Google used to provide offline access to Google Docs files. Files were downloaded to a special folder on the user's machine, where they could be opened and edited even if the computer wasn't connected to the internet. Google killed off that capability about a year ago.
In a recent blog post, however, Google says the feature will return. Google wrote that it was "excited to demonstrate a feature that we expect to deliver early in 2011 -- the return of offline support for Google Docs. For those who used offline, we are bringing back the much improved feature by taking advantage of advancements in modern browser technology like HTML5."
In addition to offline access, Google has also created a Chrome application for Google Docs, which can be downloaded from the Chrome store. It's not really an application, however, it's a shortcut to the web productivity app.
Moving on to Gmail and Google Calendar. Google has introduced an absolutely key new feature: time zone support for calendar appointments.
I don't know about you, but I often travel to cities in other time zones. Handling calendaring and appointment-setting can be a hassle. Adding time zone support to Google Calendar is a welcome tool to make sure I get to my meetings on time.
Google explains, "With event time zones, you can specify the time zone for a given event. So when you’re home in Florida, you can more easily set up dinner with your friend in Paris for the following week. Events will appear on your calendar according to the current time zone you’re in, and when you change to your destination time zone they’ll be in the right place."
(With the Consumer Electronics Show set to kick off January 6, I am anxious to see just how well this feature works. I'll be setting all my appointments from Eastern time, but all my meetings will take place in Pacific time.)
Last, Google says that its Priority Inbox feature is actually working as intended. Google said, "we’ve heard from a number of you who’ve found it helpful in combating information overload, and we’ve seen evidence of this in aggregate too. Looking at median time in conversation view, we noticed that typical Priority Inbox users spend 43% more time reading important mail compared to unimportant, and 15% less time reading email overall as compared to Gmail users who don’t use Priority Inbox."