One of the things holding many people back in moving from a desktop email client like Outlook to a Web-based email solution like Gmail is offline access. The ability to search email messages when there’s no Internet connection is critical for some people. Being able to use downtime like airline travel can be a great way to get caught up on replies to outstanding messages. Gmail just enable offline access to emails. Of course to use it, you’ll need to do a little configuration on your computer first.
To enable offline access to your Gmail, for email access on a plane or anywhere else, you need to sign in to your Gmail account, click on the Settings link, and then click on Labs.
Once you’ve completed this step, click the new Offline link next to the Settings link and follow prompts to install Google Gears. This is a rather confusing process, because it downloads a file, you then install the file and restart your browser after installation completes.
When your browser restarts and you sign-in to Gmail, you are prompted to allow Gmail to use Gears for offline access. You then add shortcuts to your Start menu, Quick Launch bar or Desktop as you see fit.
What’s cool about offline sync is it warns you how much of your data is synchronized if you disconnect, so if you’re in a hurry to get out the door, you can grab the most recent stuff and have a good chance of getting those critical emails. Overall this is a big win for getting things done on a plane. For those like me who use Google Apps to host our mail, this option is currently not available.