Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Google’s Gmail Goes Offline with it's Gears Plug-In

Google announced a long-expected feature – the use of its Gmail Webmail interface in offline mode. This feature, to use the Gmail service even when an Internet connection is not established, has been expected since about mid-2007. 

The offline access to the Gmail Webmail service is provided by Google through the Gears plug-in, which is currently used to get offline access to several other Google applications (the Reader RSS manager, the Docs word processor). 

However, Gmail was “a tough hurdle," as Rajen Sheth, senior product manager for Google Apps, put it. Applying Gears to Gmail was very difficult mainly because of the high volume of messages Gmail accounts can store. 

Users will be able to access the Gmail interface, read their e-mails and reply to them. The latter will be sent to their destination once a broadband connection is detected. The plug-in does not replicate the entire Gmail inboxes to the user’s PC because this would mean gigabytes of data on that PC. Google developed algorithms that determine the messages most important and most-likely to be read by the users and downloads them to the computer. 

"We had to make it such that we're managing a sizable amount of information offline and doing it well in a way that's seamless to the end-user," said Sheth.

The messages most-likely to be downloaded into the PC and available in Gmail’s offline mode are the most recent as well as the messages labeled or tagged with stars to indicate their importance.

The Gears plug-in is available in a beta version through Gmail Labs, but it won’t be immediately available because Google wants to experiment with the new feature first.

Download Google Gears at


Gears is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser:

Desktop Let web applications interact naturally with your desktop
Database Store data locally in a fully-searchable database
WorkerPool Run JavaScript in the background to improve performance

Developer site
Frequently asked questions
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