All posts tagged ‘gears’

File Under: Software & Tools

Fluid and Gears Closes in on Web App Freedom

I’ve been dreaming of the day I can finally press the delete button on Microsoft Word for good. Nothing against Word, per se. It has served me well enough throughout the years. I think it is the challenge and change of view I’m looking for. My quest for a replacement started when I realized most everything I do on Word could also be done in Google Docs or Zoho …for free. However, the major hurdle of any web application is its reliance on an internet connection.

Now, with Gears recent beta release on Webkit-powered browsers, and webkit-powered Fluid for Mac which allows you to download local copies of websites to your desktop, have my dreams of keeping a desktop copy of a web app come true?

Almost.

We’re so close, I can taste it. As it stands, I have a local copy of Google Docs which allows me to unplug from the internet and open, search, edit, tag, organize and save all of my documents.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Download and install Fluid
  2. Download and install Gears for Webkit
  3. Launch Fluid and insert “http://docs.google.com” in the URL field. Name it whatever you want. Submit and wait for Fluid to perform its magic. When it asks, launch the new Site Specific Browser (SSB).
  4. You’ll see a warning page telling you “Sorry, but this browser does not support web word-processing.” It’s wrong. Click on the Docs logo on the top left of the page.
  5. There, you’ll see Google Docs in all its glory. It should start synchronizing automatically. If it doesn’t, click on the green arrow at the top right of the screen to synchronize your files.

Once synchronized, unplug the internet. You now have an offline version of Google Docs. Here is where it comes short: now is when you’ll notice the New, Upload and Share buttons are grayed out. Same thing if you dive into presentations, spreadsheets and web forms. Also affects Zoho’s Gears-enabled office suite. Apparently, these document creation functions are unsupported on Gears. Tough luck for us, kids.

There is a workaround for creating new docs. Before you unplug the internet, create a bunch of untitled blank documents and put them all in a folder labeled “New.” Now, when you’re live-blogging a conference, you don’t have to depend on the shoddy, overloaded network to create a new Google Doc. Just click into your New folder, and grab an already generated blank doc. However, it’s just a workaround and you can run out of blank templates pretty easily and have to resort to another word processor. There is no workaround for importing your Word, PDF or other docs either. Sigh.

We’re off to download OpenOffice for now. This isn’t to say this method will only work for Docs. In fact, it is a pretty cool way to offline every Gears-enabled web app.

I recommend creating a Google Reader client. The one drawback of Reader was the lack of a downloadable client. Using Fluid and Gears, that is no longer an issue. Follow the steps above, but use http://www.google.com/reader as the URL instead of the Docs URL.

For Windows users, Mozilla’s Gecko-powered, multi-platform Prism application does the same thing as Fluid, but doesn’t currently support Gears.

The next version of Safari built in Fluid’s SSB-creating functionality.

All of these technologies are open source. In fact, developers on Fluid’s FriendFeed room are buzzing with the inherent opportunities surrounding the two technologies. If you’re a web developer and share my same dream of freeing web apps from the web, get involved and have at it.

We’ve also moved a copy of this page to the Webmonkey wiki. If you have any other methods you want to contribute, hop over to the article and write it up.

Authors Note: This article was updated on Friday to include more detail on SSB’s and a new document workaround

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File Under: Software & Tools

Rumor: Offline Gmail Arriving Next Month

gmail.jpgGoogle fans the moment you’ve been dreaming about appears to drawing near — according to reports, offline access for Google Calendar and Gmail should arrive in about six weeks.

That’s the word from Andrew Fogg who claims to have seen a working demo at the Google offices. Some users have already reported seeing hints that Google Calendar will eventually have offline access through Gears — for a while Google Calendar would display a prompt that read “to view and edit the next 3 months of your Google Calendar when you’re not connected to the Internet, click OK.” Of course the feature itself wasn’t available, but clearly something is in the works

Of course Google has never denied that it’s working on an offline version of Gmail, but the company has thus far never given anything like a timeframe. Fogg’s Twitter post has since been removed, but if the timeframe is even close, it’s going to put Gmail head and shoulders above its webmail competitors.

According to Fogg’s now deleted tweets, Google is also adding SyncML support for Gmail’s address book. SyncML is a data synchronization standard that’s generally used to synchronize contact and calendar information between portable devices and your PC. In this context Google is probably looking for some kind of mobile contact syncing app for the iPhone, Blackberry and its own Android platform.

Although it’s just a rumor at the moment, if, or more optimistically, when Gmail gains offline support, look for Yahoo and Microsoft to jump on the bandwagon as well.

If all three offer offline webmail access will there still be any use for desktop e-mail programs?

[via Google Operating System]

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File Under: Blog Publishing

WordPress Adds Turbo Button Using Google Gears

Wednesday is WordPress’ five year anniversary since its original 0.7 release, and the online content management system prepared for it by going “turbo.” The online version of WordPress added a link which turns on Gears and makes your administrative dashboard faster.

Google’s recently open-sourced Gears is an add-on for Firefox 2 and 3 and Internet Explorer 6 and 7 browsers used primarily for downloading, or synchronizing, files for use locally and/or offline. When you click on the turbo link, WordPress uses Gears to download up to 200 files which speed up WordPress functions. The effect combines WordPress’ online capabilities with desktop application power by running JavaScript in the background and utilizing a local database of synchronized data.

Gears is increasingly growing more common since MySpace demonstrated Gears’ ability to speed up search and sort functions on its messaging system. MySpace and WordPress show Gears can be used for more than just offline web storage. Gears is also similar to advancements promised in web standards such as HTML 5.0, which is slowly being tuned into modern browser features. Both Gears and HTML 5.0 are a good indication of where rich internet applications of web 2.0 (3.0?) are headed.

WordPress’ new feature is a nod to the “turbo” buttons once found on the faces of x86 computers. The practically useless buttons would speed-up the processing power nominally, giving you a false sense of pride and, at least for the first few times, a feeling much like the one Bo and Luke Duke must have felt when they jumped over that river every week on Dukes of Hazzard. At the time when turbo buttons existed, I don’t know anyone who would ever turn it off, but the feature allowed you a basic feeling of interactivity and a little finger exercise.

While WordPress’ turbo functionality is much more exciting in terms of technology than its namesake, the company has even more plans for their five year anniversary. The company is hosting a party at a local club in San Francisco. Invitation details are available at Upcoming.org.

Gears Updates to Version 3

Google released a new version of Gears today which is one of the first Firefox add-ons to support the highly touted Firefox 3 browser.

Google Gears is an add-on for Firefox, Internet Explorer, and, soon, Opera browsers that allow you to use websites even if you are offline. This comes in handy for slow or spotty internet connections. When you’re connected to the internet and navigate to a Gears-enabled website, Gears will store website data locally for access later when you’re no longer connected.

Version 3, its latest release, also has the ability to create shortcuts on the desktop and heralds new functions to help developers create fluid web-apps using the technology.

A couple weeks ago, MySpace demonstrated the kind of extended functionality Gears was capable of by showing off its new messaging service. MySpace’s rich search and sort features in their messaging service proved Gears is good for more than just offline access, it can utilize some of the power of your computer to aid your web applications.

In this way, Gears is a heads-up for the future of the web. The add-on is a sneak preview of functionality the HTML 5.0 standard promises to deliver. Gears and HTML 5 propose a future of faster and more seamless web applications by yielding the power your personal computer can provide.

Until HTML 5.0 sees more widespread adoption in browsers, Google Gears code must be coded into participating websites and the add-on must be downloaded through Google’s site. Sites that currently support Google Gears include Zoho.com and Google Docs collection of online office applications, RSS news feed application Google Reader and online to-do list application Remember The Milk.

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