Google Drive beta test expands offline support to non-Google files in Chrome

Google Drive’s offline capabilities are getting an upgrade. Currently, you can use Google Chrome to make your Docs, Sheets, and Slides available offline. On Tuesday, the company announced the launch of a beta test that will expand offline capabilities to other content as well, including PDFs, images, Microsoft Office files, and other non-Google file formats.

The beta test, dubbed the “Google Drive Offline for Binary Content Beta,” is only open to admins of G Suite domains who have Drive File Stream enabled. Admins who had previously opted into the Alpha test for offline Docs, Sheets, and Slides will be automatically whitelisted for this new beta, Google notes.

Though the beta is limited for now, if Google is able to work out the bugs and ensure the stability of this new set of capabilities, it would naturally want to roll out support more broadly across not just its G Suite user base but to the consumer version of Google Drive, too.

Once the G Suite domain is enrolled, users will be able to enable offline from within the Drive or Docs settings, then sign into Chrome and right-click on files, then check “Make available offline.”

Offline preview will also work, once enabled. Plus, users are able to right-click and open the non-Google files in native applications, like Microsoft Office, to make them available offline.

ChromeOS isn’t currently supported in the beta, but it will be in the future, Google says.

The new beta addresses one of Google Drive’s more notable issues, especially in the workplace. A variety of work documents are not in Google file formats, and much of that work does need to be more easily available offline when employees are traveling and have limited connectivity. For now, users can sync their Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings files offline, or download files directly to their device. They can also use desktop client applications as a sync solution, if preferred.

Meanwhile, Google Drive competitor Dropbox is moving forward as an enterprise collaboration workspace, which even allows users to launch apps with shortcuts for G Suite, and more — including offering integrations with Zoom and Slack. Essentially, it’s becoming a portal to work tools instead of just a file storage platform.

G Suite has yet to kill Microsoft Office, which has 180 million monthly actives for Office 365 commercial. (Google says G Suite had 5M organizations as clients by year-end 2018). And on the consumer side, iCloud Drive is getting an upgrade in the new version of macOS, which will now support folder sharing in addition to file sharing — a much-needed feature that could convince more casual customers of Drive or Dropbox to make the switch.

Google didn’t say how long the best would run before public availability.

Android Police was first to spot the beta test, also noting the limitation in being a Chrome-only feature could still be an issue.

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