Google adds offline mode for Gmail

January 29, 2009 // 9:08 a.m.

Tags: #cloud #cloud-computing #gmail #google #google-gears #google-mail #offline #web-based #webmail

Google aren't letting the current economic climate get in the way of introducing neat new features in their services, and have announced a new 'offline' mode for the popular Gmail web-based e-mail system.

Announced on the Gmail Blog on Tuesday – and spotted via TechMeMe – the feature, which is described as “experimental”, uses Google Gears to allow certain functionality within the Gmail website even without a working Internet connection.

Currently being rolled out to a select number of Gmail users – but with that number increasing all the time, and a full UK- and US -wide rollout due over the next couple of days – the only requirement to make use of the new offline mode is a supported browser running a copy of Google Gears. When you're set up, you'll enjoy the ability to access messages from a local cache – updated each time you've got a working 'net connection – and use all the labelling and 'starring' features present in the web-based client. If you create and send a message, it will get added to a queue and sent the next time you're online.

In addition to the pure offline mode, the team has added a 'flaky connection' mode for when you're having one or two difficulties staying online: Gmail engineer Andy Palay describes the mode as “somewhere in between” the online and offline modes, as it “uses the local cache as if you were disconnected, but still synchronizes your mail with the server in the background” to offer the best of both worlds.

If you want to give the new mode a whirl – and assuming your account has been enabled – you'll find the option in the 'Labs' tab under 'Offline Gmail.' While the feature is described as an “early experimental version” with “some kinks that haven't been completely ironed out yet”, Palay claims that the team has been running the code “internally at Google for quite a while” without any serious issues.

Will Cloud Computing only take off when it has offline functionality like Google is striving to add, or is the ability to use web-based systems without a 'net connection merely a nice feature rather than a must-have? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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