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Google brings Gmail offline

Google rolled out a new wrinkle in its Gmail service: Offline e-mail for businesses using Google Apps and for consumer Gmail users. The move was announced in a posting to the Google Enterprise blog.

With the offline service, users will be able to load Gmail in their Web browsers even if they don't have an Internet connection, and they will be able to read, star, label, archive, and organize e-mails. Offline Gmail will also allow users to compose new e-mails and move them to the Outbox, where they will wait until the user is online again to be sent.

The offline e-mail service is built on the Gears platform, which Google has also used to make Google Docs, Google Reader, and several third-party Web apps available offline.

Google plans to make other aspects of Google Apps, such as Google Calendar, available offline as well. The company expects the rollout of offline Gmail to be complete within a few days.

Such offline features for e-mail clients have been available for years from major corporate messaging vendors such as IBM/Lotus, Microsoft and Novell. Offline capabilities are a must-have feature if Google hopes to make significant inroads with corporate customers on the back of its Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), which includes Gmail.

“This is a major step along the way,” writes Joyce Sohn, Google Apps marketing manager on her corporate blog. She cautioned users that not all the “kinks” have been worked out yet.

Users of Google Apps Standard Edition will need to sign-in to Gmail and click “Settings.” From there, they will click the “Labs” tab and select “Enable” next to the Offline Gmail entry. Users will then click “Save Changes” to complete the install.

After the install, the Gmail client will have an “Offline” link, which is used to begin the synchronization process with the Gmail server.

The feature will be made available in the coming days to consumer users of Gmail.

Google officials said that business users would soon get offline access to Google Calendar, but they did not provide an exact date.

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