December 11, 2013

Enable HTML5 Offline functionality to your gDrive hosted web apps!



Application Cache it's a pretty neat feature of HTML5, for it allows us to enable Offline functionality, faster loading times and reduced server load by caching a local copy of specific files when the user first access them, it can also be used to route the user to a special Offline version of our HTML code on specific parts of our site/app.

To do this one must create a special Manifest file, it is a very simple text file were we specify the offline cache behavior for our app, the most important parts are where we specify which documents should be cached and the creation date, this last one even though it's not technically required for the manifest to work, it is required to tell your App to update the cached version automatically next time a user logs, without it the cache will never be updated for the users and the only way they could get updates it's by cleaning they're browsers cache. It is also important to notice that most browsers won't allow more than 5Mb of cache for a single site.

We also must add a reference in our HTML code to tell the browser to look for the App Cache manifest, HTML5 makes this very easy, it's a very short declaration in the html tag of our app, for example:



Here we are telling the browser to look for a file called example.appcache in the root folder and use it as an appcache file.

I recommend reading a more detailed description of how to make an App Cache file on this w3schools.com article.

It sounds so easy right! but the trick is that the name it's not really relevant, the .appcache extension it's just done for standardization, technically it could be .awesomeOffline and still work (but please don't ;) standards makes collaborative work easier) what actually matters it's the MIMEtype of that file from the server which must be " text/cache-manifest " and that must be configured from the server, and most HTML hosting services doesn't have this option, and that includes the awesome Google Drive html hosting service, but as most things in this digital world, you can hack a way around this limitation.

To add the manifest file, first we need the ID of the root folder we are using for the gDrive HTML hosting for our application (in this article you can read more about how to host your HTML/JS/CSS code on gDrive), remember that you can find the ID for the folder when you open it from the web version of gDrive it's at the end of the URL in your browser.

Now that we have the folder ID, let's create a new script proyect and let's hit the code!

Let's get a good look at the code, it's very simple!



The most important part it's the MIMEtype, once created you can edit the text file to update it, personally I prefer to delete it and run the script again to create a new one, that way I'm sure that it's got the right date and everything.

AppCache opens a new world of possibilities for HTML5 web apps and web sites! Just be very careful when choosing which parts to cache, usually you should do thisonly with parts that doesn't change very often, like the libraries (and most of the Javascript code) and the CSS. If used properly it will greatly enhance the speed and therefore the user experience, and that must always be our main priority, remember that we are now entering a coding age where UX design really makes the difference.

Feel free to post your request, questions, ideas or simply say hi! on g+ or at the end of this article, your feedback it's very important and greatly appreciated.

Happy coding!

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