Gmail - Offline and Chat

These are a few of my favorite things (about Gmail) from Mary Fran

Over the past two weeks, we've introduced Gmail and told you about its best features. Here are a few other things about Gmail that I really like.

Offline Functionality

While I am normally hooked into the internet, there are times when I'm offline with my laptop. When that happens, I can still read, compose, search, label, and star my messages. Any e-mail I compose will wait in the Outbox until the next time I'm online when it will automatically be sent. You'll need Google Gears to enable this feature. Once you have Google Gears you'll be able to use Gmail offline. Just open a Firefox or Internet Explorer browser window and type into the URL bar, hit return, and you're good to go. Note: once you have Google Gears installed, you can also use Google Docs offline.

Google Chat and Video

Since my daughter is 3,000 miles away, I really like Gmail Chat and Video. If you have a Gmail account, Chat is built in. It easily connects you with anyone who has a Gmail account that you have e-mailed with or is in your Contacts. If their name is in the Chat list, their status is automatically indicated. If they aren't online, you can still click on their name and send an email from Chat. Inviting people to who are in your Contacts list to chat is easy, too. Just find their name in your Contacts and click on the Chat link. You aren't limited to people with Gmail, you can also sign into your AIM account from Gmail, and you can invite friends with MSN or Yahoo messenger to chat, but they'll need a gmail account to for you to chat with them in Gmail.

While texting is often fine, sometimes "a picture is worth a thousand words." For times like these, Gmail Voice and Video Chat is just what is needed. My daughter especially likes to visit with our dog, and we get to visit with her with the picture-in-picture feature. We also send each other urls, photos, and even video links in Chat, and now, you'll see a YouTube video preview right in the Chat window.

Chat History

If you look at your Gmail left-hand sidebar, you'll notice Chats (chat icon). Here is where you'll find a threaded conversation history of all the chats you've had. Like email messages, you can forward, star, label, or trash these messages. Google is, however, sensitive to the fact that you may not want a record kept of your Chats. By going "off the record ," your Gmail chat will not be stored in your account, or the account of your correspondent, assuming they are also using Gmail. Keep in mind that if you are talking to someone using another chat service, it may be possible that their service is keeping a record of your conversation.

There are "even more" features in Gmail. To learn more about them, and to find out how to request a set of Gmail stickers that can help you remember keyboard shortcuts, check out "What's New in Gmail."