Google has unveiled a beta version of its new Google Gears technology, which allows you to run web applications without being connected to the internet. The browser plug-in will prompt you when you visit websites that supports Google Gears. But the free, open-source technology is so far limited to Google Reader .

Just click on the Google Gears icon when you're at a relevant site. The server will download information to your hard drive and put that website or service in offline mode. When you disconnect from the internet you'll be able to continue to use services such as Gmail or Google Docs & Spreadsheets . When you reconnect, all data will be synchronised. However, you'll need to keep the browser window open to do this.

"With 'Google Gears' we are tackling a key limitation of the browser in order to make it a stronger platform for deploying all types of applications, and enabling a better user experience," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Stretch limits

"We believe strongly in the power of the community to stretch this new technology to the limits of what's possible, and ultimately emerge with an open standard that benefits everyone."

Google is hoping Google Gears will be the standard application for adding offline capabilities to online services, eating into Microsoft 's dominance in this sector.

Adobe unveiled a similar offline service earlier this year as part of its Apollo platform . Adobe said it plans to add Google Gears to Apollo. Mozilla and Opera are also supporting the technology.

The beta of Google Gears is available as free download for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from the Google Gears website. A full version is expected "within months", Google said. The announcement coincided with Google Developer Day , which took place yesterday in 10 cities around the world.