GMail Goes Offline

If you live in Gmail, but don’t always have a broadband connection available, today should be a happy day for you. Google is rolling out a new system for letting Gmail users access their accounts offline. Google will cache your messages on your system using Google Gears. You’ll be able to open your browser to Gmail.com, see your inbox, read and label messages and even write replies without a Net connection. Your messages will send once your system reconnects to the Web.

The system is beta (of course) and accessible through Gmail Labs. But it won’t be immediately available to everyone – Google is parsing out access as it experiments with the new feature. I don’t have access to the new feature yet, so I’ve still got lots of questions. But Google’s post makes it sound like the experience will be almost indistinguishable from using Gmail normally.

“Gmail uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail. As long as you’re connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail’s servers. When you lose your connection, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer’s hard drive instead of the information sent across the network. You can read messages, star and label them, and do all of the things you’re used to doing while reading your webmail online. Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection,”.

There will also be a “flaky connection mode” that’s supposed to give you the best of both worlds. It’ll assume that you’re disconnected and use the local cache to store your data, but whenever your connection is working, it’ll sync with Google’s servers in the background.