Google is launching a new Gmail web app and updates to Calendar and Docs, in an effort to increase its products’ offline utility.
Google users have called bringing Gmail, Calendar and Docs offline an essential step for improving productivity. The problem is that when users need offline access to their email or calendar, they really need it.
To that end, Google is launching a new Chrome app called Gmail Offline. Separate from Gmail itself, the new app is designed for accessing, managing and sending email while you’re disconnected from the web. “We can build on top of a lot of HTML5 standards, which gives us the capabilities to make it work offline,” (source) said.
The HTML5 app looks and feels a lot like the Gmail app for tablets. That’s because Gmail Offline is based on the tablet version, which was designed to function with or without Internet access. It focuses on the key features users need to access while offline, including organizing, starring, labeling, archiving and responding to email. It won’t give you access to Gmail Labs features, but it will get the job done.
In addition to the Gmail Offline app, Google is rolling out the ability to access Calendar and Docs offline. The feature, available by clicking the gear icon at the top of the page, lets you view events and RSVP to appointments in Calendar and view documents in Docs. Offline document editing isn’t available yet, but Google promises to find a way to make it work. Part of the problem is finding a way to make sure document edits made offline don’t override edits made by online collaborators.
The apps are only available through the Chrome Web Store at the moment. If you try to use the Calendar or Docs offline features, you will be prompted to first install Chrome. Google says that it intends to roll out its offline apps to other browsers once they support the functionality.