Offline Gmail review

Although still apparently in beta (like many Google services), Gmail is free, open to all, packed with advanced mail management tools and easy to use. It’s been going for almost five years now, getting steadily more robust and attribute-packed during that time. So why review it now?

Mid-way through January, Google quietly released a new feature that finally makes Gmail a viable replacement for your desktop client. Offline Gmail silently downloads your most recent mails to your local drive, giving you access to the service in your browser even when you’re connection is down.

You’ll find the feature isn’t enabled by default. To install it, go to Settings➝Labs in your Gmail account and tick the Enable button next to Offline. You may be prompted to install Gears, Google’s offline sandbox component that takes care of local file caching.

Offline works by seamlessly syncing your local mail cache with its server. Unlike POP mail clients, the data remains persistent whether you’ve downloaded mail or not; your local cache is simply a mirror of the online account database. And when we say it works seamlessly, it really does. Our internet connection went down during testing and – although we were in the middle of composing several mails – we didn’t notice for half an hour. When the connection came back up, Offline Gmail synchronised with the online service and delivered our messages.

OUR VERDICT

If you’re already a Gmail user, you’ll know about great features like labels, the online contact book and IMAP connectivity. If you don’t already use Gmail, now might be the time to start.

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