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(Cross-posted on the Google Enterprise Blog)

The great thing about web apps is that you can access all of your information on the go, and we’ve introduced ways to use Google Apps on a variety of devices like mobile phones and tablets. But it’s inevitable that you’ll occasionally find yourself in situations when you don’t have an Internet connection, like planes, trains and carpools. When we announced Chromebooks at Google I/O 2011, we talked about bringing offline access to our web apps, and now we’re taking our first steps in that direction. Gmail offline will be available today, and offline for Google Calendar and Google Docs will be rolling out over the next week, starting today.

Gmail Offline is a Chrome Web Store app that’s intended for situations when you need to read, respond to, organize and archive email without an internet connection. This HTML5-powered app is based on the Gmail web app for tablets, which was built to function with or without web access. After you install the Gmail Offline app from the Chrome Web Store, you can continue using Gmail when you lose your connection by clicking the Gmail Offline icon on Chrome’s “new tab” page.


Google Calendar and Google Docs let you seamlessly transition between on- and offline modes. When you’re offline in Google Calendar, you can view events from your calendars and RSVP to appointments. With Google Docs you can view documents and spreadsheets when you don’t have a connection. Offline editing isn’t ready yet, but we know it’s important to many of you, and we’re working hard to make it a reality. To get started using Google Calendar or Google Docs offline, just click the gear icon at the top right corner of the web app and select the option for offline access.

IT administrators can deploy Chrome Web Store apps to users en masse by setting up organizational policies for Chrome.

Today’s world doesn’t slow down when you’re offline and it’s a great feeling to be productive from anywhere, on any device, at any time. We’re pushing the boundaries of modern browsers to make this possible, and while we hope that many users will already find today’s offline functionality useful, this is only the beginning. Support for offline document editing and customizing the amount of email to be synchronized will be coming in the future. We also look forward to making offline access more widely available when other browsers support advanced functionality (like background pages).

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We understand that it’s not always easy or affordable for our troops serving overseas to call friends and family at home, so starting today we’re making it completely free for all uniformed military personnel with valid United States Military (.mil) email addresses to call the United States, right from Gmail.

There are two easy steps to enable free calling from Gmail (detailed instructions):
  1. Add your valid .mil email address to your Google Account
  2. Click on the Call phone link at the top of the Gmail chat roster and install the voice and video Gmail plugin if you haven’t already.

And don’t forget that for friends and family at home in the U.S., calling troops abroad is as little as $.02/minute.

Similar to free calling within the U.S., free calling to the U.S. for service members will be available for at least the rest of 2011.

We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices U.S. troops make when they serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for them to stay connected and hear a familiar voice.

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In this month’s Faces of Gmail we’ll introduce you to Brandon Long, a parent, ice-hockey player and science fiction fan who makes sure your emails get sent and received.

What do you do on the Gmail team?
I’m the Tech Lead Manager of the Gmail delivery team. Our team is responsible for sending and receiving email for Gmail and many other Google projects. We’re also responsible for the IMAP & POP support for Gmail, which is the most popular way to access Gmail on mobile devices.



What did you do before joining Google?
I founded Neotonic Software which wrote a web application for email customer support. Before that, I worked at eGroups, which was acquired by Yahoo! and is now Yahoo!Groups.

What’s your typical day like?
My typical day involves catching up on email from our teams in other timezones (Google Engineering never sleeps). I also stay on top of escalations from our support team, keep abreast of the running service with our SREs (Site Reliability Engineers), and make sure my team doesn’t have any blockages. Finally, I still manage to keep my hands in the codebase, working as part of the team. When I have some extra time, I take a peek in the Gmail help forum to see if there’s anything brewing or any help I can offer.

What do you like most about what you do?
Scale and ubiquity. Everyone knows about Gmail, many people I know use it. The volume of messages we deal with on a daily basis is pretty staggering, and it’s pretty complicated to keep the whole thing working and continuing to scale.

What are the three Gmail features you wouldn’t be able to live without?
SMTP, IMAP, and keyboard shortcuts. I get thousands of messages a day to my work account, and keyboard shortcuts make all of the difference in handling the volume.



What’s your favorite lab?
Green Robot. I’m an Android fan, and I like to see which of my friends are fans as well.

What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I’m a father of two young children, and I play ice hockey in the local beer league.

Any favorite TV shows?
Burn Notice, The Daily Show, Top Chef, Top Gear

What’s on your reading list?
Switching to the Kindle for reading has allowed me to subscribe to magazines I gave up reading a long time ago. For example, after 15 years I’m back to reading Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. I find it very convenient to read the short stories during my commute.

What would your last meal be?
Does one go with comfort food or with amazing? For comfort, nothing beats Chicago-style Pizza. In SF, that means Patxi’s. In Chicago, that means Lou Malnati’s or Gino’s East. For amazing, I’m not a foodie myself, but I have enough foodie friends to have been introduced to some meals both amazing and ridiculous. And besides, if it’s going to be my last meal, why not a 25 course gastronomic event taking six hours or more? The last place we tried was e by José Andrés, and it was fabulous.

Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team

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Stars are handy for marking important messages, but how do you mark really important messages? That’s where Gmail’s additional stars options can come in handy.

I like to use purple stars to mark important messages from my family, red exclamation points for messages that need my immediate attention, and a green check mark for messages that I’ve already taken care of but want to keep track of (ok, so we’re using the word “star” loosely here). This way your inbox can become like a to-do list.


Now that Superstars has graduated from Gmail Labs, it easy to incorporate these different stars into your workflow. Go to the General tab in Settings, then scroll down to the “Stars” section:


Here you can select which stars you want to use, and in which order you want to them to cycle through when you click the star icon in your inbox. Simply click and drag the stars to the appropriate spot in the lists.

If you want to have all your starred messages show up at the top of your inbox so you see them right away, try out the Starred first inbox style.

You can also find messages with specific stars by using the following queries in your search box:

has:yellow-star
has:red-star
has:orange-star
has:green-star
has:blue-star
has:purple-star
has:red-bang
has:orange-guillemet
has:yellow-bang
has:green-check
has:blue-info
has:purple-question

Want more tips? Make sure to follow Gmail on Twitter to see our weekly #tuesdaytip, or follow our community manager Sarah Price on Google+.

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When I check my email, I often rely on the message snippets to figure out which messages to open first. Sometimes, though, I want to see more than snippets, which is why I’m happy to announce that you can now preview messages in your inbox using a new feature in Gmail Labs called Preview Pane. It’s probably a very familiar layout to those of you who have used Gmail on a tablet device. We also think it’s going to work especially well if you have a larger resolution screen.


Click the image above to see a larger version.

After you enable Preview Pane from the Labs tab in Gmail Settings you’ll see a toggle button in the top right corner of your message list, which lets you switch between preview and list views.


For those of you who have more vertical space you can also move the preview pane below your message list. You can enable this using the dropdown arrow next to the toggle button:


By default there is a 3-second delay in marking a conversation as read after previewing it. If that doesn’t feel natural to you, you can change the timing in the General tab of settings:


If you’d like to remove the new layout, simply return to Gmail Settings and disable the lab. Finally, don’t forget to let us know what you think about the latest addition to Gmail Labs.

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On the mobile team, we strive to produce web apps which look and feel just like installed apps. In the past few weeks, we’ve released a number of features which make Gmail for mobile look sharper and feel smoother.

Pull down to refresh
You can now pull down to refresh your message list and conversation on all iOS and Playbook devices. To refresh, simply touch the message list, drag downwards and release.


High resolution icons
For those of you using Gmail for mobile on an iPhone 4 Retina display, the icons and graphics are now at a higher resolution, making Gmail for mobile sharper.


Transitions
When you tap on a conversation, tap back to the inbox, go to the menu or go back, the view will slide left or right. This new transition animation is a quick, small indication that makes the view change feel smoother.

Curious web designers often ask us how we implement certain features. In this case, we used a combination of up to eight different CSS3 transitions and Javascript to get things to look just right.

As always, go to mail.google.com on your mobile browser to check out the latest updates to Gmail for mobile.

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We’re always trying to make it easier for people to connect—whether that means sending an email, chatting or video chatting, you can reach the people you care about from right inside Gmail. Last year, we made it possible for those of you in the U.S. to call any mobile phone or landline directly from Gmail and starting today, we are making this available to many more of you who use Gmail outside the U.S. by offering calling in 38 new languages.



You can now buy calling credit in your choice of four currencies (Euros, British pounds, Canadian dollars or U.S. dollars) and there are no connection fees, so you only pay for the time you talk.

To help reduce the cost of staying connected, we’re also lowering our calling rates to over 150 destinations around the world. For example, it’s now only $0.10 (or €0.08) per minute to call mobile phones in the U.K., France or Germany (landlines are $0.02/min), $0.15/minute to call mobile phones in Mexico and $0.02/min to call any phone number in China and India. The complete list is available on our rates page.

We’re rolling out this feature over the next few days, so if it’s available in your country you’ll see a little green phone icon show up at the top of your chat list and you’ll be ready to make calls (you’ll need to install the voice and video plug-in if you haven’t already). If you're a Google Apps user, your domain administrator must have Google Voice and Google Checkout enabled in the administrator control panel in order to be able to use this feature.


Calls to the U.S. or Canada placed within those countries will continue to be free at least for the rest of 2011. Calls to the U.S. or Canada placed from outside these countries will be charged $0.01 per minute (or €0.01, £0.01, C$0.01 per minute).