Beware Microsoft; Google Docs is now available offline

Google's Apps are now inching towards Microsoft's popular Office by offering a much requested feature; the ability to save Google Docs files locally (in a hard drive or a USB stick).

By launching Google Gears support for Apps, Google will allow users to temporarily store documents changes on their computer until they are reconnected to the internet which is when the changes will be made.

If more than one person is editing the document, edits will be highlighted to the editors via a dialog box.

Gears itself is an open source platform JavaScript-based application programming interface (API) which permits online applications to work offline.

You cannot create new documents though; this, along with other features, will be rolled out gradually to Google Docs and other components like Spreadsheet and Presentation.

A Google spokesman said in a statement : "This is still early days. We're working to make more Web applications and functions work where connections are unavailable".

Like all synchronisations, the initial process could take some time especially when if there are several large files; the subsequent changes being incremental, will take less time.

Eventually, all Google services could one day support Gear and with some lobbying, Gears could become an integral part of browsers, effectively converting the humble web browser into a fully-fledged working environment.