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Gmail Goes Offline (In A Good Way)

Google's Gmail service is rolling out a new, seemingly impossible feature: the ability to use the Web-mail site even when you don't have an Internet connection.

This feature relies on Gears, Google software you can plug into different browers -- Internet Explorer in Windows and Windows Mobile, Mozilla Firefox in Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and Safari in OS X. (It's also built into Google's Chrome browser, as well as the browser in Google's Android mobile-phone operating system.)


As a post on Google's Gmail blog explains, once this feature becomes available in your account -- click the green-beaker icon next to your Gmail address, at the top of the Gmail window, to look for it and switch it on -- your Gmail messages will be downloaded automatically and invisibly to your browser's cache. Then, if your connection drops out, you can still write and read your Gmail offline; once you're back online, Gmail will synchronize your offline activity with your online account.

In a sense, this isn't major news. Back in October 2007, Gmail began allowing users to synchronize their accounts to traditional e-mail programs, using a mail standard called IMAP. This Gears-powered offline mode only eliminates the need to launch a separate program and learn a separate interface. But since many users seem reluctant to do those things once they've grown accustomed to a mail service's ways, that could be a significant advantage.

I can't report back to you on how well Gmail's offline mode works, since my own account has yet to be blessed with this new feature. (So much for the idea that I get to try out all the cool tech toys first... who do you think I am, Warren Brown?) But if you have, I'd like to hear how it's working out for you: Please post your review in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  January 28, 2009; 11:26 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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I currently have 2 gmail accounts, but only one synced with Outlook. I would probably set this up for my second account, but fear that the data would be erased when I use cleaning programs such as CCleaner and AdAware. Is there a way not to erase the date in the cache so I can use this new gmail feature?

Posted by: JRosen23 | January 28, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

If one wanted this feature why wouldn't one just use an email client with IMAP? all my gmail messages are in Apple Mail, where I can do anything to them on or offline.

Posted by: ah___ | January 28, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

How well does this (or any IMAP implementation) play with multiple computers? What happens if I do some stuff when I'm offline but also do some things online from a different machine to the same items, what happens when things get synced up later?

Posted by: nashpaul | January 28, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

That is not a beaker but an erlenmeyer flask.

Posted by: ruidoso | January 29, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

From the Official Gmail Blog : «We're making offline Gmail available to everyone who uses Gmail in US or UK English over the next couple of days ...»

Nice ! But when are Google and Gmail going to learn that even those of us who use Gmail with other display languages than US or UK versions of English would like to have access to the interesting products of Gmail labs ? I suspect that our usage plays a large roll in that portion of Google's revenues that can be ascribed to Gmail - don't we thus deserve a chance to try these new features ?...


Posted by: mhenriday | January 29, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I tried to synch gmail with my outlook and had absolutely no success. Does anyone know how or can point to a link that will explain for me

Posted by: skinniedee62 | January 29, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

i lie my gmail right offers many features as in different languages etc. and I don't want to rock the boat i see nothing to be gained by this feature and possible conflicts with what is.

Posted by: artetal | January 30, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Anything Google does since the release of Chrome has me sold!! It's like going from a model-t to a VIPER!!Switch between windows is like going into hyper-space compared to other browsers.Folks,if you have not tried it,DO IT!!!!!

Posted by: terrancemichalski | February 2, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

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