Most of us can't live without email or web these days. But what happens if you're going somewhere that doesn't have an internet connection? Fear not, we've got some handy hints that will ensure that you can still read emails and surf, you just have to plan ahead.

The web has become a staple in our everyday lives. But what happens when you go somewhere that doesn't have an internet connection, such as a plane for example?

If you're about to hyperventilate at the thought of a few hours without email or web browsing, fear not. You can still partake in these online activities, you just need to be prepared ahead of time.

Email

You obviously can't send or receive email without an internet connection. But you can read messages you've already received and compose replies and new messages; those last two will simply wait patiently until you're online again.

Before you leave

If you use just one PC for email, and if you access all your accounts using POP, your incoming messages are automatically downloaded to your computer. If you set your email client to skip or partially retrieve large messages, you should change that before you go offline.

If you have one or more IMAP accounts, your email client is still likely to download local copies of your messages - but you should check a few settings to be sure. If you adjust your mail client's settings, your email will automatically sync your server-based mail folders with their local counterparts. Still, it doesn't hurt to check your email manually one last time just before leaving.

Google Gears for Gmail

If you use Google's Gmail and prefer to access your email using a web browser rather than a stand-alone email client, you can still get offline access to your saved mail and queue new messages to be sent later. You must first install Google Gears, which lets you work with Google apps offline.

Once you've downloaded Google Gears follow the instructions to install it. Then, log in to your Gmail account, click on the Settings link at the top of the page, and click on the Labs link. Look for the Offline option, select its Enable button, and then click on Save Changes. Now click on the Offline link at the top of the window. Click on Next to confirm you want to install offline access. If you want an optional shortcut, click on Yes.

Now wait while your mail synchs; this can take several minutes. Depending on the volume of mail you store, Gmail may download only a portion of it. When the synch is finished, you can safely go offline.

NEXT PAGE: Checking your email while on the road

  1. It's all in the preparation
  2. Checking your email while on the road
  3. Browsing the web without an internet connection

Most of us can't live without email or web these days. But what happens if you're going somewhere that doesn't have an internet connection? Fear not, we've got some handy hints that will ensure that you can still read emails and surf, you just have to plan ahead.

On the road

Your email client will automatically know that you're offline, allowing you to continue working with messages you've downloaded and queuing any outgoing messages for later delivery. Although it may slow down for a while trying (and failing) to connect to your mail servers. Other than that, you can work normally, including filing and moving email messages.

If you use Gmail's Offline feature, you can either double-click on the Desktop shortcut (if you created one) or simply enter 'http://mail.google.com/' in your browser's address field. You can browse any of the messages that Gmail stored locally, and any new messages you create will be sent when you connect to the internet again and load the Gmail page.

When you return

Once you've reconnected to the internet, your email client should automatically send any messages in your outbox, download new messages, and change the locations on the server of any messages that you've relocated locally. Everything should sync automatically within a few minutes; if you still have messages waiting to be sent after 10 minutes, quit the program and reopen it.

NEXT PAGE: Browsing the web without an internet connection

  1. It's all in the preparation
  2. Checking your email while on the road
  3. Browsing the web without an internet connection

Most of us can't live without email or web these days. But what happens if you're going somewhere that doesn't have an internet connection? Fear not, we've got some handy hints that will ensure that you can still read emails and surf, you just have to plan ahead.

Web browsing

If all you need is information from a finite selection of web pages, you can package up their content and take it with you to read, even when you lack internet access.

Before you leave

The trick to browsing the web offline is to save all the pages you might need, in an appropriate format, before you lose internet access.

Safari lets you save a web page - including graphics, style sheets, and other related files - in a 'web archive'. To save an archive in Safari, simply choose File and Save As. In the Format pop-up menu at the bottom of the Save dialog, make sure ‘Web Archive' is selected. Select a name and a location to save the archive, and click on Save. That's it.

Firefox can do much the same thing with the help of extensions. Once you install the free ScrapBook extension, you can save a page by choosing ScrapBook and then Capture Page. The free Breadcrumbs extension is even simpler: You merely browse to the pages you want to save; Breadcrumbs will save a copy of each one, which you can search for later.

If you'll need more than a few pages from a site but don't want to archive them individually, you must use more powerful tools. Numerous programs - including the free Getleft, SiteSucker, which requires a donation, and Web Devil, $35 (£25) - can crawl an entire web site and save it as a set of files on your hard disk. In SiteSucker, enter a URL to start from, and the programme traverses the links on that page to the level you set, downloading all the files to your disk.

These web crawlers can take a long time to do their work, so start early. And be sure to read the instructions so you can reasonably limit the depth and breadth of what gets downloaded. (Trying to download the entirety of, say the BBC website would take eons and fill up your hard disk.)

On the Road

If you've saved web archives in Safari, you can view them by double-clicking one of the archive files in the Finder. Safari opens it and displays something that looks and works just like the original (except for any server-based components such as database access).

The same goes for any of the web crawlers - simply open the top-level HTML file for a given site (usually called index.html) in your favorite browser, and then navigate the site as you normally would.

In Firefox, if you used the ScrapBook extension, view saved pages by choosing a page name from the ScrapBook menu. To search for a page saved using the Breadcrumbs extension, choose Breadcrumbs from the pop-up menu to the left of the search field in the Firefox toolbar and search for a word from any previously visited page.

  1. It's all in the preparation
  2. Checking your email while on the road
  3. Browsing the web without an internet connection