Google goes Offline with Gmail

by Matt Klassen on September 1, 2011

Despite the title’s ominous sound, after months of delay Google will finally allow users to access Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar while they’re offline, just one more step in the search engine giant’s comprehensive cloud-computing vision of the future.

Truth be told, it’s a feature that’s been too long in coming, as the company’s diehard Web-based philosophy has actually stood in the way of the functionality of its ever-popular suite of email and document programs. The problem with demanding constant Internet access is that it quickly falls prey to the natural limits of Internet coverage, meaning that Google’s program suite becomes useless in those pesky Internet dead zones.

It’s a point that Microsoft learned ages ago, disconnecting its Office suite from the Internet so that people would be able to access the programs when on the subway, an airplane, or in numerous places across rural North America, and it now looks like Google has finally seen the light.

It sounds strange to talk about the latest move from Google as being one that brings its programs offline, but truthfully it’s a requirement if Google wants to have the same market infiltration that Microsoft currently enjoys.

“Gmail, Calendar, and Docs are three of the key apps people really want to use,” said Rajen Sheth, a Google group product manager. “This is something we really wanted to bring offline.”

The new offline services will give users almost full Gmail functionality, allowing you to read and write messages, respond to incoming messages, apply stars and labels to messages, and archive old mail. Of course, being offline nothing will happen outside of your computer, tablet, or smartphone until a network connection is once again established, allowing the offline Gmail software to sync with Google’s servers.

While all this sounds incredibly handy for those who like to maximize their travel time with a little work, as CNET writer Stephen Shankland reports, the new service from Google does come with a few caveats and provisos.

First, the offline software suite will initially only be available to users of Google’s own Chrome browser, although plans are in the works for wider browser support. Second, users will only be able to read documents and spreadsheets, so no editing allowed…for now.

Third, the new offline Gmail service requires a separate Web application, so you won’t be able to simply use your standard Gmail app, meaning two different interfaces and lots of switching back and forth. Fourth, the calendar offline service will be read-only, meaning you can see events, RSVP events, but not create new events. Finally, the storage capacity for offline Gmail is only about a week, meaning you’ll only be able to see the messages for the past seven days.

“We’re pushing the boundaries of modern browsers to make this possible,” the company writes, “and while we hope that many users will already find today’s offline functionality useful, this is only the beginning.”

All that aside, though, Google’s move to take the Gmail suite offline is a good move for the company; just one more step towards the search engine giant’s vision of complete dominance over our technological existence.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment }

Ben September 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

A point that Microsoft learned ages ago? I’m pretty sure Office was never tethered to the Internet.

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