Gmail Goes Offline (In A Good Way)

    January 28, 2009

As frequent travelers, folks with bad ISPs, and laptop lovers can agree, it’s not always easy to connect to the Internet, and being cut off from the world is a real nuisance.  But now Google’s solving one aspect of the problem by making Gmail accessible to people who are offline.

A post on the Official Gmail Blog explains the situation’s mechanics, stating, "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."

You can write new messages, too, and they’ll be sent as soon as a fresh connection is established.

Nifty, right?  And indeed, responses to this development have been mostly positive so far.  The only complaints seem to center on how long it took Google to offer offline access at all, and that downloading the local cache of mail might create a storage issue for some people.  You can’t add attachments to new messages at the moment, either.

One last warning: offline access has been introduced as an experimental feature in Google Labs (click "settings" and then the Labs tab from within Gmail to find it), so complete reliability isn’t guaranteed.  Otherwise, Gmail users in the US and UK are encouraged to have at it.