Gmail Offline Chrome Web App Gets Settings, Shortcuts

Google spruced up its offline Gmail Chrome application Jan. 12, adding a settings page and shortcut support, and making the app snappier overall.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) enhanced its capabilities for its offline Gmail Web application for Chrome, adding a settings page, better attachments functionality, keyboard shortcut support and other perks.

Support for offline email is a big deal for users who need to read, respond to, organize and archive email without a Web connection. This includes some trains and planes that lack wireless networks.

The search engine provider unveiled its new offline Gmail in August, a conversion from offline messaging enabled by Google Gears to an HTLM5 approach the company is going with for its Web applications. Google built similar functionality for its Calendar and Docs apps.

The new settings page in the Gmail Chrome app will let users choose whether they want to synchronize seven, 14 or a whole month's worth of messages. "So the next time you get on an airplane, you can sit back and tackle up to 31 days of mail all while offline,"explained the Gmail team in a blog post Jan. 12.

Other new features in the offline Gmail app include support for keyboard shortcuts. Users who have shortcuts turned on in their online Gmail will automatically apply to the Gmail offline app. Also, all attachments are now downloaded and available for offline use.

Finally, the Gmail offline app is snappier, according to Google. Basically, messages and attachments download more quickly than before. Google also squashed some bugs in the app.

Users may install the Gmail offline app from the Chrome Web Store here. Current users of the app will see the improvements the next time they fire up the app.

Google's idea is that the HTML5 approach is more efficient for its Chrome Web Store, which provides apps for Chromebooks. These are notebooks based on Google's Chrome Operating System. Chromebooks haven't exactly flown off the shelves and into consumers' homes, but partners such as Samsung haven't given up.

The consumer electronics maker showed off a new, metallic Chromebook and the Chromebox, a desktop PC it envisions for more business-oriented users, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.