What is Gmail offline functionality and how to enable it?

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

The so called ‘Gmail Offline Functionality‘ will allow users to use the Gmail interface when disconnected from the Internet. It means that, users will be able to load Gmail even though they are not connected to the Internet and will have the ability to read, star, archive and organize emails.

Users will also be able to compose new emails. These mails will be stored in the ‘Outbox‘ and sent whenever the user goes online.

How is this achieved?

The offline functionality for web-based applications is achieved by employing Google Gears.

Image representing Google Gears as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

Google Gears is a browser plug-in that provides offline access to the web based applications like Gmail. Gears is also employed for offline access to many other web applications from Google, such as the Google Reader RSS manager, the Google Docs word processor and from other providers like Zoho, which uses it for offline access to its e-mail and word processing browser-based application.

Mozilla Firefox
Image via Wikipedia

The Google Gears browser plug-in for Mozilla Firefox v3.5 can be located at: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search?q=Google+Gears&cat=all.

When a user is connected to the Internet, Gmail uses Gears browser plug-in to download a local cache of the mail. The cache is then synchronized with Gmail’s servers as long as the internet connection is alive.

How to enable ‘Offline’ functionality for Gmail?

  • Open Gmail and sign-in to your account.
  • Click the ‘Settings’ hyperlink on the top right corner of the Gmail interface.
  • Select the ‘Labs’ tab.
  • Click ‘Enable’ next to ‘Offline Gmail’ feature.
  • Save your changes.
  • On the top right corner of the Gmail interface, next to the user-name, a new link would be visible, named ‘Offline’.
  • Click the ‘Offline’ link to start the synchronization process.


For the synchronization to be successful, the Google Gears browser plug-in should be pre-installed.

In summary

The Google Gears implementation will allow people to work within the Gmail interface without the need for a separate desktop application. When the user is offline, email messages will be stored in the Gears browser queue, and will be synchronized automatically when user connect to the Internet.


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