Zoho Takes Zoho Mail Offline with Google Gears
Zoho has taken an offline version of its Zoho Mail
application out of beta, using Google Gears to do it before Google used the browser technology on its own popular Gmail
Offline is table stakes for a Web app because we're not always going to have an Internet connection, wireless or landline, available. Think about all those business trips on planes where you couldn't access your Zoho Mail data. No longer.
This is not the first time Zoho has beaten Google to the offline punch. Zoho used Gears to make its Zoho Writer word processing application run offline last November.
To use Zoho Mail in offline mode, first you need Google Gears, which you can download from Google to run on Internet Explorer and Firefox. You'll click on the "Setup Offline" link on the top in Zoho Mail to permit offline access.
Zoho Mail improves the offline user experience from Zoho Writer, as Zoho officials said Zoho Mail will automatically detect when a user is offline. With Writer, users had to manually click a button to tell the software they needed to work offline.
"In many cases, you don't plan going offline," said Zoho Evangelist Raju Vegnesa in a video shot with Google officials. "You just have something get disconnected. As long as you have your tab open, it will basically take care of synchronizing the back end."
Offline access for Zoho Mail isn't without some restrictions, as Vegnesa said the app will support 5,000 e-mails in offline mode. You can view mail and attachments offline, but not your spam folder (ha). You can compose an e-mail and send it, and it sits in your outbox and will be sent once you get back online.
Metadata, including e-mail content, is supported in the Gears relational database, though files and attachments are stored in Zoho's file system.
For the most part, Zoho's productivity and collaboration apps parrot Google Apps, but when it comes to offline access, Zoho has proven to be more nimble and quicker on the draw.
Why does Zoho keep porting its productivity apps offline before Google? I have no real idea. Google's position is that the company is working on it and that Google will have it when it has it. I'll check with Google today to see if Zoho's move will nudge Google to get Gmail offline.
In the case of e-mail apps, perhaps it takes longer because Google has so many more users of Gmail (I've heard over 40 million) compared with Zoho Mail, which is comparatively new and lacks the audience.
I do know that when Zoho took Writer offline with Gears, Google took its sweet time doing the same for its Google Docs app, which began working offline via Gears last March. A couple weeks later, Google offered Docs spreadsheets and presentations offline.