Android

Pro tip: How to work with Google Docs offline using Android

Jack Wallen walks you through the process of working with Google Docs offline on your Android device.

Work with Google Docs offline

When you're a road warrior without a consistent, reliable connection for your device, how do you work with your Google Drive documents? Simple -- you install Google Docs and Google Sheets on your Android device and make them available offline. Of course, it's not quite that straightforward. Fear not, all of the instructions you need for this process are here. After going through this post, you should be working with documents, sans a network connection, like a champ.

What you'll need

Here are the requirements:

  • An Android device (preferably updated to the latest release available)
  • Google Docs and Google Sheets installed
  • Your Android device associated with your Google Drive account

Installation

If you don't already have Docs and Sheets installed, here are the steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for Google Docs
  3. Locate and tap the official Google app
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read through the permissions listing
  6. If you agree with the permissions listing, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to complete

Repeat the above steps for Google Sheets.

Once you have everything installed, it's time to start working with a document offline.

Usage

Because of the cloud-nature of Google Drive, all of your documents are not automatically available offline. In fact, you have to manually configure each document you want to use offline -- so, this is best done on a per-document basis. Of course, you'll want to make sure to set those documents for offline use before you need them. Should you find yourself without a connection and needing one of those documents, you'll be out of luck.

With that said, here's how you configure a document for offline usage.

  1. Open up the app to be used (either Sheets or Docs)
  2. Locate the file to be used offline in the file listing (Figure A)
    Figure A
    Figure A
  3. Tap the information icon (on the far right) associated with the file
  4. In the resulting window (Figure B), switch Keep on this device to ON by tapping the slider
    Figure B
    Figure B

The file is now available for offline usage. In order to open the file to edit offline, do the following:

  1. Tap the overflow menu in the upper left corner
  2. From the resulting sidebar (Figure C), tap On device
    Figure C
    Figure C
  3. From the listing of documents, tap the document to be edited
  4. Edit away

If you need to remove a document for offline editing, do the following:

  1. Go to the file listing in the app (either Sheets or Docs)
  2. Tap the information button associated with the file
  3. Tap the Keep on this device slider until it is in the OFF position

Naturally, you can edit any document while connected to either 4G (3G, etc) or Wi-Fi. But when you do not have that connection available, the only means to edit files is when they're stored on your device. After you've edited those offline documents, the moment the device is back online, the changes will sync with your Google Drive account (there's no need to manually re-sync).

Editing Google Documents offline is not a difficult task -- you just have to get use to making the necessary documents available for offline usage.

What do you think? Is this system a workable solution? Or does Google need to rethink how documents are managed when a device is offline? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
yaseers
yaseers

You can even work offline on Google Drive, How to view/edit all the documents offline on Google Drive, Check Out Here - http://goo.gl/1CJ0df

tuck229
tuck229

Of course you just use the free app Kingsoft Office.  It has more features than google, it's free, and it works offline perfectly.

cbakerashley
cbakerashley

Great article and thanks for being so specific, Jack! 


My question is this: once you have already put a document on your device and you make changes to it on your computer (online), do you need to make sure your phone is connected to wi-fi to see those changes? I'm guessing yes, but just wanted to see if there was any way around that.

laman
laman

Can it be setup so that it will only sync when you are on wifi connection?

d2
d2

I have done this in the past but find it sub-optimal.  Google Drive should allow the "Keep on this device" setting at the folder level.  That way, you could drag a file into that folder for offline use without the overhead of changing settings for every file.

michael
michael

Sounds like a good solution, edit and automatically synchronise as soon as you're back online. 

Having complicated spreadsheets available at any time, on or offline, can be a life saver. 

rlcohen
rlcohen

Too much like the old trick of e-mailing documents to your personal e-mail address to work on later.  If you haven’t done the preparation beforehand, then you’re out of luck.


jguelff
jguelff

Too complicated of process to work offline, Google needs to rethink priorities from user perspective and not theirs. I would only use an Android device to make a draft, and that process is getting thoughts and ideas down, not worrying about finale format. I think it would be easier to work with a note app and format later.

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