Using Gmail Offline in Google Chrome without an app

With its new Gmail redesign, Google has introduced a number of new features including Smart Compose, Confidential Mode and revamped Offline Mail feature. While Gmail already had an offline feature, it required an app to be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. The new Gmail offline feature works without a Chrome app, however it still requires Chrome to work. Go figure.

Enabling Gmail Offline

To use the offline mail, feature you must be using the new Gmail design. If you are a G Suite or free legacy Google Apps user, you would need to enable the new design as well as offline mail features from the Google admin dashboard. Once that’s out of the way, open up your Gmail (in Chrome), go to Settings and navigate to the Offline tab. Select Enable offline mail here and it will show you more configuration options.

Enable offline mail

You should be able to see how much space you have available on your computer for offline mail storage. You can also select how many emails you want to store. The option ranges from 7 days to 90 days. If you have enough storage, make sure to select Download attachments. Under Security, you can chose to keep your offline data on your computer if you sign out of your Google account. Select this option only if you already password protected accounts on your Windows PC or Mac. Otherwise, if you are on a shared computer, it is best to select Remove offline data from my computer.

Gmail offline mail settings

Once you select your options and click on Save Changes, you should see a sync icon. This shows the sync status. Depending on the number of days you selected and the amount of emails and number of attachments you have, it might take a while for the sync to complete.

Ready for offline Gmail icon

The benefit of the old Gmail Chrome Web App was that you could be just open the app, even if you were offline, and it would just work. This does not work with the new offline mode in the new Gmail. To use it, you must have Gmail already open in Chrome, before you go offline. So, the best use case scenario for this feature is during temporary Internet downtime, while you already had Gmail open and were logged in. If you think that this ‘new’ feature makes no sense, you are not the only one.

You’re better off using a desktop app like Spark, Outlook or AirMail, rather than relying on Gmail’s offline functionality as it does not serve its purpose very well. I guess web apps still have a long way to go before they can catch up with native apps.