Based on the Gmail app for tablets introduced in April, offline access is configured by hitting the ‘setup Docs offline’ icon at the top right of the Gmail window and installing the required Chrome-app before finally launching it from the ‘new tab’ icon.
The app launches a cut-down version of the Gmail interface as a window within the Chrome browser, and then synchs the online and offline elements of the service between the PC and Google’s servers.
Those are the first two limitations - it only works with Chrome users and does not present the same UI as the online version, which might or might now bother some corporate users. Support for other browsers is promised although it is not clear that this will be added quickly.
And while similar apps can also now be installed for Google’s Docs and Calendar, the former allows viewing but not editing. Again, this function will be added later, Google said.
“We’re pushing the boundaries of modern browsers to make this possible, and while we hope that many users will already find today’s offline functionality useful, this is only the beginning,” announced Google.
Confusingly, Google offered these features in the past through Gears, which it abandoned in 2010, leaving Chrome users with no offline mode at all.
As useful as the reprised offline mode is it not very cleanly integrated, offering the same data in different forms online and offline and requiring that Gmail offline app be launched as a separate interface.
As it adds features, Gmail is starting to sag under the weight of the myriad things that can be done with it. While no worse than the standlone apps it is pushing out, Google needs to embrace simplicity quickly.
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