Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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The Hindu : Business : Google Gears: yet another innovation

Google Gears: yet another innovation

Enables online applications to function offline

Google has integrated this feature into its popular online application Google Reader, an online web feed reader.

THERE IS a never-ending stream of innovations from Google. This week, NetSpeak takes a look at Google Gears, the new Google toolkit that has been developed for enabling online applications to function offline as well.

Online versions of almost all types of desktop applications are in place. Development of Net technologies and their rapid adoption worldwide has accelerated this trend. We have already seen a variety of applications such as an online office suite (Google Documents, Zoho and the like), web-based database (like Lazybase- and so on. Though an online application allows us to access our data any time anywhere, all of it remains inaccessible once we are offline. This is a major bottleneck when we travel or are not able to connect to the net. Ideally, we need the application to be functional irrespective of our net status. This means the online application should be able to keep the data both on its server and on the user's local storage. The latest product from Google, Google Gears, has been created to serve this requirement.

Google Gears

Google Gears ( is an open source browser plug-in meant to help web developers create applications capable of working not only online but offline as well. It provides an application with the necessary tools for keeping the data on the user's storage as well as on the server. It also lets the application store its other resources (like HTML files and script files) on the desktop while the user is offline. When the user goes offline, Gears automatically picks up the data from the local storage.

To use this facility you have to `Gears-enable' your browser by installing Gears plug-in. Once this plug-in is added, any Gears-enabled application can be used to function in either offline or online mode.

While Gears is at present useful only for web developers, Google has provided a taste of it for the ordinary users of the net as well. Google has integrated this feature into its popular online application Google Reader, an online web feed reader. As readers may already know, an online news reader helps you subscribe/read news feeds from anywhere on the net. However, unlike with a desktop news feed reader, with an online reader you will not be able to read the content when offline. Now, with this Gears enabled version of Google Reader (, you can read the content offline as well - if your browser is equipped with Gears.

To test the service, access it from the web site. Now, if the browser is Gears-enabled, a security warning box will pop-up for you to allow the application to use your desktop storage. Press `Allow' and enable the Google Reader's offline functionality. Now, click on the green icon and download the feed items onto your local storage. Once this is done, you will be able to read the content even if you are offline.

Though currently there are not many applications which Gears supports, it is likely that many services will soon adopt this technology and facilitate taking them online as well. At least on Google's services (like Google Docs and spreadsheets) we may find offline functionality via Gears in the near future.

Blog backup service

Blogging is now becoming an indispensable tool for academicians and students. For a serious blogger the content is quite valuable and should certainly be looking for means to protect it. In this context, the free online service, BlogBackupOnline ( /), developed for helping bloggers keep a backup of their text content online, could come handy.

After signing up with the service, you just need to type in its address to take the back up of the blog. To manage the backup process, the service offers a control panel. Besides helping a blogger take the complete backup of the blog's text content, the service can be used to duplicate one's blog too. For instance, if you have a WordPress blog (say, and wish to keep the content on another blog (hosted on Blogger, with the URL:, BlogBackupOnline will come very handy. To duplicate a blog's content, first take its backup, then access the control panel by pressing the 'Manage' button. Now, from the menu, select the 'Restore' option and provide the log-in details of your target blog.


As we already know, a wiki, is a web site with pages editable by its readers. This technology, which has made the Wikipedia possible, is being tried out to generate a variety of information services. wikiHow ( is one such Wiki-based project recently tried out by this author. This "collaborative writing project" attempts to build a free how-to manual with the help of netizens who have solutions to different problems. A variety of articles such as English punctuations— ( ctuation-Correctly), Calculating Centre of Gravity (— can be read from the service.


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