Gmail has been seeing some exciting improvements quicker than ever after the advent of Gmail Labs. The latest being the ability to access Gmail offline even after you have lost your Internet connection!
Gmail Labs was a new feature introduced in Gmail a few months back. It follows the same lifecycle as most Google products which are introduced via Google Labs and then mature as a full featured public versions.
Gmail Labs is where the experimental features in Gmail make their debut. Gmail users can enable/disable any of these features from Settings -> Labs tab in Gmail. At present, there are around 33+ experimental features that you can enable in your Gmail account.
Of all the features, the one introduced today – Offline mode, is the most valuable to those on the move or with spotty Internet connection. Offline Gmail uses Google Gears technology to download a local cache of your mail.
Once you turn on this feature after installing Google Gears,
- Gmail creates a local cache of your Gmail and keeps it synchronized as long as you have a network connection
- If you lose your connection, Gmail auto-switches to offline mode
- You can read messages, label messages, delete and star them just like when you are online
- You can compose messages and send them and they will be queued in your outbox
- As soon as you have a connection, Gmail will automatically send the messages in outbox
I usually have a sturdy Internet connection at home and work. So, this is a feature that I won’t be using as much but I can see how useful this could be so useful for those with flaky Internet connections.
Offline Gmail is an experimental feature. So, expect to see bugs but I have to admit most of the Gmail Labs’ features just work fine for me.
Best of Gmail Labs
If you are curious about which of the Gmail Labs features I have turned on in my account, here they are:
- Quick Links – Amazing feature to create shortcuts to most accessed emails in the sidebar
- Superstars – I star messages with different icons to distinguish various kinds of messages
- Custom keyboard shortcuts – Customize Gmail keyboard mappings so it doesn’t interfere with my Firefox shortcuts
- Right-side chat – Just to keep the left side shorter and to avoid scrolling
- Default Reply to all – I so often forget to use the ‘Reply to all’ when I am replying to a group message.
- Quote selected text – great when replying to a long thread
- Navbar darg and drop – So I can rearrange my sidebar tabs
- Forgotten attachment Detector – The best of the lot
- Custom Label Colors – I have around 2 dozen labels colored different!
- Mark as read button – For those emails you don’t need to read just but mark as read and archive
- Go to label – g+i to go to Inbox from any screen in Gmail. My favorite shortcut after Shift+#
- SMS in Chat – I have started to use this so often as its faster to type a SMS message from Gchat than my phone.
- Send & Archive – Another great feature that should be included
- Add any gadget by URL – I have the Remember the Milk Gmail gadget added to my sidebar. beats using the Firefox extension.
The Offline Gmail feature is supposedly being rolled out to US & UK Gmail accounts. But, I haven’t seen it in mine yet. While waiting for it to be enabled, check out some of the best Gmail Greasemonkey scripts that enhance your Gmail 2.0 functionality even more.
If you have it enabled, share your experience with it in the comments.