How to Access Gmail When You Are Offline

gmail logo There are times when your internet connection isn’t working but you badly need to check something in your email account. If you use email in your browser, this in when you miss a standalone mail client like Outlook the most, isn’t it.

If you use Gmail, there’s another way to access your email offline and that too in your browser (apart from accessing it through a desktop email client that is). Gmail provides an “Offline” option that uses Google Gears to download email to your computer and keep it in sync with Gmail’s servers.

This article will talk about both the methods of using Gmail when you are offline – through Gmail’s built-in offline option and through a desktop email client that uses POP or IMAP.

1. Using Gmail’s Offline Option and Google Gears

Gmail’s Offline option allows you to check your email offline and do everything else you usually do in your Gmail. All the activities would be synchronized with the Gmail server when you come online. The emails you send are stored in the Outbox and sent when you get connected to the internet.

You should find the offline option as one of the links in your Gmail Settings navigation bar. Click on it and you get an option to enable offline mail.

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Click on that option and then click “Save Changes” at the bottom. You get a pop up asking you to install offline access for Gmail.

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As mentioned earlier, the offline function in Gmail uses Gears, and it works on Firefox 1.5+, Internet Explorer 6.0+, and Chrome. There’s a “Configure” link as you can see in the above screenshot. This allows you to set your preferences for offline email download and sync. You can also set the maximum attachment size and the labels that should be synchronized.

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If you are using Chrome, when you click on next in the above box, you get a pop up asking you to install Gears. For other browsers, like internet explorer 8, it might just open a full-fledged window with a huge Gears install icon. Whatever may be the presentation, the bottom line is that you need to install Gears in the next step.

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You’ll see a small box showing the status of installation. Chrome also allows you to create shortcuts for quick access of offline mail.

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That’s about it. From now on, you’ll have a small green colored icon on the top right of your Gmail that’ll show the status of sync and whether you are checking your email online or offline. Here’s a screenshot describing the meaning of those icons.

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That was the entire process of setting up offline mail for Gmail using Google Gears.

2. Using a Desktop Email Client (POP/IMAP)

We’ve already talked in great detail about the differences between POP and IMAP email protocol. Both of them have their merits and demerits.

Gmail allows you to access your email using both the protocols. The settings can be found under “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” under Gmail’s main settings page.

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If you are using a desktop mail client like Thunderbird or Outlook to access Gmail and use the POP protocol, then you can already access your email offline, because the mails are downloaded to your computer. ( Check out the instructions for setting up POP access for Gmail in Thunderbird and Microsoft Outlook )

If you use the IMAP protocol (see how to set up IMAP for Gmail in Thunderbird ), then for Thunderbird we have already covered the process of accessing IMAP email offline.

Similarly, I believe you can work in offline mode in Outlook too, though I haven’t tried that personally. Outlook, as far as I have heard, isn’t known to work great with Gmail in IMAP. If you have used it or are using it then I’d love to know your experience and the exact options you use to check your email offline.

That concludes this post on accessing Gmail offline. If you have any tips or tricks to share, lets hear them in the comments.

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Abhijeet Mukherjee is the founder, publisher and editor of Guiding Tech. He's a web publisher who’s been working online full time since 2008. He loves all things tech and has also written for some of the top blogs on the planet.