GooglegearsGoogle is taking applications offline with a new project called Gears. It’s an open source browser extension that’s available for Internet Explorer or Firefox that enables online applications to come offline. The first example of this is Google Reader. For Opera and Safari users, they’re workin’ on it, but it’s not quite ready yet.

Once you install the Gears plug-in, you can try out Google Reader in an offline mode. The last 2000 items are then downloaded so that they can easily be viewed offline. The entire process of downloading 2000 items was surprisingly fast. I was expecting it to take at least a few minutes, however it was done in less than a minute. The offline mode is perfect for those situations when you don’t have an Internet connection – like an airplane.

Gears is an open source project, so expect other online applications to be made available offline in the near future. Gears uses JavaScript APIs to do the following:

  • Store and serve application resources locally
  • Store data locally in a fully-searchable relational database
  • Run asynchronous Javascript to improve application responsiveness.

After I installed the plug-in and I went to Google Reader, this is what I saw:


Just a word of caution: be sure you know the site that you’re giving access to because I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be giving access to just any old site.

Once I clicked to allow Google to use Google Gears, I was brought to the Google Reader page where it pointed out the new logo at the top of the screen, right next to the “Settings” link which you click to go offline.  Once I clicked the logo, the download process began.


After the download was complete, it displayed a message telling me that I was now in offline mode and if I needed to, I could disconnect from the Internet. To return to the online mode, all you have to do is click the same Icon you used to go offline.

When I clicked the icon to return back online, Google Reader did a quick synchronization. When I was back online, all the articles I had starred remained starred. Nice. One of the only down-sides is that images are not downloaded, so for articles that reference images, you’ll have to do without.

Users have been asking for the opportunity to take their Google applications offline, and now they’ve got it. I’m excited to see what other applications will come offline to join Google Reader.

Install Google Gears here.

Thanks for the tip Chris!