How to Set Up and Use Google Docs Offline Easily

As we move into an age of cloud storage, there are many benefits and drawbacks that come with it. Being able to access your files and documents wherever you are in the world is a very nice feature, but what happens if you can’t access the Internet? Suddenly, all those conveniently-stored files are out of your reach! As a result, some cloud storage companies have developed methods of being able to access a cached version of your cloud offline. This includes Google, who has set up their cloud service so you can use Google Docs offline.

Before we head into how to do this, there are a few things you need to take note of. First, because it installs a Chrome extension to activate the offline features, this can’t be done in any browser other than Chrome. Secondly, all your documents in Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings will be available offline, but your uploaded files in your Drive won’t be. Thirdly, you need to be online to set these options up, so you need to do this before you want to use Google Docs offline. If these restrictions are too much, you can check the “Alternate Options” section below to see other methods available.

Accessing Google Docs Offline

To use Google Docs offline, you need to access the Google Drive settings in Chrome. You can do this by going to Google Drive and clicking the cog at the top right, then Settings. You can also access it by clicking this link if you’re already logged into Google.


A new window will appear. In this window locate the Offline option and tick the box. You can see by the help text that this is when the previously-mentioned extension is added.


Chrome will alert you that the extension is requesting to be installed. Click the “Add Extension” button to complete the process.


Syncing Specific Files

Now when you go offline and try to open Google Docs, it will instead load a special offline version. This version will use the files that were synced for offline use. While you’ll probably find most of your files were synced, some may have “slipped the net.” This means you’ll find some files will still be unavailable, even though you turned on offline access.

If there’s a specific file you want to ensure is available offline, there’s a way to force it ti sync. This same method works for Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings, so don’t worry about what kind of file you want to sync!

1. Find the file you want to access offline. Click the three dots near its filename, then toggle the “Available Online” switch to On. The switch will slide to the right and turn blue to show it’s turned on.


2. After a short period of time, a little icon of a tick above a line will appear on your file. This means it’s now guaranteed to be available when you’re offline. To make sure you can access it offline, disconnect from the Internet, use Google Docs offline, and try to open the file. If you can, the file is synced.


Alternate Options

If you don’t use Chrome, want to use Google Drive files offline, or really don’t like the idea of installing an extension just for offline access, don’t worry! There are still ways of getting at your files offline.

The Google Drive for PC Option

This option requires installing Google Drive for PC. If you’ve ever used software like Dropbox for desktop, this is very similar. It will set up a special Google Drive folder on your PC, then sync the files from Google Drive into it. This means when you edit a file in that folder, it automatically syncs it to Google Drive and vice versa. Due to the files being saved as hard copies on your hard drive, it also means you have access to your files should you go offline. Simply open the Google Drives folder on your hard drive and open the file you want to use.

Unfortunately, while it will sync files created in Google Docs, Slides, Sheets and Drawings to your hard drive, they won’t open correctly while offline unless you set up the sync as per the steps above. If you want to use these file types, it’s best to download them as hard copies before going offline.

The Download Option

If you want to access Google Doc files offline, you can download a hard copy to your computer. Then you can open them in your favourite office suite, just like like a regular file. To do this, right-click any file in your Google Drive and click Download. This downloads a physical copy to your hard drive in a file format that supports Microsoft Office.


You can even CTRL-click multiple files to download them, and Google will automatically bundle them into a .zip file for you.


If you need a file in a non-Microsoft Office format, open the file you want to save. Click File, Download As, and then the file format you want.


Maintaining The Drive

With cloud-based storage becoming popular and convenient, sometimes you’ll find yourself caught without a connection or access to your files. With the solutions above, now you’ll be able to use Google Docs offline should the circumstance arrive.

Have you ever been hindered when unable to access files in the cloud? Do you use clouds, or does traditional media such as USB drives do the job for you? Let us know below in the comments.

Simon Batt
Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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