Google has finally added Google Gears support to its Gmail Webmail service, allowing the service to be used offline. It’s still a Google Labs feature, meaning that it’s basically in perpetual beta, but still. Here it is.

So what can you do the next time you're bracing yourself for that long flight? Well, we've been cooking up a feature in Gmail Labs, our testing ground for Gmail features, that should help: offline Gmail. If you enable offline access, Gmail will load in your browser even when you don't have an Internet connection. You can read messages, star, label and archive them, compose new mail and more. Messages ready to be sent will wait in your Outbox until you're online again.

Remember, we're still working out kinks, which means you might see some issues that aren't completely ironed out. But this is a major step along the way. It's built on the Gears platform, which has already been used to offline-enable Google Docs, Google Reader, and a number of other third-party web applications.

So if you're feeling lucky, here's how to get started with offline Gmail:

  1. Sign in to Gmail and click 'Settings'.
  2. Click the 'Labs' tab and select 'Enable' next to 'Offline Gmail'.
  3. Click 'Save Changes.'
  4. In the upper righthand corner of your account, next to your username, there will be a new 'Offline' link. Click this link to start the offline synchronization process.

I don’t see this option yet, but I’ll keep looking.