Using Google Docs Offline on an Android Device

The Google Drive app runs on Android phones and tablets like the Nexus 7.
... Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The online collection of programs known as Google Docs is part of the Google Drive cloud storage service. By installing the official Google Drive app for Android on your device, you can access your Google Docs files offline. For this to work you must save files for offline use in advance, and as of publication the service has no option for making edits while in offline mode.

1 Installing the App

The Google Drive app is free to download and use. Download the app from the Google Play website (see Resources) or via the Play Store app on your Android device. Sign in to your Google account within the app to access all of the files stored in Google Drive, and make changes to documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Tap the Menu button, marked with the Google Drive logo and located in the top left corner, to access your folders, starred items and recently opened files.

2 Saving Files

To make a file available while you're offline, tap the information icon, marked with an "i" inside a circle, next to the relevant file. On the subsequent screen, tap the "Available offline" switch so that it shows "ON." A confirmation message appears in the notification bar when the file has been successfully synced to your device. You can then access this file from the "Offline" entry in the Google Drive app's menu. Note that you can view but not edit files saved for offline use, and that if you attempt to open a file that hasn't been synced in advance without an Internet connection, the app displays an error message.

3 Using the Offline Feature

You can save most file types for offline use in the Google Drive app, provided you have enough free space on your Android device. This includes documents, spreadsheets and presentations saved in the native Google Docs formats, as well as PDFs, images and audio files. However, you cannot save Google Sites, drawings, forms, Fusion tables and folders for offline use. Note that the app displays the most recent version of the file as synced when you last had an Internet connection, so changes may have been made to it on other devices or by other users if you have been offline for some time.

4 Google Drive Settings

Open the Google Drive app's Settings page by tapping the Menu button -- marked with three vertical dots -- and then choosing "Settings." Under the "Offline Files" heading, choose whether offline files can be synced over a cellular data connection or only via Wi-Fi. If you choose the former option, you can have the app display warnings to remind you that you might be exceeding the terms of your data usage plan, particularly if you have a lot of large files set to sync offline. You can choose to turn off the auto-update feature, in which case offline files will only be updated when you open them with an active Internet connection present.

5 Version Information

The information in this article applies to Android 4.3 and the most recent version of the Google Drive app as of October 2013. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions of the Android operating system or the Google Drive app.

An information technology journalist since 2002, David Nield writes about the Web, technology, hardware and software. He is an experienced editor, proofreader and copywriter for online publications such as CNET, TechRadar and Gizmodo. Nield holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and lives in Manchester, England.