Writer Mobile will likely upgrade to full online/offline sync soon. Similarly, Buxfer lets you check account balances and see transactions, but not make any account changes. It's a nice start, however, and more mobile apps, and functionality, are likely to follow. Visit gears.google.com from your Windows Mobile 5 or 6 device to install Gears.Shifting Google Gears to mobile
Looks like offline access to Google Docs might be on the way according to screenshots posted by Blogoscoped. Google has already started building offline access into apps using Google Gears - but so far the big G has only built offline access into Google Reader.
Zoho has taken the final steps toward full offline access by allowing users to both read and edit Zoho Writer documents offline and then sync the results back to their Zoho account online. A few months ago we told you that the web-based word processor Zoho Writer added offline access using web plug-in Google Gears, but at that time docs were read-only (meaning no editing). Again, Zoho's impressive progress both in terms of offline access and their feature-rich word processor makes one wonder when Google Docs will catch up. If you can't see much in the low-quality video above, check this one out.Zoho Writer Supports Offline Editing
Microsoft just unveiled a Google Gears competitor called the Microsoft Sync Framework. Right now there's no supported sites, but in time it could provide offline access to sites like Google Reader (though more likely MS-branded counter-sites).