Sunday, November 13, 2011

Offline Gmail for Google Chrome

For many computer users, the choice between using a desktop email client and a web client (such as Gmail, Windows Live Mail, or Yahoo Mail), comes down to whether the user wants offline email access or not. 

With a desktop client (such as Thunderbird, Apple’s Mail client or Outlook), even if the user’s Internet connection goes down or is otherwise unavailable, the user still has access to all old emails, and can write and reply to existing emails, even if those new emails can’t be sent immediately.

With a web-based email client, that usually isn’t possible, although the advantage is that the user can log into his/her email account on any computer, and have immediate access to all emails, in the exact same state as on his/her home computer.

Google has – in the past – made offline capabilities an option for its Gmail service.  Unfortunately, that option seems to come and go, depending on which web browser is used, and the state of the optional plugin. 

It’s been gone for a while, but thankfully – at least for Google Chrome users – offline capability is now back.  Here’s how to set it up.

First, using Google Chrome (the only currently supported web browser), head over to the Offline Google Mail page, located here.

Offline Google Mail Website

Next, click the blue button to add it to Chrome.

Install Offline Google Mail

As this web application needs to access your data, go ahead and confirm that you wish to install Offline Google Mail.

Confirm Offline Google Mail Installation

Once you’ve finished the installation process, you’ll be able to access Offline Google Mail from your new tab page.

Launch Offline Google Mail 

The first time you launch Offline Google Mail, you’ll see this warning page, asking you to allow Gmail to save your messages for offline viewing.

Allow Offline Mail

Go ahead and make sure the “Allow offline mail” option is selected.

Select To Allow 

After hitting the Continue button, you’ll see the new Offline Google Mail interface, which is basically the same as the tablet interface.

New Offline Tablet Interface

Just as with the standard Gmail interface, you’re able to compose emails; this comes with the standard formatting options you’d expect.

Compose Interface

While you’re using the Offline Google Mail interface, you’ll notice a little pop-up in the lower left corner.  This shows you the progress Offline Google Mail is making in archiving your older emails for offline viewing.

Available Offline Emails

You’ll likely find that not all your emails are available in offline mode, especially if you have the habit of keeping every single email you receive.

The Google Help pages mention archiving somewhere upwards of 500 emails, which is quite a few, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any way to change this.

 It’s a bit of a step back in functionality from what was previously offered through the Google Gears extension (which worked with Firefox), but hopefully this new Offline Google Mail is just the first step, and not a final product.

Regardless, the offered functionality works as expected, and the interface is great.  It will be familiar to tablet users, and being able to have a similar interface on multiple platforms is always a plus.

Installation is a breeze, and if you don’t like it, simply remove the add-on and return to using the standard Gmail interface.

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