Chrome OS may finally gain the ability to access and use Google Drive folders offline following a recently reported change to the system spotted in a beta build of the operating system. The change was spotted in build 73.0.3683.32 and is accessed by navigating to the Google Drive folder in the Files app. Right-clicking or alt-clicking on a folder shows an option to make a folder "Available Offline."
Selecting that option allows users to access and edit files in the folder, with those being backed up once online status is restored. For the time being, users are not able to create new folders, edit file names, or to cut, copy, paste, or delete contents in offline folders. Changes made to the folder via Google Drive will sync when connectivity is present but not the other way around.
Google will likely fix the discrepancy so that changes work both ways at some point, similar to how Google Drive's offline syncing works on a Windows machine or mobile. That's already been available — like the above-mentioned features — in a limited fashion, thanks to extensions tied in with specific services like Google Docs but the change will make that much more comprehensive.
Building on other changes to file management in Chrome
The latest incoming change builds on alterations made in Chrome OS 72, which enabled fine control for users over files and folders in the Files app. That's opposed to the way file storage had worked, via a storage volume called "Downloads" and another for "Play Files." Users could create their own folders in the Downloads volume but those were temporary, being deleted depending on whether a Chrome OS gadget's storage was becoming too full.
Files could be modified in a limited fashion in the "Play Files" volume and in the dedicated Linux volume, set aside for downloaded Linux applications.
With the new change, Chrome OS 72 has a new "My Files" volume available for long-term, more permanent storage. Summarily, that means Chromebook users and others working with Google's operating system have much more control over their offline files.
The latest change spotted in the beta channel takes things further by allowing users to access files in the cloud, offline without the need to download them and then upload them again later. Google has continuously enhancements Chrome OS support for SD card management as well, making the new change just the latest in a long chain of improvements for storage options and file access.
When is this coming?
The change that allows selective offline access to Google Drive folders appears to be coming soon, with the change being spotted in beta for Chrome 73. It still does appear to be relatively incomplete though. So while there's no guarantee Google will release it in an unfinished state, that could mean it's still a long way off too.
Chrome 72 only just started rolling out at the end of January. The earliest users could expect that some form of the offline Drive feature will arrive in Chrome 73. That's set to begin rolling out shortly after the desktop version on March 12. If it's pushed back to Chrome 74 in order to make working offline more consistent with other platforms, Google presently has that update scheduled for April 23.