Google lets offline users get Web-based documents

Google Inc. is giving selected Google Docs users offline editing access to documents and may roll out the program more broadly in the next few weeks.

Mountain View-based Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) said in a blog posting that offline access is offered in English for the time being but other languages may be added soon.

Google said users of Google Docs can automatically save their work to a PC, making it available in places such as airplanes, where they cannot connect to the Internet.

The upgrade to Google’s Web-based programs is part of an effort to lure customers away from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), maker of the dominant Office suite of office productivity software. Several other companies are also vying for a part of that market by offering free Web-based office productivity tools, including Pleasanton-based Zoho, a unit of AdvantNet Inc., and San Jose-based ThinkFree Inc.

Google created its Docs offering in 2006 after the purchase of the Web-based word processor Writely from the company Upstartle. Google combines Writely with its own Google Spreadsheets.

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