To get the most out of your Chromebook you’ll want to be connected to the Internet, but if you don’t have a Wifi signal there’s still a way to access your documents using Google Drive offline syncing. Many are surprised to learn that you can access most of your work and even edit documents without a network connection. And with the latest version of Google Drive it’s really simple to set up.

Get the latest version of Google Drive

In order to use offline files it’s best to have the latest version of Google Drive. To do this open Drive, click the settings cog, and select Experience the new Drive. If you have the most recent version your Google Drive should look something like this:

new-google-drive

Enable offline syncing in Google Drive

google-drive-settingsSetting up Google Drive to sync files offline on your Chromebook is really simple and it works on any desktop or laptop that runs the Chrome browser as well as on Chromebooks. To enable offline syncing:

  1. Click the settings cog at the top right of the screen.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. A Settings window will appear with several options. Check the box next to Offline.

Once you’ve done this all of your Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings will be available even when you don’t have a network connection. This only includes files created in Google Docs — so if you’ve uploaded video file or lots of photos these won’t be available.

google-drive-offline

Google Drive offline file limitations

As you might expect there are some limitations when using Google Drive offline:

  • Google Drive offline sync is limited to the most recent 4000 items or 5GB of offline data. So, if you’ve a lot of files you might find this an issue.
  •  Offline access will only work in the Chrome browser — it is not available in other browsers.
  • If you want to enable offline access on both your Chromebook and desktop computer, you’ll need to set it up twice — once on each computer.

You also can’t change the Google Drive file structure while offline, or edit Google Forms, but most editing features are available in the other core Google office apps. Once you’ve enabled Offline Syncing you can browse your documents in Google Drive and even open them for editing in Google Documents, Sheets, Slides, and Drawing. Some of the more advanced features like spell checking, add-ons, sharing files, adding images, and downloading files are disabled, but the majority of the web apps work the same as if you were online. Once your Chromebook connects to the Internet again everything is synchronised back to the live documents.

 

When you absolutely must have an offline document

Sometimes there are situations when you have to guarantee that you’ll have access to a file offline. For this you can use Google Doc’s Download as feature.

To download a file from Google Drive, Click File > Download As and then select the format you’d like to download the file in. All of the most common office file formats are available — Microsoft Word, OpenDocument, PDF, Rich Text, Plain Text, and HTML.

download-file

Avoid working on shared documents offline

Google Docs is great for collaborating with colleagues, but if you’re working offline on a shared document and someone changes the live version your may run into problems. We recommend not working on shared documents that are regularly updated to prevent synchronisation problems when your Internet connection is restored.

If you have to work offline on a shared document you can use the revision history feature to catch any unwanted changes. Access revision history by clicking File > Revision History.

Happy offline syncing!

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About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

5 Comments

  1. I have been having trouble with Google Drive Offline sync… for some reason when I click the box to turn it on, I will click down, leave settings, come back and it will be unchecked. Im wondering if it is due to my lack of memory on my laptop or something else. Plz help me…

  2. Thanks for the tips! I am having a small problem though. My interest is to use offline mode when at kids soccer practice and the link to create blog posts in Docs. I can create a new document offline, but if I close it I cannot figure out how to reopen it while still offline. It seems that once I reconnect at a later time the offline document is “synced”. Is there any way to re-open a document that was created offline?

    • I had this problem too. If you create a file while off line, close it and then try to reopen it while still off line the name of the file does not appear in the file list. However, it is not lost as it appears as soon as you go on line again. It’s clearly a design fault in Chrome. Go to HISTORY where you will see a link to the file which you can click to reopen it. Simple but irritating!

  3. I have a bunch of about 40 files I want to take with me on the train so that I can work on them off-line. I have recently accessed about 6 of them and so they have been synchronised to the Chromebook OK and so I can see them when I turn off the wifi but the rest are unavailable off line, and greyed-out as I haven’t edited them for a long time. I have discovered that if I simply open each file in turn and wait long enough for it to load fully it will be synchronised OK. However, this is a tedious and time consuming process. Is there some way I can force a batch of files to be synchronised in one go so that I can take them with me when I travel? I have tried copying the files to my downloads folder but if the file wasn’t synchronised already then when I try to open it off line I am told it is unavailable. I would also like to be able to flag some files, or perhaps a folder, so that the files are locked and are always available off line. Sometimes you have a data set that rarely gets updated but which you need to be able to refer to at all times whether on line or off line. This functionality is odd as Chome for Windows allows you to control what gets synched but the Chromebook takes this control out of your hands and only updates what has recently been access (up to 5Gb I accept, which is generous) but there are some scratch files, for instance, that I dont want synched as they are clogging up my disk space and there are others I always want synched. No problem under Windows. Are there any add-ins or workrounds that can solve my problem. I am a sincere Chome fan and love my Chromebook but can’t help feeling that some very eccentric design choices have been made here.

    PS and off-topic: I recently got a gen 2 Chromecast which is great—but you have to use a Windows computer to set it up. It can’t be done with Google products. What are Google playing at? Some strange design I can only say.

  4. There isn’t an offline option when I click on my settings. Its listed Language then Density, but offline isn’t there.

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