8 things you can’t do editing Google docs offline

A great step forward for basic editing.

One of Google’s biggest announcements at its annual developer conference was that you could now edit Google documents without an internet connection. Microsoft touts the ability to edit documents offline as a key selling point for its Google Apps competitor, Office 365. Google has sought to level the field with this upgrade to Google Apps.

Users must install a web application in their Chrome browsers (the feature is only available to Chrome) to enable offline access. The main window in Google Drive (called the Document List) then shows syncing status with the files on your computer.

A user without an internet connection can still open and edit a document from the list of offline files and create a new one. Any changes made offline with sync with the online version once the connection is restored automatically; there’s no need to reload the document.

This is a great advance for commuters while travelling with intermittent mobile connections to the internet.

While it’s a great step for Google Apps, editing Google documents offline is still a very restricted experience compared to editing documents with Microsoft Office on the desktop.

Here are a list of eight things you can’t do with offline editing for Google Apps.


  1. Users editing a document online will override changes made by users editing the same document offline. There is no option to review and approve changes made by online and offline users during the syncing process.
  2. If a user online deletes a document that is being edited by an offline user, the document will be deleted and not be recoverable, i.e. the edits will be lost.
  3. Offline editing is only available to users on paid editions such as Google Apps for Business. It wasn’t yet released to users of the free Google Apps Standard edition.
  4. Offline editing requires a local copy of Google Drive on a Mac or PC which only works with one Google account. If you use more than one Google Apps account at work you will have to choose which one will use offline editing. A great workaround from a reader below – create a new profile in Google Chrome on your PC or Mac and you can use offline editing for personal and work Google accounts. See this link for instructions on creating a new profile http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=142059.
  5. You can’t share, download, publish or print offline documents.
  6. You can’t insert an image or a drawing.
  7. Research and translation tools are not available.
  8. Offline editing is only available to users of the Chrome browser. Google hasn’t said whether the feature will come to Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer.



About Sholto Macpherson

Sholto Macpherson is a business technology journalist, consultant and analyst specialising in cloud accounting software.

Sholto is the author of the Macpherson Report, which examines the key technology trends facing accountants in Australia.

He lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

Leave A Comment