I like all millennials, am no longer young, meaning it’s my duty to remember and share things about the past that would otherwise be forgotten. For example: Most software used to work pretty well without an active internet connection.
I know, it’s hard to believe. Computers in the 1990s and early 2000s treated “going online” as a novel state, but if anything the opposite is now true. Most software assumes you’re online constantly, and a lot of it doesn’t work if you’re not. This is fine most of the time, but is annoying if you want to get work done on a plane or while visiting the family farm.
Some things simply can’t be done offline now, particularly if your job involves responding to people in real time. Most jobs done at a computer, though, can be done at least partly offline—if you have things set up to work that way. Here’s how to work offline in a world that assumes constant connectivity.
Figure Out Which Apps Work Offline
The first thing to do is figure out which tools do and do not depend on the internet. The rule of thumb is that if an app runs in your browser, it probably won’t work offline.
There are a few exceptions, sure. For example, Google Drive can work offline if you install a Chrome extension. But for the most part applications in your browser are designed to work with internet connections, so you can’t depend on them if you need to work offline.
Another thing to remember is that most communication software, like Slack, can’t send or receive messages while offline. Most of these applications don’t even let you read old messages while offline, meaning if there’s crucial information buried in a DM somewhere, you won’t have access to it.
Finally, any file that’s stored in a cloud service isn’t accessible offline unless you’re syncing it to your computer. Some cloud services, like Dropbox, sync files to your computer by default. Others sync only those files that are in folders specifically marked for offline access. Make sure any files you need access to are marked for offline syncing.
If you’re not sure whether something will work offline, there’s a simple test: Turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi. I know, it’s scary. But after five minutes of trying to work you should have a good idea of which tools you can and cannot count on.
Copy Information That You Need
Now that you know which apps won’t work offline, it’s time to plan ahead. What projects can you work on entirely offline? What information do you need to work on those projects? Make sure you have all the information you need, particularly if some of it is on an app you know won’t work online.
For example, if there are documents you need to read or edit, make sure those documents are downloaded to a folder on your computer. If there’s a crucial piece of information hidden in a DM conversation with your manager, make sure that information is copied somewhere local. I like to use note-taking apps for this, copying every crucial piece of information for a project to a page or folder intended for that project. Working offline forces you to be organized: You’re collecting information up-front instead of assuming you’ll be able to search for it later.