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 Gmail 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'.
2. Next, click on the heading "Offline" that you see near the top of the page.
3. This settings pane only has one option, which you should click: "Enable offline mail"
4. You'll be greeted with some additional information and a choice of Sync settings. You can choose to store emails from the last week, the last month, or the last 90 days. Obviously, the longer the time period you select, the more storage space you need. Gmail will helpfully let you know how much hard drive space you'll need. Choosing to download attachments will also require more storage space.
4. When you're finished, you need to remember to click the "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the screen. Gmail will suggest that you create a bookmark.
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. When the process is done, you'll see a check mark appear in the upper-right hand corner of the screen.
To use Gmail Offline when you're actually offline, open Chrome, and navigate to http://mail.google.com. The browser will open and you'll be able to use Gmail much like normal. The only indication that you're offline will be a notification box in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen
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.