It’s something that I’ve said many times before, but it’s still something worth re-iterating. If it were not for the advent of the Internet, I don’t think I would have made it as a full-time professional freelance writer. In fact, if it were not for the Internet, I’m not sure this career choice would have ever even entered the realm of possibility. The Internet quite literally provides for my livelihood, but it may not always be there.
For any number of reasons, you could find yourself without Internet access for some period of time, but you still want to consume all of that world wide web goodness. If you’re able to plan ahead accordingly, it actually is possible to use the Internet when offline. It’s not quite as vast and robust, but you can get access to key material when you can’t get on the ‘net.
Pocket Offline Saves
Once known as Read It Later, Pocket remains one of my favorite online services and mobile apps. In case you’re not familiar, Pocket allows you to save web content — articles, videos, and more — so that you can read or view it later. It will synchronize your account across platforms and, in the case of the smartphone and tablet apps, the content will be saved locally. When it comes to web-based mail, despite valiant efforts from Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) and others, Google’s Gmail remains at the top of the mountain. As powerful and as popular as Gmail may be, it is still not a complete package and that’s where Gmail Labs features can be of great assistance. What this means is that you can go through your RSS reader (like Feedly) and simply save or bookmark the articles you want to read to Pocket. Then, even when you’re offline, you can still read those articles when Internet access may not be available. This is fantastic for when you’re flying, camping, or otherwise going someplace where there’s no web access.
Offline Google Drive
Some time back, Google replaced its Google Docs product with Google Drive, expanding the functionality to compete with other cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and Skydrive, but retaining the Google Docs suite of Office-like applications. By default, this means that you have to be online to access and edit your documents, spreadsheets and the like, but this doesn’t have to be the case. You can download the Drive Chrome web app for your Chrome browser and enable the offline access for your files. This is done simply by going to the Google Drive website, clicking on “More” on the left-side, selecting “Offline” and following the provided steps. Several of the Gmail labs features we wrote about a few years back still apply today, but you can always use some more functionality to improve your productivity and to improve your overal email experience. Of course, you also have to remember that all the Gmail labs features are essentially in beta. Since Gmail Labs is a “testing ground for experimental features,” you may encounter the odd issue or bug.This way, you can still go through those dreaded TPS reports and alter whatever information is necessary. When your computer hops back on the Internet, the files will automatically synchronize back up. This is one way to use the Internet when offline, so to speak.
KeepVid for YouTube Videos
I’ve fallen down the bottomless rabbit hole of YouTube videos more times than I can remember. I also maintain an ongoing list of videos in my “Watch Later” queue for me to watch later, but these are nothing more than bookmarks and I do need full Internet access at a reasonable speed in order to stream those videos. If you’re on a cruise ship with slow and expensive web access, this may not be the smartest or most cost effective solution.With that caveat out of the way, let’s have a look at some great features you might want to have. They can all be accessed by clicking on the “gear” icon in the top-right corner of Gmail, selecting Settings from the pull-down menu, and clicking over to the Labs tab.While it’s in no way condoned or endorsed by the people at Google, services like KeepVid let you download audio and video files from streaming sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Multiple formats are supported, like MP4 and FLV, as well as a range of resolutions. Services like this do fall into something of a legal grey area, so proceed at your own risk and discretion.
Steam Offline Mode
Google Drive is there to help you work and Pocket can keep you informed, but the smart life also reserves time to keep you entertained. Steam has become one of the main sources of PC games, but it generally does require an always-on Internet connection before you are able to play your games and engage with the community. This isn’t necessarily the case, but you do need to plan a little ahead. Steam has an Offline Mode that lets you play your games without needing to reconnect to the Steam Network. Your screen real estate is incredibly precious, regardless of the actual size of your computer monitor. Just as you’ll find that websites and blogs make good use of sidebars, the same can be said about the main Gmail interface. However, everything tends to be aligned to that single sidebar on the left. With this suitably named Labs feature, the Gmail chat interface — you can call it GTalk, Google Talk, Google Chat, or GChat, if you prefer — is pushed to a new sidebar on the right. This is very helpful, as you’re then able to see more information without having to scroll up and down the page, especially when used in tandem with the Google Calendar gadget on the left sidebarTo get it to work, you need to login while online, save your password, make sure your games have all the latest updates, and choose “Go Offline” from the main “Steam” menu in the top-left. Click to “Restart in Offline Mode” and you’ll be bopping heads in Divekick while 35,000 feet up in the air for your cross-continental flight in no time.