First, Google Reader. Now, Google Docs. Google Blogoscoped reports:

After playing around with one of Google’s not-so-private experimental sites, I can confirm that offline access is currently being tested. When I visited the site recently, I saw this message:

Experimental! Offline Access

Of course, I clicked the link.

Google Gears is a browser extension for Firefox 1.5+ and Internet Explorer 6.0+ that enables web applications to provide offline functionality through JavaScript APIs. (It also has its own blog.) Other companies – like Remember The Milk and Zoho – are already making use of Google Gears, but the only official Google integration is for Google Reader (although evidence that offline functionality is coming to Google Calendar has also been spotted).

It looks like offline access might be initially introduced just for documents, rather than spreadsheets and presentations which are grayed out like other options in the menu, such as creating a new document, uploading and sharing.

From what I’ve seen, I think it’s clear that offline access is obviously still in its early stages, but it’s reassuring to see that Google is actively improving its online office applications to make them also work offline like the desktop applications we’re all used to.