Google Docs is arguably the best online word processor because it’s incredibly easy to use. In addition, you can comfortably collaborate with others. That said, it’s not a pretty picture with all browsers. For example, if you are using Google Docs with Safari on your Mac, you will run into a major problem: you cannot use it offline. You will therefore not be able to access and work on your documents if you lose the Internet connection.
Support for the offline mode feature in Google Docs is limited to Google Chrome. In short, you will need to install Chrome on your Mac if you want to use Google Docs offline.
That said, you can also use Google Docs offline with Chromium-based web browsers (Edge, Opera, Vivaldi, etc.) as long as you are willing to use a workaround. But this experience will not be as refined as on Chrome.
Let’s set up Chrome and see how to work on Google Docs offline. Next, we’ll look at what you need to do to get Google Docs offline functionality in officially unsupported Chromium web browsers.
Install Google Chrome
Google Chrome is a prerequisite for using Google Docs offline. While you might not want to have another web browser on your Mac, the convenience and peace of mind are well worth it.
Having said that, Google Chrome is quite easy to install on the Mac. Download the Chrome installer file and open it. Then drag and drop the Chrome app to the Applications folder.
Open Chrome and you can choose to sign in with your Google Account at the browser level if you want to set up Chrome sync.
You can also use the browser without logging into it. You must deactivate the Allow connection to Chrome feature (Settings> Synchronization and Google services> Allow connection to Chrome). If you don’t, Chrome will automatically sign you in at the browser level after you sign in to Google Docs later.
Chrome will also prompt you to set it as the default browser. It is up to you to decide if you want to do this. If you like Safari (or Firefox) for your primary browsing activities, you can use Chrome only for working on Google Docs.
Add the offline Google Docs extension
After installing Google Chrome, you need to add the Google Docs Offline extension to the browser. As the name suggests, the extension allows you to use Google Docs offline. It’s only available for Chrome, but you can install it on other Chrome-based browsers as well, as you will do later.
Go to the Chrome Web Store, search for “Google Docs Offline” (or click the Download button above). Then click Add to Chrome to add the extension to Chrome.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start using Google Docs offline. But, you need to activate the feature first.
Activate Google Docs offline
Load Google Docs in a new Chrome tab and sign in to Google Docs. If you’ve already signed in to Chrome at the browser level, you don’t have to sign in to Google Docs again.
On the Google Docs dashboard, select the 3 stacked rows at the top left of the screen. Next, select the option labeled Settings. In the Settings pop-up window that appears, turn on the switch next to Offline.
Finally, click OK to enable the offline feature in Google Docs. The web application will then begin to automatically cache the most recent documents offline.
This means you can load the Google Docs web app in Chrome and start working on your documents. The Google Docs offline extension will automatically save your changes offline. Once you reconnect to the internet, your changes will automatically sync to Google Drive.
Google Docs also allows you to continue working if connectivity decreases in the middle of working on a document. Again, the web app saves your changes offline and downloads them once you reestablish the connection. However, you cannot create new Google Docs when you are offline.
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Set the document as offline
Plus, Google Docs lets you set any document to always be available offline. To do this, click on the three dots icon next to a document in the Google Docs dashboard and turn on the switch next to Offline Access.
You can also do this while working on a document – open the File menu and select Make Available Offline.
Alternative Chromium browsers
If you prefer such an alternative Chromium-based web browser over Chrome (such as Microsoft Edge, Opera GX, or Vivaldi), you can use Google Docs offline.
First, install the Google Docs offline extension above. Chromium-based browsers support Chrome Web Store extensions, so you can get them easily.
Follow by adding the switch and user agent manager. This allows you to hide the browser in Chrome by changing the user agent string.
Once you’ve done that, select the User-Agent Switcher and Manager icon and set the user-agent string to Chrome – you can do this for a single tab or the browser in general.
Once you’ve done that, you can enable the offline feature by diving into the Settings pane of Google Docs. You can then continue to work in Google Docs even after losing data connectivity.
But the fact that you still have to set the browser’s user agent string to Chrome, combined with the fact that the Google Docs Offline extension isn’t officially supported, can put your work at risk. Therefore, it is best to use Chrome itself for working in Google Docs offline, if possible.
Don’t stress yourself
Google should have supported the offline feature in all browsers, but given where it comes from, it’s obvious they want people to start using their browsers. Chrome is absolutely worth installing on Mac if you enjoy using Google Docs and want to get the most out of it.
Are you having trouble with Google Docs not working offline in Chrome? Click the following link to view the Google Docs offline troubleshooting guide.
Last updated on Nov 7, 2020
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