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Gmail Goes Offline - and That's a Good Thing

Gmail Goes Offline - and That's a Good Thing

Google has just announced it's making an offline version of its Gmail e-mail service available today. The new feature will be initially available to users of its Googles Apps online suite of productivity applications, which includes Gmail.

Over the next few weeks, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) said it will make the feature available to consumers and others who use the stand-alone version of Gmail.

With offline access, Gmail users will be able to launch the program from an Internet browser to view and respond to e-mails as well as create new ones. However, the e-mails will remain in Outbook until the user is connected online at which point the application sends them automatically.

Although not connected to send or receive e-mails, offline Gmail users will also still be able to perform other standard functions of the program such as "starring," or marking individual e-mails considered a priority for viewing later. E-mails that are starred in Gmail can be viewed as a list, separate from all other e-mails.

Gmail is a product of Google Labs, which features a number of programs in an experimental stage. Gmail, first released in 2004, is still famously labeled "BETA" though it's been considered a finished service in terms of reliability and feature set for years.

The search giant also offers a separate Enterprise Labs of services available for corporate users to try out.

In an e-mail announcing the offline feature, Google said it was "still working out the kinks, which means there might be some issues that aren't completely ironed out." But the offline feature has been tested internally for months at Google and also by several of its major customers, the company said.

"We've had a lot of people ask for this feature and it took a lot of effort to get done," a Google spokesperson told InternetNews.com.

The offline Gmail is built on Google's Gears platform, which has already been used to enable offline access to Google Docs, Google Reader and other third-party Web applications.

Google said the offline feature takes a few steps to enable:

* First, sign into Gmail and click 'Settings'.

* Click the 'Labs' tab and select 'Enable' next to 'Offline Gmail.'

* Click 'Save Changes.'

* In the upper right-hand corner of your account, next to your username, there will be a new 'Offline' link. Click this link to start the offline synchronization process.

What's next? Offline calendar

Google also announced it's going to be rolling out offline functionality for Google Calendar in the next few weeks. The offline feature will be enabled for any Google Apps Standard Edition domain worldwide, and any Premier Edition and Education Edition domains that have opted in to "New Features."

However, offline Calendar is a read-only feature at this point; for example, you won't be able to enter new information or make changes.

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