Email is integral to our daily routine, but Internet access isn’t always reliable for road warriors and home-based workers. Google has been trying to devise a way to enable offline Gmail access since last year, and now they’re ready to release it for public testing under Gmail Labs. One could argue that you could always use 3rd party email clients and POP3 to achieve the same results, however, the idea behind Offline Gmail is that you don’t have to install any other program, and still do all your email chores under the same familiar interface.
According to the official Gmail blog:
“Once you turn on this feature, Gmail uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail. As long as you’re connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail’s servers. When you lose your connection, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer’s hard drive instead of the information sent across the network. You can read messages, star and label them, and do all of the things you’re used to doing while reading your webmail online.
Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection. And if you’re on an unreliable or slow connection (like when you’re “borrowing” your neighbor’s wireless), you can choose to use “flaky connection mode,” which is somewhere in between: it uses the local cache as if you were disconnected, but still synchronizes your mail with the server in the background. Our goal is to provide nearly the same browser-based Gmail experience whether you’re using the data cached on your computer or talking directly to the server.”
I tinkered with it on my account and glad to say it worked without any hitch. Here’s what you do:
1. Inside Gmail, click on “Settings” at the upper righthand corner.
2. Click the “Labs” tab.
3. Select Enable next to Offline Gmail and Save Changes.
4. When you go back to your Inbox, click the link that says “Offline 0.1”, again at the upper righthand corner to start setup. This window will pop up:
5. Click on the checkbox and Allow it to continue. Setups and synchromization will continue.
Currently, there are some limitations for Offline Gmail. For example, you cannot add an attachment to emails you compose offline or in Flaky Mode. The Contacts manager is also unavailable. Among the Settings tab, the only ones active are General, Labels, and Offline. There is also no option to set which emails will be download by Offline Gmail. It seems that emails that are less than a week old are automatically included, as are those which are Starred and Drafts, no matter how old they are. Trash and Spam are always excluded. Finally, this feature is only available if you set your account’s language to US or UK English. Although after installation, it will still work even if you change the language setting to others.