Use Google Drive contents while you are offline

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 28, 2013

You'd assume that a file synchronization service makes files available on both the local machines and the Internet server so that you can access them locally and on the web. Google Drive handles some document formats different than that. If you are using Google's file hosting service you may have noticed that "native" Google Docs documents show up as 1 Kilobyte files locally. The data that the files contain are not available offline, and the files that you see locally are nothing more than links to the Google Drive website where they can be accessed.

It is not really clear why Google decided to implement the synchronization feature this way, as it is clearly not that user friendly. It is for instance not possible to access the documents when your computer is offline as you can't open the Google Drive website to display them in your browser of choice. To make matters worse, Google recently removed options to download doc, xls or ppt documents from the service. While there is a way around that, it is not the most comfortable option either.

The most recent Google Drive 1.9 update for Mac or PC introduces an offline access feature for documents, at least if you have Google Chrome installed on your system. It only works with Google's browser and not with other browsers.

How to enable Google Drive offline access

  • Visit the Google Drive website in Google Chrome and sign in if you are not already signed in to your Google account.
  • Locate the More link on the left sidebar and click on it.
  • Click on the Offline link there.
  • This opens the following page on the system.

google drive offline access

  • Make sure you have installed the latest version of Google Drive on your system. You can download the latest version from the official download page.
  • Once that is done, click on the Enable Offline button to activate offline access.
  • It may take a moment or two to make the files available offline before you can access them on the select system.

You can access the cached documents when your computer is offline and even edit them as if you were online. The contents are synchronized to the Google server the next time your system comes online.  Note that you need to have sufficient offline storage available for the feature.

It is possible to disable offline mode at any time by turning offline off again on the Google Drive website (using the same menu mentioned above).


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