Since Google Mail is a web-based service, you might think that you won't be able to use it unless you have an active internet connection. You might think that, but it's not true. Google offers a service called Gmail Offline that allows limited access to your TSS email account even when you don't have an internet connection. This can be useful when travelling or if you don't have access to a reliable network connection at home. Since you do need an internet connection to enable Gmail Offline, you'll need to enable it BEFORE you leave for your trip. This article will cover the basics of how to set-up Gmail Offline and also answer some questions.


Setting up Gmail Offline

1.  First of all, you'll need to open up an instance of the Chrome web browser. Gmail Offline is exclusive to Chrome and won't work with any other browser. Open up a Google Mail tab (http://mail.google.com), click on the gear icon in the upper-right hand corner, and choose 'Settings'.

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2. Next, click on the heading "Offline" that you see near the top of the page. This settings pane only has one option, which you should click: "Install GMail Offline"

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3. This link will take you to the Chrome Web Store, where you'll be prompted to add a new app to Chrome. Click on the box that says 'Add To Chrome'. You'll be prompted with a dialog box: do you really want to install Gmail Offline? Click "Add App".


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4.  You'll be taken to a new tab in Chrome, which lists all of your current apps. You can also reach this page by clicking on the "Apps" button in the Bookmarks Toolbar, or by typing "chrome://apps" in the search bar. When looking at all of your apps, you'll want to click on the blue icon for "Gmail Offline".

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5. Click the box that's labeled "Allow Offline Mail", then click Continue.

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6. You're now ready to start using GMail Offline:



How Does It Work?

GMail Offline will start making copies of your last week of email (everything you've received OR sent) to your computer you can check on its progress in the bottom-left hand corner of the Gmail Offline tab. Once it's finished, you'll see a small dialog box that reads "Updated". Now, you're ready to go offline. If you close your laptop or shut it down, your email will be synchronized up until the moment when you turned your computer off.


To use GMail Offline when you're actually offline, open Chrome, open up your Apps page (remember: chrome://apps, or click the button in the Bookmarks Toolbar), and select Gmail Offline. You'll see the same interface you saw before, but with a small notification in the lower-left corner that reminds you that you're offline.

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From here, you can read, organize, and delete mail. You can also compose messages. Here's the important part, though: you're OFFLINE, so none of the changes you've made will actually happen until your computer re-connects with a network. The emails you composed won't really be sent, the messages you filed will remain in your inbox, and the emails you deleted will still be there in your account. None of the actions you take offline will take effect until you're online again.


This is important. If you're using Gmail Offline and your laptop gets eaten by a wolverine (it could happen!) before you return to civilization, all of the work you did offline will be lost. Maybe that's an edge case, but let's say you're on a plane without WiFi and you use Gmail Offline to send a bunch of messages. Then you close your laptop and put it back in your bag. When the plane lands, if you immediately turn on your phone and connect to your Google Mail account, you won't see any of the messages you sent from your laptop. The work you did on your laptop won't really happen until your laptop connects to a network.


Other Questions

Is there anything stopping me from using GMail Offline while I'm online? No, Gmail Offline will work just fine when you're online. Many users, particularly folks with touchscreen laptops, prefer the interface for GMail Offline and choose to use it all the time. Gmail Offline's look is actually based on the tablet version of the GMail app, so you get a more spacious, touch-friendly layout.


Is there an offline version of Google Inbox? No.


Can I have offline access to more than a week of my email? Yes, you can change this in the settings. Click the gear icon in the upper-right hand corner of the screen, then change the setting "Download Mail from the last...". You can choose 1 week, 2 weeks, or 1 month.


What about common accounts? GMail Offline will only sync primary accounts that you're signed into. If you have delegated access to a common email account, it won't work with Gmail Offline.


Do Keyboard Shortcuts work in GMail Offline? Yes.