Have you ever found yourself wanting to send and manage your email offline—like if you’re stuck on an airplane with no Wi-Fi, or if your internet connection is unexpectedly severed? It sounds like a luxury from a future with universally available internet, but thanks to a new feature from Google (Gmail Offline), it’s now possible to do just this.
This guide will explain exactly what Gmail Offline is, how to access it, and some killer tips for making the most of it—so you can maximize your email productivity!
Why Use Gmail Offline?
We’re fortunate to live in an age where Wi-Fi is fairly consistent and readily accessible. Head into any café or library, and you can get the connection you need to work. So you might be wondering why you’d need an offline version of Gmail in the first place.
Ultimately, Gmail Offline is there for those moments where you’re stuck without an internet connection. It could be that your Wi-Fi cuts out unexpectedly, or that you’re in a location with no available internet. It may be hard to think of the last time this happened to you, but the next time it happens to you, you’ll be glad you have Gmail Offline—that way, you can keep reading or drafting your important emails, or organizing your inbox as you wait for the Wi-Fi to come back online.
The New Gmail Offline
You might have heard the term “Gmail Offline” before, but it was likely in reference to a Chrome extension that, quite frankly, wasn’t worth the hassle. It was complicated to install, took a long time to load, and had few real options.
This isn’t that. This is a new way to access your Gmail account offline, straight from Google, and they’ve ironed out all the kinks.
Turning on Gmail Offline
If you’re ready to turn on Gmail Offline, there are a couple of prerequisites you should know about. For starters, you need to be using the new Gmail interface, which launched in late April 2018. If you haven’t yet switched to the new Gmail, click the Settings wheel in the upper-right corner and click “Try the new Gmail.” Gmail Offline is also available only in Chrome.
When you’re ready to turn on Google Offline, head here in the Settings menu and click “Enable offline mail.” Or, you can always access this area of Settings by clicking on the Offline tab. When you do, you’ll have a handful of options to customize, including an option of whether to store offline data on your computer after you’ve closed your browser, but really, that’s all there is to it.
Finally, you should know that individual G Suite users won’t be allowed to enable offline Gmail on their own; you’ll need the help of an administrator to do it.
Tricks You Should Know
Now that you know how to set up Gmail Offline, let’s talk about some tricks you can use to make the most of it.
1. Set up Gmail Offline BEFORE you need it.
The right time to buy a fire extinguisher is long before you ever have a fire. The right time to wear a seatbelt is before you get into an accident. And the right time to set up Gmail Offline is long before your Wi-Fi cuts out. Gmail Offline needs an internet connection initially, so it can sync your emails to your computer’s offline storage. If you try to enable it for the first time without an internet connection, you’re going to be disappointed.
2. Choose the number of messages you want to sync.
When you set up Gmail Offline, you’ll be presented with three options for the number of messages you want to sync. You can choose to sync messages from the past 7 days, 30 days, or 90 days. There’s no right answer here, but you should think carefully about your options here. If you find yourself typically working at the top of your inbox, without much regard for what happened beyond a week ago, 7 days may be plenty. But if you’re constantly digging through the archives, or if you always find yourself needing historical context, opt for 90 days of storage.
3. Consider how to store Gmail Offline data.
You have two main options for offline storage: “Keep offline data on my computer” and “Remove offline data from my computer.” In the former option, all your email data will remain on your computer when you log out of Gmail, or when you’re changing your password. The only way to delete it is to disable Gmail Offline. In the latter option, your email data will be deleted whenever you log out of Gmail. The former tends to be better for most people, if you’re using a personal device. The latter is better if you’re using a shared device, or if you’re especially concerned about privacy.
4. Bookmark Gmail in Chrome.
If you don’t already have Gmail added to your bookmarks in Chrome, now’s a good time to do it. While accessing your email, just click on the star-shaped icon on the right side of the URL bar (and come up with a custom name for your bookmark, if you feel the need). That way, when the time comes to access Gmail Offline, you can do it with a single click.
5. Sync all your accounts.
Gmail Offline only works for the account you used when you set it up initially. If you coordinate multiple Gmail accounts through a single interface, your other emails won’t sync automatically. Fortunately, you can correct this by enabling Gmail Offline for each of your individual accounts.
6. Download your attachments.
When accessing Gmail Offline, you can’t preview attachments the way you ordinarily would. Instead, you’ll need to download them individually. When you enable offline mail for the first time, the “Download attachments” option will be checked by default. I recommend you keep this checked, but if you find yourself rarely needing attachments, you can uncheck it to save space.
7. Clean up your storage.
You’ll need space on your computer to store offline mail, but it isn’t stored like a typical file; instead, it’s stored via the Chrome browser, and is encrypted. That means even if you have lots of extra space on your computer overall, you might run into offline storage issues if Chrome doesn’t have enough breathing room. You can handle this problem in a couple of different ways. If Chrome is already consuming much of the space allotted to it (which is unusual, but possible), you can clear some of your cookies to free up room. If your email is taking up too much space, you can store a smaller number of emails, or clear out some of your unwanted attachments.
8. Check your cookie settings.
Gmail Offline depends on your cookie settings; if you aren’t relying on cookies, you may get an “insufficient storage” error, or otherwise be unable to access your mail. That means if you’re using an incognito tab or a Chrome Guest profile, you’ll automatically exclude yourself from Gmail Offline’s functionality. You should also take the time to ensure your cookie settings are accurate—that way, Gmail Offline will be available when you really need it. Head to Settings in Google Chrome, then click Advanced. From there, head to the Privacy and security section, and click Content Settings, then Cookies. Here, you’ll want to make sure “mail.google.com” and/or “*.google.com” aren’t listed as “Clear on exit.”
9. Know how to delete your offline emails.
If you need to switch devices, or if you no longer have a need for Gmail Offline, you should know how to delete those offline emails. Fortunately, this is easy; all you have to do is disable Gmail Offline, in the same area where you enabled it. Log out, close your browser, and restart everything, and you should be good—but you can always clear the cookies of your browser for good measure.
10. Spread the word!
Finally, let your coworkers and friends know about this oft-overlooked feature of Gmail. You might end up bailing someone out of a serious jam!
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