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Say you’re on a cross-country flight and have to work on your document, but it’s stored on a server somewhere down on terra firma, and you, being airborne, are naturally offline. Even a year ago, this problem was the Achilles’ heel of Web-based apps: Without the Internet connection, they were useless. But things have changed. Today, being disconnected from the Net is no reason to leave your online apps behind.
ThinkFree mirrors its online apps with an offline version, which is part of the $49.95 ThinkFree Office 3 suite. All the work you do in the offline version is stored on your machine and then synchronized with your ThinkFree Online account when the computer is connected to the Net. You can set the sync directory and Auto Sync schedule in ThinkFree > Preferences, or sync manually by clicking the Sync button in the ThinkFree Manager window.
Google has developed an ingenious solution for Google Docs: Google Gears, an open source plug-in for Firefox that essentially turns the browser into an offline editor. Once installed, a Google Docs icon appears on your Desktop, and all your documents are only a double-click away. Any changes you make are saved to your Mac and synchronized with the Google Docs server as soon as an Internet connection is reestablished.
Zoho Writer piggybacks on Google’s solution and allows for offline editing by pointing Firefox to writer.zoho.com/offline, and presto, you are editing your document. Unfortunately, Zoho Show and Zoho Sheet don’t share this feature—your best bet for editing presentations or spreadsheets offline is to export a copy of your work to your Mac before you go, save it as a new version, and then upload that version when you’re back online. It’s a clunky workaround, but hey, this is work we’re talking about.
ThinkFree lets you work offline and then automatically or manually syncs your work back to the ThinkFree server the next time you’re on the Net.
Google Docs will prompt you to install the free Firefox plug-in Google Gears to take your work offline.
Zoho Writer can go offline if you’re using Firefox with Google Gears installed, but the Sheet and Show apps are online only.