Offline Gmail: Keep Working -- Even Without an Internet Connection

Once upon a time, a little add-on called Google Gears let us access our Gmail when we didn't have ready Internet access. But when Google disbanded Gears, Gmail became an online-only service. This week, that limitation went away -- but not for everyone.

Specifically, if you're using the Chrome browser, you can take advantage of the new offline Gmail service. Getting started is as easy as installing the Offline Google Mail extension in your Chrome browser, which is painless and takes just a few seconds.

After installing, you'll see an elegant two-pane view that simultaneously displays your message list and the currently selected mail. The interface is logical and attractive, and takes almost no training whatsoever to get up and running. And the offline aspect of this works just the way you'd expect; take your laptop out of range of Wi-Fi, and you can continue to work with mail already downloaded and create new mail as if nothing had changed. Outgoing mail will obviously queue up and get sent as soon as you're back in range of an Internet connection.

Unfortunately, you can only take advantage of Offline Gmail on Chrome for now, but support for other browsers is reported to be coming soon. In the meantime, it's great that Google has finally given us the ability to work away from the Internet, even if it's on one of our least favorite browsers.

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