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When Google launched Gmail's IMAP capabilities last year, it thrust the ubiquitous Web-based mail service into the limelight as a true contender for enterprise use. Even though it's tightly integrated with Google Apps, a powerful suite of business tools, many people still shunned Gmail citing about a lack of offline accessibility. Gmail users, rejoice. Now there's Offline Gmail.

Launched this week, Offline Gmail lets users access and manage email without an Internet connection. Simply download Google Gears and allow it to run in the background. As long as you're connected to the Internet, it will continuously synchronize your email with Gmail's servers so when you go offline, your email will still be available.

"You can read messages, star and label them, and do all of the things you're used to doing while reading your webmail online. Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection. And if you're on an unreliable or slow connection (like when you're "borrowing" your neighbor's wireless), you can choose to use "flaky connection mode," which is somewhere in between: it uses the local cache as if you were disconnected, but still synchronizes your mail with the server in the background," says Gmail engineer Andy Palay on Google's Official Gmail Blog.

Between IMAP and Offline Gmail, and the dozens of other handy tools Gmail offers, there's virtually no reason companies can't use this Web-based app to manage everything from corporate to individual employee email.

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