Google to Gmail users: Here's how you turn on new offline working, Smart Compose

Google rolls out offline support in Gmail and its new Smart Compose feature that completes your sentences.

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As Google flagged in its big Gmail redesign announcement last month, the company has now rolled out offline support for Gmail on the web and its new Smart Compose email assistant.

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As the name suggests, Gmail offline allows you to read, respond to, and search Gmail messages even when you're offline.

The catch is that you need to be using Chrome 61 or newer, and also have enabled the new Gmail. If you're using classic Gmail you still need to install the Chrome Gmail offline extension.

Google has detailed how to set up offline Gmail in a new support page. In settings, users can check the 'Enable offline mail' and set it to sync email from the past seven, 30, or 90 days. There's also an option to download attachments.

Users can choose to keep offline data on the computer after logging out of their Google account. However, for security reasons, Google doesn't recommend doing this on shared computers.

The other option is to 'Remove offline data from my computer', which requires data to be resynchronized when the user logs back in. The drawback here is that may take a "few hours" to resync the mailbox, according to Google.

Emails sent when in offline mode are held in a new 'Outbox' folder and sent as soon as there's an internet connection.

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Smart Compose, announced at Google I/O last week, suggests complete sentences within the body of an email as it's being written. It will operate in the background, and when you see a suggested phrase appear that you like, you hit tab to add it to your draft.

The feature becomes available after enabling Experimental Access in Gmail Settings which can be accessed from the Settings gear icon.

Google's support page recommends enabling the new Gmail in Settings, going to General and checking the 'Writing suggestions on' option listed net to Smart Compose.

Google has posted a short disclaimer about "unintended bias" that may arise from its machine-learning predictions when completing sentences. Google has struggled to address this problem for auto-complete in Search when users type in, for example, "Jews are", "Islamists are", "blacks are", and so on.

"Smart Compose is not designed to provide answers and may not always predict factually correct information," it warns.

In a further note about machine learning, Google says it is researching how to improve its handling of unintended bias.

"As language understanding models use billions of common phrases and sentences to automatically learn about the world, they can also reflect human cognitive biases," says Google.

"Being aware of this is a good start, and the conversation around how to handle it is ongoing. Google is committed to making products that work well for everyone, and are actively researching unintended bias and mitigation strategies."

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