Gmail users who wanted to access emails offline had two options up until now. They could use a third-party client like Thunderbird for that to gain offline access, or use a browser extension for the Chrome web browser which added offline capabilities to Google's mail service.

Offline access to your emails gave you access to them regardless of the state of the Internet connection. While offline access is certainly not something that all Gmail users need, some might want to have access to some or even emails all the time.

Google launched a redesign of the web version of Gmail in April 2018; while mostly cosmetic, the company did add some new features to Gmail such as confidential mode, and other new features such as direct access to attachments in mail listings.

Gmail offline use

One of the new features of the redesigned Gmail is that Gmail users may configure offline access directly on Gmail; a browser extension is no longer required for that.

The main requirement is that users need to run a recent version of Google Chrome as offline mail is not available for other browsers. I did not try and fake the user agent to see if that unlocks offline access in Chromium-based browsers such as Vivaldi or Opera, or even in Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Here is how you enable offline mail

  1. Open the Gmail website.
  2. Click on the cogwheel icon and select Settings.
  3. Select offline from the available options on the Settings page.
  4. Tip: you can open directly as well to open the offline page of the settings right away.
  5. Check the "enable offline mail" preference to unlock offline mail access.

Gmail lists all available preferences after you enable offline mail. It highlights how much storage space mails use on the device you use and lists the following configuration options:

  • Change the storage period from 30 days to 7 or 90 days.
  • Decide whether you want attachments to be downloaded as well so that they are accessible offline.
  • Select the "after logging out" setting to decide whether to keep offline data on the computer or have it removed automatically.

The actual process that determines which emails become available offline is out of the user's control. Gmail does not get new options after enabling offline email that let you select emails, folders, or labels for offline access.

It seems that anything you look at gets added to the offline cache automatically, though.

Closing Words

A third-party email client is still the better option if you need offline access to Gmail emails as it is not time-limited. Gmail users who use the web interface exclusively and Google Chrome may find the new functionality useful, however.