Rich internet applications not only make web pages more responsive to surfers, but they can also be used as more responsive desktop apps too. We've looked at the four biggest cross-platform RIAs that were launched last year to find out just how good they are.
Google Gears is a free open-source project that adds desktop capabilities to the Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome browsers on the Windows, Windows Mobile, Mac OS X, Linux and Android operating systems.
(Chrome has Gears built in and does not need a separate installation.)
Basically, Google Gears is a way to take web applications offline in a browser. Curl Nitro and Adobe Air can go one step farther and dispense with the browser.
The online Gears developer documentation discusses Version 0.5, released a month ago. It includes nine samples that illustrate the use of the APIs. You can download the source to all of these samples, plus some articles, a couple of tools and an Apache mod implementing the resumable HTTP request proposal.
One of the articles is a tutorial on taking web applications offline with Gears, written by Omar Kilani of Remember The Milk. Kilani and his team implemented offline functionality for their application in "four caffeine-fueled days".
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