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All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS
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09 Jun 12 Chrome OS offline: Can you really use a Chromebook without the cloud?


Google’s Chrome OS Chromebooks are great for cloud-based computing — but what happens when you have a Chromebook with no cloud? Can Chromebooks actually work offline, or do they turn into pretty paperweights when the Internet goes off?

These are important questions to consider. Chrome OS, after all, is a platform built around the Web. But whether it’s on a plane or while visiting Uncle Jed’s country cottage, we all encounter times when Internet access isn’t available.

I haven’t seen Uncle Jed lately, but as part of my two-week Chrome OS experiment, I wanted to see how Google’s newly refreshed cloud platform really performed offline. So I took a deep breath, hyperventilated a little, and shut off the Wi-Fi and 3G on my Chromebook for a few hours.

Here’s what I found.

Chrome OS offline: The Google app situation

The first thing that struck me in testing Chrome OS offline is just how far Google has come. When I started exploring Chrome OS a year and a half ago — using Google’s prerelease Cr-48 test notebook — offline functionality was practically nonexistent. Even with the launch of the first commercial Chromebook last summer, the picture was pretty bleak.

These days, using Chrome OS offline is almost a good experience. And most of the remaining gaps are set to be filled soon.

Right now, for example, you can get full offline access to Gmail; all you have to do is install the free Offline Google Mail app onto your Chromebook and complete a simple one-time setup. Then, anytime you’re offline, you just open the Offline Google Mail app and you’re good to go.

The offline Gmail interface looks a lot like the tablet Gmail interface. It allows you to read and search through your email, archive messages, and compose new messages or responses. Anything you do is synced to the cloud the next time you connect; the process is automatic and transparent.

Google Docs isn’t quite as good of a situation, but it’s getting there. Right now, Docs has partial offline access: You can view all of your saved documents and spreadsheets, but you can’t edit anything or create anything new. That’s obviously a problem, but it won’t be for long: Google says full offline Docs support for Chrome will be launched within the “next several weeks.”

Odds are, we’ll see full offline Docs support by the end of the month; remember, Google’s annual developers’ conference takes place June 27 through 29. That’d be a logical time for something like this to be unveiled. In the meantime, I’ve been using offline Gmail or the offline-ready Scratchpad note-taking app to fill the void (Scratchpad comes preinstalled on Chromebooks, and it even syncs to Docs when you’re online).

One minor annoyance I discovered is that Docs’ offline mode works only with files saved in the Google Docs format. I happen to have a lot of Microsoft Word and Excel files stored in my Docs account; while the regular online version of Docs allows me to view them, the offline version does not. Google Docs does make it easy to convert files into the Docs format when you’re online, at least — so if you’re planning to use Docs offline and have a lot of Word files floating around, that’s something worth thinking about in advance. (It’s also worth noting that offline Docs access requires a one-time initial setup; you can find the option in the gear dropdown menu at the top-right corner of the Docs app.)

Like Docs, Google Calendar currently has partial offline support. With Calendar, you can browse and view any calendars connected to your account and RSVP to existing invitations. (Like with Docs, too, you have to complete a one-time initial setup to enable offline access.) At the moment, however, you can’t create new events or invitations while working offline. A Google spokesperson tells me full offline Calendar support is in the works, but unfortunately, there’s no firm timeframe for that launch just yet.

Chrome OS offline: The other offline options

Beyond those Google-service basics, there are hundreds of third-party Chrome apps that work perfectly fine offline. Google has even created a section of its Chrome Web Store dedicated to apps with offline capabilities; I counted nearly 900 items in it this morning. (You can always tell if an app is offline-friendly by looking for the gray lightning bolt symbol anywhere in the Chrome Web Store.)

The offline apps include everything from games (Angry Birds, Solitaire, Pac-Man) to news and sports (NYTimes, 365Scores) and general utilities (a Gmail-synced to-do list, scientific calculator, audio transcription tool). You can even read e-books offline with Google’s own Play Books app.

Chrome OS offline: The real deal

Android Power TwitterAt this point, the notion of a Chromebook becoming a paperweight when offline is simply misconstrued. Once full offline Docs support arrives (which, again, is set to happen in a matter of weeks), the number of significant holes remaining will become very slim. Full calendar-editing functionality is still pending, and that’s a bummer — but it hardly constitutes paperweight status.

Chrome OS may be a cloud-based platform, but these days, Google’s Chromebooks remain perfectly capable when they’re away from the cloud.

For much more on Google’s newly revamped Chrome OS and Chromebook experience, check out the rest of my two-week Chrome OS experiment:

Article source: http://blogs.computerworld.com/cloud-computing/20486/chrome-os-offline

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09 Oct 11 Offline Gmail app good for casual use


These days, if I need to read or write an e-mail when I’m not at a regular computer, I can usually do so on my phone. Wi-Fi is also plentiful — even on planes and trains — when I need to catch up on messaging using my laptop.

But I found myself lacking both options during a recent trip abroad. Fortunately, Google recently came out with Offline Google Mail, software that lets me use Gmail while disconnected. Messages that I write, delete or move to a folder — or label, as Gmail calls it — get synced with my Gmail account the next time I’m online. I can also read messages that had been sent to me before going offline.

As a result, I was generally able to get away with buying a half-hour or an hour of Internet access at a time in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, where “complimentary Internet” is a term foreign to hotels.

I composed e-mails on a flight to New Zealand and had them sent during a brief layover at the Auckland airport. I read and wrote more emails on the flight back to the U.S. and synced the account once more at my parents’ home in New Jersey. By the time I was back in my apartment in New York, I was caught up on three weeks of e-mail.

The software itself was easy to install and use — once I found it. It requires a Gmail account and won’t work with Yahoo, Hotmail and other Web-based email services.

Also, it works only with Google’s Chrome browser, which means I had to install it on my laptop to start things off. I then had to open the browser and open a new tab to find a link to Google’s Chrome Web Store. After that, I had to find the free Offline Google Mail software among the scores of offerings at the store.

The software is still in a “beta” test mode, a label that Google sometimes slaps on products for months or years. That’s a way of saying that you may encounter glitches along the way.

I indeed ran into a few problems.

The key problem is that messages stored offline sometimes disappears. That included an e-mail I had composed to send later. As a result, I wasn’t able to depend on the software to retrieve notes that I had stored as e-mail messages, nor was I able to respond to a number of e-mails that went missing.

I learned from Google later that the software typically keeps only messages from the past three days and sometimes up to a week. It also keeps older messages that Google’s technology thinks is important. Drafts and messages marked with a star are always stored, but you have to remember to do that in the short time you might have online.

The software also failed at times to store attachments, which is a problem when someone sends me a document I need to review. I might have run into a storage cap of 25 megabytes for all attachments combined, which isn’t much when Gmail allows attachments that large on a single email. The software was also inconsistent in loading images, which means I could miss good deals from retailers that spell out offers in graphics.

Two other faults: There are limits in my ability to organize messages using labels. I could attach existing ones, but I couldn’t create new ones. That could keep my main inbox cluttered. And the interface feels like Gmail of the early days, not the dynamic website of today that grew out of years of user feedback, redesigns and upgrades.

That said, Offline Google Mail largely does what it is supposed to do. It gives you access to your messages — your digital life — when an Internet connection isn’t readily available. It also gives you the ability to write e-mails anytime you want, as long as there’s no urgency in sending them.

It’s similar to the way I read and wrote e-mail more than a decade ago, using Netscape software and getting online through a dial-up modem every now and then to send messages and get new ones.

When you do have that Internet connection, the Google software syncs your mail automatically, as long as you have the Chrome browser open. There’s no need to open Offline Google Mail or even visit Gmail.com.

Standalone e-mail software such as Thunderbird also lets you read and write messages while offline, but you need to open the software to sync. You also need to know how to set it up for Gmail, while there’s no need to configure anything for Offline Google Mail.

I wouldn’t rely on Google’s software, though, if you absolutely must have access to your messages all the time. The product is too new and has glitches and storage limitations that are bound to strike when you can least afford them.

Still, it’s a good alternative to standalone software when you need only casual access to your messages offline. It’s simple to use and it does the job — most of the time.

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/story/2011-10-09/gmail-offline-app/50709768/1

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08 Oct 11 Review: Offline Gmail app good for casual use


But I found myself lacking both options during a recent trip abroad. Fortunately, Google recently came out with Offline Google Mail, software that lets me use Gmail while disconnected. Messages that I write, delete or move to a folder — or label, as Gmail calls it — get synced with my Gmail account the next time I’m online. I can also read messages that had been sent to me before going offline.

Article source: http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2011/10/07/review_offline_gmail_app_good_for_casual_use/

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08 Oct 11 Review: Offline Gmail app good for casual use


(AP)  AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Google’s new software for using Gmail without an Internet connection comes across as a throwback to an era when we weren’t connected all the time and on all sorts of devices, from phones to iPads.

These days, if I need to read or write an email when I’m not at a regular computer, I can usually do so on my phone. Wi-Fi is also plentiful —even on planes and trains— when I need to catch up on messaging using my laptop.

But I found myself lacking both options during a recent trip abroad. Fortunately, Google recently came out with Offline Google Mail, software that lets me use Gmail while disconnected. Messages that I write, delete or move to a folder — or label, as Gmail calls it — get synced with my Gmail account the next time I’m online. I can also read messages that had been sent to me before going offline.

As a result, I was generally able to get away with buying a half-hour or an hour of Internet access at a time in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, where “complimentary Internet” is a term foreign to hotels.

I composed emails on a flight to New Zealand and had them sent during a brief layover at the Auckland airport. I read and wrote more emails on the flight back to the U.S. and synced the account once more at my parents’ home in New Jersey. By the time I was back in my apartment in New York, I was caught up on three weeks of email.

The software itself was easy to install and use — once I found it. It requires a Gmail account and won’t work with Yahoo, Hotmail and other Web-based email services.

Also, it works only with Google’s Chrome browser, which means I had to install it on my laptop to start things off. I then had to open the browser and open a new tab to find a link to Google’s Chrome Web Store. After that, I had to find the free Offline Google Mail software among the scores of offerings at the store.

The software is still in a “beta” test mode, a label that Google Inc. sometimes slaps on products for months or years. That’s a way of saying that you may encounter glitches along the way.

I indeed ran into a few problems.

The key problem is that messages stored offline sometimes disappears. That included an email I had composed to send later. As a result, I wasn’t able to depend on the software to retrieve notes that I had stored as email messages, nor was I able to respond to a number of emails that went missing.

I learned from Google later that the software typically keeps only messages from the past three days and sometimes up to a week. It also keeps older messages that Google’s technology thinks is important. Drafts and messages marked with a star are always stored, but you have to remember to do that in the short time you might have online.

The software also failed at times to store attachments, which is a problem when someone sends me a document I need to review. I might have run into a storage cap of 25 megabytes for all attachments combined, which isn’t much when Gmail allows attachments that large on a single email. The software was also inconsistent in loading images, which means I could miss good deals from retailers that spell out offers in graphics.

Two other faults: There are limits in my ability to organize messages using labels. I could attach existing ones, but I couldn’t create new ones. That could keep my main inbox cluttered. And the interface feels like Gmail of the early days, not the dynamic website of today that grew out of years of user feedback, redesigns and upgrades.

That said, Offline Google Mail largely does what it is supposed to do. It gives you access to your messages — your digital life — when an Internet connection isn’t readily available. It also gives you the ability to write emails anytime you want, as long as there’s no urgency in sending them.

It’s similar to the way I read and wrote email more than a decade ago, using Netscape software and getting online through a dial-up modem every now and then to send messages and get new ones.

When you do have that Internet connection, the Google software syncs your mail automatically, as long as you have the Chrome browser open. There’s no need to open Offline Google Mail or even visit Gmail.com.

Standalone email software such as Thunderbird also lets you read and write messages while offline, but you need to open the software to sync. You also need to know how to set it up for Gmail, while there’s no need to configure anything for Offline Google Mail.

I wouldn’t rely on Google’s software, though, if you absolutely must have access to your messages all the time. The product is too new and has glitches and storage limitations that are bound to strike when you can least afford them.

Still, it’s a good alternative to standalone software when you need only casual access to your messages offline. It’s simple to use and it does the job — most of the time.

Article source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/10/07/ap/tech/main20117387.shtml

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