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
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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