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Working from home: This invaluable Google Docs feature keeps you from losing your work

Good Doc offline sync will almost certainly prevent you from pulling your hair out.

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Sometimes going offline is the best way to boost productivity. 

Angela Lang/CNET

If you're one of the millions of people now working solely from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be spending more time in your home office than usual. I do this daily, and for me, work means Google Docs. There's one invaluable tool I urge every remote worker to make sure they have turned on, regardless of how strong your home Wi-Fi connection is: Set up offline mode.

Offline mode in Google Docs is essential even if you have a constant source of Wi-Fi. I can attest to unexpected bouts of shaky internet connection -- helpfully, my ISP likes to do routine maintenance during the middle of the day. Losing my work is non-negotiable, but enabling offline sync mode means that I never have to worry about that happening. Google Docs will automatically sync when it regains connection.

There's just one condition: Offline sync only works on Google's Chrome browser. If you use Safari, Firefox or any other browser, you're out of luck. However, Chrome is easy to install and you won't have to fully switch over to Google's browser if you don't want to; just use Chrome as your dedicated Google Docs app.

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Install Chrome and the Offline extension

If you use a different browser, you'll need to install Chrome before you can set up offline sync. Download the installer and then follow the prompts -- it'll only take a few minutes, depending on your internet connection.

Once Chrome is installed, install the Google Docs Offline Chrome extension.

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What can be saved for offline access?

You'll have access to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides when offline sync is turned on.

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You only need to enable Offline support once, and it will sync to the rest of your Google docs. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Setup offline sync

After installing Chrome and the offline extension, follow these steps to complete setup for offline sync:

1. Visit Docs, Slides or Sheets in Chrome. You only need to visit one of the three sites, as your settings will sync between the different services.

2. Click on the menu icon in the top-left corner followed by Settings.

3. Click on the switch next to Offline.

4. An alert will show up at the bottom of the screen, letting you know offline sync is being setup. Once it's done, another alert will let you know it's been set up successfully.

Access your offline files

Based on the amount of storage you have available on your computer, Google will automatically download some of your most recently used documents for offline access.

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You can mark individual files for offline storage instead of letting Google decide what to keep. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

If there are files you want to make sure are always available offline, however, view your list of documents on the Docs, Sheets or Slides landing page. Click on the three-dot button to the right of the document, followed by Available offline. A checkmark will show up next to the document to let you know the file will be available offline.

You can then edit or work on the files as you normally would, and when you get back online your changes will sync to your Google account and it'll be like you were online the entire time.

Nifty, right?

Of course, there's more to Google Drive and Google Docs than just offline sync. Luckily, we have a healthy roundup that makes it easy to get the most out of Drive. There's also a Google Drive shortcut that will save you so much time.