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How to Quickly Start Using Gmail Offline (With Chrome)

This post is part of a series called Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Gmail Tips and Tricks.
How to Combine All Your Email Accounts Into One Gmail Account
How to Set Up a Gmail (Out of Office) Vacation Responder Email

Most of us get dozens of emails each day. For most of us, checking and responding to those emails means you have to be connected to the Internet.

Yet, the Internet isn't always available. Your connection might be down, or you might be traveling where a connection is unavailable. Ordinarily, no connection would mean no access to your Gmail messages.

But if you're working on a Chromebook or other Chrome-enabled device, you're in luck. You can use the Gmail Offline Chrome app to read and reply to messages even though you're not connected. You can even search through and archive or delete your messages while you're offline.

As soon as an Internet connection becomes available, the Gmail Offline app automatically syncs and updates your Gmail account to include the changes you made while you were not connected. The Gmail Offline app can help you turn what would normally be down time to productive time.

In this tutorial, I provide step-by-step instructions on how to set up and start using the Gmail Offline Chrome app. Learn how to access Gmail offline and work with your emails when you don't have an internet connection.

How to Use Gmail Offline (Quick Video)

The following screencast quickly explains how to do some of the tasks you can perform using the Gmail Offline app when you are not connected to the Internet. It's what you need for offline Gmail access. 

For more detailed information on how to use Gmail Offline, review the step-by-step instructions below. I'll also explain how to remove the Gmail Offline app if you decide it's not for you.

How to Access and Start to Use Gmail Offline

1. Download the Gmail Offline App

Your Internet must be connected to download the Gmail Offline app. Also, you must be using a Chrome browser on your computer or device.

Start by opening the Chrome browser. Access the Gmail Offline app in the Chrome web store. The following screen appears:

Gmail Offline Chrome App
Gmail Offline is available in the Chrome Store.

Click the Add to Chrome button in the upper right corner. A confirmation prompt appears. Click Add app. The app is added to your Chrome browser.  The Apps screen displays.

The Apps Screen
Click the Google Offline app icon to configure Google Offline.

Step 2. Enable Gmail Offline

Next, you need to enable your Gmail for offline mode. If the Apps screen is still open, click the Gmail Offline icon. You can also enable Gmail Offline through the main Gmail Offline link, https://mail.google.com/mail/mu/. Either way, you'll see the following screen.

Gmail Offline configuration screen
Click the toggle button next to Allow offline mail.

First, check the Gmail address in the lower left corner. It should match the account you are trying to enable Gmail Offline mode for. Next, click the toggle to the left of the Allow offline mail option. Finally, click the Continue button.

You should see your offline inbox. The Gmail Offline Chrome app will now synch with Gmail each time your device is reconnected to the Internet.

Step 3. Configure the Gmail Offline App

Click the Settings icon (it looks like a gear) in the upper right corner of the Gmail Offline Configuration screen. You'll see some setting options for the Gmail Offline app in the right pane.

Configure Gmail Offline in the right pane
Make sure that your email address is correct.

Use the right pane to set up some of your Gmail Offline app defaults. Start by determining how far back you want the Gmail Offline app to search for messages. The default is a week, but if you click the down arrow next to Download mail from past, you'll see other options.

Drop-down menu for Gmail Offline
Determine how far back you want the Gmail Offline app to look for messages.

Select the time period of your choice.

Next, you can set up a Vacation Responder message using Gmail Offline mode if you need to. A Vacation Responder message is an automatic reply to messages that are sent while you are unavailable. It is sometimes called an out-of-office message.

To activate this feature, slide the toggle button to the right. The Vacation Responder options display on the right of the screen.

Gmail Offline Vacation Responder options
Choose a Start and End date for your Vacation Responder message.

The default start date for your Vacation Responder message is today's date. Change it by clicking in the date field. A calendar appears.

Vacation Responder calendar
Choose a date from the calendar.

Select the date you want your Vacation Responder message to start from the calendar. Selecting an end date for your Vacation Responder message is optional, but you can do so by clicking in the box labeled End and using the calendar to select an end date.

Use the scroll bar to move down. You'll see an area where you can type a Vacation Responder message.

Vacation Responder Message
Type your Vacation Responder message.

Type the subject line and message.

Finally, you can elect to send the Vacation Responder message only to people in your Contacts list. This option is available because you may not want spammers or casual contacts to know you are on vacation. To make this choice, slide the toggle button to the right.

When you are satisfied with all your choices, click the Apply button in the upper right corner of the screen. You'll receive a confirmation that your preferences are saved.

To learn more about Vacation Responder Email messages, study this tutorial:

2. How to Use the Gmail Offline App

The messages in the Gmail Offline Chrome app are only as current as the last time you were connected to the Internet. Nevertheless, you can perform many Gmail tasks while you are offline. In this section, I'll show you how.

Step 1. How to Access Gmail Offline

Once you are offline, open your Chrome browser. Click on the Apps icon in the upper left corner to display the Apps screen.

Chrome Apps screen
Use the icon to access the Gmail Offline app when you are not connected to the Internet.

Click the Gmail Offline icon to access your Gmail inbox. The Gmail Offline inbox screen displays.

Gmail Offline inbox
Your Gmail Offline inbox is divided into two panes.

As you notice, the most recent Gmail messages appear on the left. On the right is a content pane for each message.

Even though you are offline, you can perform several tasks from this screen, including:

  • Browse messages
  • Reply to or forward a message
  • Search message
  • Archive messages
  • Delete message

As soon as your device or machine is reconnected with the Internet, your Gmail Offline account syncs with your Gmail account. Any changes you made while offline are applied and any messages you composed are sent.

Let's look at each offline action you can perform separately.

Step 2. Browse Gmail Messages Offline

You can easily scroll through your Gmail messages using the up and down arrows on your keyboard. The selected message is highlighted in blue. The contents of the selected message appears in the right panel.

Browsing through Gmail messages
Use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to browse through Gmail Offline messages.

When you see a message you'd like to read or respond to, click the message's subject line in the left pane. The content of the message in the right pane changes to the content of the message you just selected.

You can also browse through your message folders and tabs using the Gmail Offline app. Click the Folders icon in the upper left of your screen (it looks like three horizontal lines). All your Gmail folders and tabs display in the left pane.

Gmail folders and tabs
You can check messages in any of your Gmail folders and tabs while offline.

Click the name of a folder or tab to open it and see the messages inside.

Step 3. Reply to or Forward a Message

You can reply to a message and schedule it to be sent even though you are offline. The message is sent as soon as your device reconnects with the Internet.

To reply to or forward a message, click on the Reply icon (it looks like a curved arrow) on the right side of the right panel. The Reply and Forward buttons appear.

Gmail Offline app Reply and Forward buttons
Use the Gmail Offline Reply and Forward buttons to respond to messages.

From this screen, you have two choices. You can reply to the message. Or, you can forward it to someone else.

How to Reply to a Message 

To reply to a message in Gmail Offline mode, click the Reply button. The Reply dialog box opens.

Reply dialog box
Type your message in the Gmail Offline Reply dialog box.

Type your message into the Reply dialog box. To send the message, click the Send button in the upper left corner. You can also save your reply as a draft by clicking the Save button or discard your reply by clicking the Discard button.

For more details on how to compose a professional email, study the tutorial:

If you saved the reply as a draft, you'll see the word "Draft" in red letters next to your message.

If you sent a reply, you'll find it in your Outbox folder. To check your Outbox folder, click the Folders icon in the upper left of the Gmail Offline inbox screen.

How to Forward a Message

To forward the message to someone else in Gmail Offline, click the Forward button. The Forward dialog box opens. The original message you are forwarding appears below with a space above to type a short note to the new recipient.

Forwarding a message in Gmail Offline
You can forward a message in Gmail Offline.

Type the email address of the person you are forwarding the email to in the To field. If you like, type a brief note above the original message to explain why you are forwarding the email message. Then, use the appropriate button to send, save, or discard your forwarded message.

Note: Your message will not be sent or forwarded until you are connected to the Internet.

Step 5. Search Messages in Gmail Offline

You can also use the Gmail Offline Chrome app to search for a specific message by typing a word or phrase into the search field that appears above the messages in the left pane of the Gmail Offline inbox screen.

Gmail Offline search field
You can search through your messages using the Gmail Offline app.

After you type your search phrase, press the Enter key. A list of messages that meet your search criteria appear in the left pane.

Gmail Offline search results
The Gmail Offline app displays the results that match your search.

Step 6. Archive Messages in Gmail Offline App

You can also use the Gmail Offline app to schedule messages to be archived from your primary inbox to any tab or folder.

Click the checkboxes to the left of the messages you want to archive.  As you select each message, you'll notice a list of selected messages appears in the right pane of the screen.

Archiving messages in Gmail Offline App
Use the Gmail Offline app to schedule messages for archiving.

Note: Your action syncs with Gmail once you are connected to the Internet.

Step 7. Delete Messages

The process for deleting a message in the Gmail Offline app is almost the same as the process for archiving a message. Select the messages you want to delete from the right pane. When your messages are selected, click the Delete button at the top of the right pane to schedule the selected messages to be deleted.

Note: Your action syncs with Gmail once you are connected to the Internet.

3. Remove the Gmail Offline App

There are two steps to removing the Gmail Offline app. First, you must clear your cookies from the Chrome browser. Second, you must remove the app.

Let's examine each step in more detail:

Step 1. Clear Cookies.

Type Chrome://settings/cookies into your browser. The Cookies and Site Data screen appears.

Cookies and Site Data screen
Click the Remove all option.

Click the Remove all button. Then click Done.

Step 2. Remove the Gmail Offline App

Click the Apps icon in the upper left corner of the browser window. The Apps screen appears. Right-click on the Gmail Offline icon. You'll see a drop-down menu.

Gmail Offline Apps screen drop-down menu
Right-click on the Gmail Offline icon.

From the drop-down menu, click the Remove from Chrome... App info option. A prompt appears asking you to confirm the removal. Click the Remove button.

You'll notice that the Gmail Offline icon no longer appears on the Apps screen. The Gmail Offline Chrome app has been removed from your system. You will have to reinstall the app if you'd like to use Gmail Offline.

Recap: Access to Gmail Offline is Useful

If you're like most of us, you probably spend a considerable amount of time checking and processing email messages. Normally, handling email messages requires an Internet connection.

With the Gmail Offline app and Chrome, you don't have to wait for an Internet connection to deal with your messages. You can read and respond to your messages even if no Internet connection is available. You can even delete and archive messages while offline.

As soon your Internet connection is re-established, the actions you made using the Gmail Offline app are synced to your Gmail account.

If you travel a lot, or if your Internet connection is sometimes unavailable, the Gmail Offline app can save you a lot of time by allowing you to process your email messages even when the Internet is not available.

More Helpful Gmail Tutorials

This is just one useful tutorial in a series of Envato Tuts+ Gmail tutorial guides: 

Using Gmail with offline access is just one helpful productivity workflow. Stack a few tips and tricks together and you'll save quite a bit of time with how you approach email management everyday.

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