A common criticism of the Google Workspace of applications is that they're accessed through a web browser. This means that you can't use Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides when you don't have an internet connection. Right?


Actually, it IS possible to use Docs, Sheets, and Slides when you're offline, but, like with Gmail Offline, it takes a little preparation in advance and (of course) comes with a few disclaimers. This article will walk you through how to set-up offline access to the Google Workspace of applications, how to use Docs/Sheets/Slides when you're offline, and identify some disclaimers and issues you'll need to be aware of.

Setting Up Google Docs/Sheets/Slides Offline

1. First of all, you'll need to do these set-up steps while you're still online AND using Chrome or Edge as your web browser; Google Docs Offline won't work with any other browser besides Chrome or Edge.

2.  Navigate to docs.google.com and click on the three-lined 'hamburger menu' in the upper-left hand corner. Then, click on the 'Settings' menu:

3. The Google Docs settings menu is beautifully sparse. You shouldn't have any trouble finding the switch to enable Offline sync:

3. You may be prompted to install the "Google Docs Offline" browser extension, depending on whether you have this installed or not. If you need it, go ahead and install it.

4. After installing the browser extension (if you needed to), you'll still need to navigate back to the Google Docs Settings menu and enable Offline access.

How it Works

Google Docs/Sheets/Slides works offline by storing a copy of your most recent documents on your computer's hard drive. If you want to see if a particular Doc/Sheets/Slides document is available offline, you'll want to open that document and look for a little cloud icon near the document title:

If you click on that icon, you'll be able to see if it's available for offline editing.

To edit a document when you're offline, you can open Chrome or Edge, then navigate to that specific document. You can make this easier by bookmarking the document, or by looking at your web history. You'll see a notice in the corner that you're offline.

Saving Specific Documents for Offline Access

If there's a particular document that you know you're going to edit offline, you can also pick and choose specific Docs, Sheets, and Slides to be available offline.

1. Go to docs.google.com (or sheets or slides). Don't use the main Google Drive interface, as it won't work properly.

2. Locate the document you want to access offline. You may need to use the search box.

3. Click on the 3-dot menu in the lower right hand corner of the document to see its quick menu. Toggle the 'available offline' switch to enable offline access:

Disclaimers and Gotchas

As you might expect, there are a lot of caveats that come with using Google Docs (or Sheets or Slides) offline. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • When using Google Docs offline, there are some network-dependent features that won't work. These include: spell check, importing images from the web, inserting Google Drawings, and voice typing, to name a few.
  • Google Docs offline don't work well with documents that other people are frequently editing. If both you and other collaborators make edits while you're in offline mode, you'll end up with different versions of the same document that will need to be reconciled when you reconnect.
  • Which documents will Docs Offline actually sync to your computer? I couldn't find a clear answer on this, but in my testing, it looks like it's about two or three weeks-worth. I could imagine that changing based on how big your hard drive is and how many documents you're opening. The bottom line is that you should open a copy of every document you expect to edit offline right before you depart for 'no-man's land'. This will ensure you have an updated copy of the documents that you need. 
  • If you're looking to store a Drive file/folder that's not a Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide, use the Google Drive for Desktop App (How to Start Using Google Drive for Desktop) to sync Drive folders for offline use (here's how).