Google opens Gmail to offline access

Gmail is headed offline. Well, sort of.It's actually a cached version of Gmail that Google is talking about today.

Gmail is headed offline. Well, sort of.

It's actually a cached version of Gmail that Google is talking about today. That version is what appears when you point your non-connected browser to Gmail. From there, you can read, label, archive, forward or reply to messages without an Internet connection. Of course, you're not really doing those things. You're just putting the wheels in motion so Gmail can send those replies and apply those labels the second you get your connection back.

The move by Google narrows the gap between Web-based mail programs and client-based applications such as Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail. Before offline Gmail - powered by Google Gears - users would have simply encountered an error message advising users to check their web connections.

Sounds great, right? I can already see Gmail users being more productive on flights. Sure - but Google is quick to remind users that this feature is still part of Google Labs, which means it's still being worked on. Don't be surprised if you encounter hiccups, bugs or outages. In its official blog post, the Gmail team warns that "offline Gmail is still an early experimental feature, so don't be surprised if you run into some kinks that haven't been completely ironed out yet."

The service will roll out to users in the U.S. and U.K. in the next couple of days. For instructions on how to access it or to see a video about the service, check out the blog post.