Earlier today Google unveiled Offline Gmail, sealing the chasm between webmail and standalone desktop email clients.Web-based email clients such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail traditionally require a constant internet connection to function, but Offline Gmail manages your email regardless of connectivity, only needing a connection to synchronise with Google's servers.
Operating inside a web-browser, Offline Gmail looks, feels and for the most part is identical to its online counterpart. Using Google's open source Google Gears browser extension to do the hard work, Offline Gmail is the same product as its online counterpart, just able to run entirely on your computer if required.
As well as functioning entirely offline, Gmail also offers a 'flaky internet mode' for situations where disconnections are frequent. This would be particularly on the train with mobile internet or - to quote - when "borrowing your neighbor's wireless".
In flaky mode Gmail runs locally in your web browser but is constantly synchronising with Google's servers, giving you live access to your mail whilst preventing interruption.
In Google tradition, Offline Gmail is still branded as a beta. It's only accessible if you have enabled Labs for your account, and at this early stage there is a chance that it mightn't work as expected.
Offline Gmail will run on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 1.5, Internet Explorer 6, Safari 3.1.1, Windows Mobile 5 and all more recent versions of the above.
Offline Gmail is currently being rolled out to all UK and US English users (which will cover most Australians) and will appear over the next couple of days. More information can be found in the Official Gmail Blog.