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Offline Gmail Launched 220

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the can't-believe-it-took-this-long dept.
javipas writes "Google developers have announced a new feature part of Gmail Labs that everybody was waiting to see realized. Offline Gmail will allow users to have a partial copy of its Gmail account on their PCs, and access their messages while being offline. The magic of Google Gears comes to the rescue, but the process will not be complete. The syncronization will update the online and offline copies, but Google will use an algorithm that will determine the messages downloaded on each sync (the first being the most important) based on several parameters that point out that message's relevance. This measure will save the process from downloading pieces of information not quite as valuable. US and UK English users can enjoy this feature through the Gmail Labs section."
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Offline Gmail Launched

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  • IMAP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krneki (1192201) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:50AM (#26637811)

    Isn't this feature already available on Gmail through IMAP?

    • Re:IMAP (Score:4, Informative)

      by Siffy (929793) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:59AM (#26637915) Homepage
      IMAP and POP3 both. It even worked on my last phone, to the extent of the phone's capabilities of holding 100 e-mails.
      • Re:IMAP (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 2.7182 (819680) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:02AM (#26637971)
        I use pop, but I don't remove my mail on gmail. So I have two copies - one on my laptop. If I don't have my laptop, I can check my mail at the website. What is the advantage of this new system ?
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          I don't get it. Other then dial up users how many people are ever really "Offline"? With internet access so easily accessible this seem like a bit of a waste.
          • Re:IMAP (Score:4, Informative)

            by mrvan (973822) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:24AM (#26638227)

            laptop + public transport

            ie doing something about your email backlog while on the plane or in a train (for the Americans :-) [wikipedia.org])

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Tubal-Cain (1289912) *
              Looks like a lousy spinoff of something we have here called a "subway". Except ours goes underground.
          • Re:IMAP (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:30AM (#26638345) Journal
            At home, sure, "Offline" is an increasingly alien state. Out and about, though, there are still loads of places where finding a connection just so you can use your webmail for 50 seconds to load your eticket email, itinerary, or whatever is a giant pain in the ass.

            Many airports, less civilized coffee shops, cabs, many train stations, and other such locations all tend to have no wifi or pay wifi; but are also locations where access to stored email would be handy.
            • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

              by Czernobog (588687)
              Less civilized? Last thing I want to be doing at a cafe instead of relaxing is to be looking at a laptop/pda screen while listening to the tapping of keys by some tech junkie who won't take the risk of doing something else in his life for the fear of missing a slashdot/fark post or the latest trivial e-mail from some braindead colleague.
          • Re:IMAP (Score:4, Funny)

            by larpon (974081) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:06PM (#26642557)
            just go to:
            http://offline.gmail.com/ [gmail.com]
        • Re:IMAP (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:24AM (#26638229) Journal
          If you have ever had to walk a n00b, who thinks that webmail is email, through setting up POP3, then you would know the answer to that question.

          This isn't about replacing POP3 or IMAP, those are unquestionably superior, this is about expanding the subset of POP3 or IMAP features that can be accessed by people whose technical knowledge doesn't extend far enough to set those up.
          • by aliquis (678370)

            ... aka the clueless morons which will be polite and forward the warning that MSN will close down unless they mail 14 of their friends the same warning.

          • the subset of POP3 or IMAP features that can be accessed by people whose technical knowledge doesn't extend far enough to set those up.

            You mean people that haven't managed to follow a 5 step guide whose most difficult part is copy/paste, are using google gears & email? Scary times we live in!

            • You mean people that haven't managed to follow a 5 step guide whose most difficult part is copy/paste, are using google gears & email?

              I'm sure the millions of people you have over-generalized and berated for the sake of your own ego have plenty of skills that, in their mind are completely trivial yet may be entirely foreign to you.

              By the way, how's the view up there on your high horse?

          • by D Ninja (825055)

            If you have ever had to walk a n00b, who thinks that webmail is email, through setting up POP3, then you would know the answer to that question.

            Last time I checked, webmail is e-mail. Yeah, it may not be as fancy as IMAP, but it's definitely allowing said n00b to access his or her e-mail.

            I am curious why IMAP is "unquestionably superior" compared to webmail. If we're talking about offline access...alright. You're right there. Any other reasons I don't know about?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              You have control over the way the application presents the email, can set up filters, can do your own spam filtering, and can access multiple accounts at once. At least, those are the reasons why *I* started using IMAP instead of actually going to their website.
          • Re:IMAP (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:31AM (#26639187)

            But why is POP3, IMAP and SMTP setup so convoluted in all clients? It should be enough to enter your email address and password. The client should be smart enough to deduce the server addresses from the domain (database, or check popular subdomains like mail.example.com and pop.example.com) and/or sniff for available protocols and encryption, or set up web2pop for webmail-only providers. Users could still enter everything manually if those heuristics aren't successful.

            I know why Google does what it does, but that doesn't mean I like it. They should offer a smart client on top of open protocols, not instead.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by FrostDust (1009075)

              Last time I set up IMAP for Gmail in Opera, it automatically filled in the needed info (server, ports, authentication settings, and all that). It's here, I guess it depends on the email client.

            • But why is POP3, IMAP and SMTP setup so convoluted in all clients?

              Most likely because the people who program the clients don't see the issue and thus think it is a waste of their time to make it easier. Aside from that, everyone need to agree on some sort of standard mode of operation for this, making it even worse.

              But if they wanted, they could make it real easy. Take the domain of the email-address, do an MX-lookup, do some SRV-lookups and your email-clients knows everything it needs. Provided your email-provider uses DNS-SRV records, otherwise, the email-client needs t

            • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @02:58PM (#26642433)

              Even if it were easy to set up clients, I simply do not want a client. I use several computers, and I would have to configure each client to my liking: plug-ins, rules, highlighting, address book, etc.

              I just want web-based E-mail, but I also want it off-line. The GMail/Gears combo gives me that. I'm probably not alone.

          • Re:IMAP (Score:4, Informative)

            by penguinstorm (575341) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @12:11PM (#26639795) Homepage

            Both Thunderbird and Apple's Mail auto configure for gmail accounts.

            • To be more specific: Apple Mail does this as of Leopard.

              I'm not sure which version of Thunderbird added the auto-configuration for gmail option, but it's been quite a while...

          • If you have ever had to walk a n00b, who thinks that webmail is email, through setting up POP3, then you would know the answer to that question.

            This isn't about replacing POP3 or IMAP, those are unquestionably superior, this is about expanding the subset of POP3 or IMAP features that can be accessed by people whose technical knowledge doesn't extend far enough to set those up.

            My job basically consists of supporting n00bs of all flavors. I routinely have to set up POP and IMAP email for them. Google has some very good documentation on their website that is tailored to several popular email clients. Or you can take control of their machine with something like LogMeIn or VNC. It isn't nearly as impossible as you seem to think.

            I understand the appeal of simply going to the same, familiar Gmail web interface that you normally would... But I really don't think it'll make things a

          • Re:IMAP (Score:4, Insightful)

            by gmplague (412185) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:25PM (#26643861) Homepage

            "Unquestionably superior" except for that whole "multiple user interfaces" thing and the "inferior indexing/search capabilities" thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Daengbo (523424)

          This system allows you to use the web interface without having to configure an e-mail client. The Google Gears plug-in already works in Docs and Reader in the background. This is one more step forward in making it acceptable for businesses.

          Oh, and before FUDders like Gartner analyst David Smith [cnet.com] start the talking point of "New features help make Gmail more compelling for business customers, but for many, a bigger problem is the fact that Gmail still sports its beta tag. " Google Apps (including Gmail) isn't [slashdot.org]

        • by afidel (530433)
          POP3 doesn't remove them from gmail even if you select to remove them, what it does appear to do is clear a flag so that they won't be downloaded again. I haven't looked at the raw packets but I have to assume less data is transferred if the flags are cleared so unless you are using POP3 from multiple machines it would probably be more efficient to let your client clear them.
      • by CrazyTalk (662055)
        I travel a lot, and for the most part there is still no internet in planes - from that point of view online access would be useful (I currently have about 13,000 messages in my Gmail inbox). But the other posters are right - I can download whatever emails I need via pop etc. so I'm not seeing any added benefit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      While this feature isn't for those well versed in POP3 and IMAP, people like my parents/grandparents would love something they could just download, didn't have to configure with "scary" pop3 info, and just worked. I won't use it, but I certainly see a portion of the population that would enjoy such it.
      • Re:IMAP (Score:5, Insightful)

        by I'm not really here (1304615) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:54AM (#26638631)
        I'm technically inclined enough to set up IMAP and POP3, but I intend to use this feature. Why? Because I like the Gmail interface. I already use Google Docs and Spreadsheets in offline mode, and love it (there are, of course, some rough edges, but MS Word wasn't initially without a number of rough edges either - some would say it still has rough edges).

        IMAP is great, but since I already have gears, why should I worry about setting up yet another application? I like the simplicity of Getting Things Done with just Google Apps in Firefox, and adding yet another interface just doesn't make sense.
        • Because I like the Gmail interface.

          That's a great point. What I really love about the g-mail interface it groups conversations into single threads and then color-codes the names of senders within the thread. I can fake something like this in Apple's Mail.app by using this hint [macosxhints.com] and then I have an Apple-script assigned to a hot-key that assigns a random color to the thread(see the comments, here [macosxhints.com]), but it's not quite the same though and I have to hit the hot key each time I want to change the thread's colo

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lrandall (686021)
      Only on Slashdot would this be moderated insightful. No, IMAP is *not* a replacement for what they are discussing. Although it technically might serve a similar purpose, in practice it suggests a completely different workflow. I, for one, only use Mail.app for business email accounts. I like the fact that my personal account is separate and available to me on any computer, anywhere, and I don't want an IMAP copy that I have to keep synchronised. 95% of the time that I need to use Gmail I am connected to th
    • by aliquis (678370)

      Yeah, I use it thru IMAP with OS X mail and it keeps a local copy.

  • by bafio (879076)
    This entirely misses the point! I have this reliably working with IMAP, and for a long time. The whole point of the mobile interface is that you can use it on any machine and keep synced. This solution just creates one more, very imperfect, email client.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DSmith1974 (987812)
      I guess the selling points include that the presentation and interface will be very similar, users won't have to learn about and setup an IMAP interface or a new e-mail client like Thunderbird (easy for some, but less so for others) and you can spend 0% effort on house-keeping without having your in-box balloon to giant proportions. You'd assume the algorithm's pretty good, so there's a high chance you'll get what you need during the time you're disconnected. Maybe it's not for everyone, but I can certain
    • by Daengbo (523424) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:31AM (#26638357) Homepage Journal

      This is not "a client." This is the normal web interface with some help in the background to keep everything sync'ed up and working when the connection goes down, cleaning up when it comes back up. Repeat. This is just the same old web client. Plus.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sturdy (1297351)
      I agree with you in principal, but think that your comment (and the MANY like it) actually miss the point of this new feature. This labs feature is NOT to replace POP or IMAP. It is for people who want to use the WEBMAIL interface even when they have no internet connection. The reasons for this could be many: perhaps they have no POP/IMAP client installed, do not know how to setup a local client, or simply prefer the Gmail interface. I don't know why - but I do know that we all know - and that the Goog
    • by tenco (773732)

      This solution just creates one more, very imperfect, email client.

      Zawinski's Law [catb.org]

    • Here's a thought: if you don't like it, DON'T USE IT.

      What is it with slashdot and cynical douche bags?
      • by PReDiToR (687141)
        I think it is termed "feedback" or something else as utterly corporate.

        In our minds we think that if we moan enough about the bad points, someone may listen and make changes to reduce the amount of whining.
        A completely side effect of this is that it often makes the company producing the whined about software more popular, and because of this their shares increase in value and their bosses get paid more. They can then invest more money into R&D to produce new products for us to moan about and lather,
        • Except there wasn't any constructive feedback, his post boiled down to "I see no benefit, personally, in this, therefore it is entirely unnecessary."

          My point is, no one is forcing you to use it.
  • by phyrz (669413) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:59AM (#26637911)

    The difference would be that the gmail interface is different to the thunderbird interface and I happen to like the gmail one better?

  • Wow... (Score:3, Funny)

    by msauve (701917) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:59AM (#26637925)
    You mean Google-eyed emailers will now be able to do something which POP3 MUAs have been doing for, what, 20+ years, and IMAP for 15? How innovative of them.
  • by Vandil X (636030)
    It's 2009. With smartphones, wireless broadband cards for laptops, and the wide availability of broadband Internet access, how often does someone use an email-capable computer that is not also connected to the Internet with one of the above connections?

    Offline Gmail will still have its uses, and many power uses will no doubt enjoy this, but I think this would have been real "front page news" back when dial-up was the ubiquitous connection method.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by .tom. (25103)
      A few possible reasons:
      • Wireless broadband is not cheap.
      • Wireless broadband is not available location
      • Wireless broadband is not that fast (or at least not always), fast enough for a dozen of emails, but possibly not fast enough if hundreds of emails with attachements.
    • With smartphones, wireless broadband cards for laptops, and the wide availability of broadband Internet access, how often does someone use an email-capable computer that is not also connected to the Internet with one of the above connections?

      When you're in an airplane? When you're visiting your parents, who still only have crappy dialup service? When you're visiting someone else's office, and you can't get into their wired network, the 3g network is too weak (or you don't have an air card, as I don't), and

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:10AM (#26638095)

    I'm a huge Gmail fan, but - I'll always want to keep a full backup of what I send and receive, and POP does that just fine for me & family.

    FTA: "Google ruled out the option of letting users replicate their entire Gmail inboxes to their PCs, which in many cases would translate into gigabytes of data flowing to people's hard drives. It instead developed algorithms that will automatically determine which messages should be downloaded to PCs, taking into consideration a variety of factors that reflect their level of importance to the user, he said. At this point, end-users will not be able to tweak these settings manually."

    So, urm, no thanks!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LihTox (754597)

      This algorithm is what intrigues me about this, because I DON'T want a full copy of my mailbox on my laptop. I've saved all sorts of crap there that I'd probably delete if I had the time to go through it, and while it doesn't bother me sitting on Google's servers, it would take up room on my antiquated hard drive. If this program can maintain a set of my most recent email, it sounds good to me.

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:16AM (#26638139)

    Google releases new tool to find text inside a document, offline, without having to resort to finding that document online and searching through it with google.

    Still surprised about the novelty of such a new development in computer science as a whole, tens of users are already planning to use it soon.

    Some reviews from the betatesters:
    "What?" - Billy.
    "Que?" - Juan.
    "300G for $1" - Chinese WoW farmer.

  • s/syncronization/synchronization/

    My various print dictionaries do not have any words with the prefix syncro- ,
    nor anything related starting with cron-. Think chronology, chronograph, etc.

  • I really love Yahoo Mail's calendar option. It scrolls below the text composing area with important world events and also includes the user's own input. To me, this is better than Gmail's calendar implementation.

    Is there a GreaseMonkey script to change this?

  • Interface. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:23AM (#26638219)

    Why offline GMail? The interface. I love the GMail interface and far prefer it to any mail client I've ever used. (I heard Eudora was going to do an upgrade on Thunderbird, and I'm looking forward to trying it because those were my previous favorites for interface and stability, respectively.)

    It sounds like I won't have access to -all- my mail, though, and that's not acceptable.

    Someone else pointed out that smartphones and nearly ubiquitous internet connections are making 'offline email' less and less of a problem, though. Since I finally bought a G1, I have to agree. The interface on it is good enough that I don't feel the need to walk to a computer to check my mail now.

  • Missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

    by Admodieus (918728) <{ten.kazcsim} {ta} {nhoj}> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:27AM (#26638273)
    While you can use Outlook or Mail.app or Thunderbird to access your GMail via POP3 or IMAP, that's not the point. After all, if you're only going to be using Outlook to get it, why not use Hotmail via the Outlook Connector that synchronizes your email, calendar, and contacts better than Gmail IMAP and Calendar Sync does?

    No, the important development here is that now, you don't need an email client. Ever. again. Install Gears, and you can access GMail even when you're on a train or a flight. Moreover, you can set it up as a launchable application from your desktop using Prism, install GMail Notifier, and have the Notifier use Prism as the default "browser" to launch for :mailto links.

    The reason most (if not all of us) switched to and stayed with GMail in the first place back in 2004 and 2005 was the interface. Sure, it gave you a ton of storage space compared to Hotmail and Yahoo, but they've since caught up. What Microsoft and Yahoo haven't matched since then is the interface. Show a user IMAP through Thunderbird and Gmail side-by-side and see what interface they prefer.

    Also, for businesses that have switched to Google Apps, this provides assurance that critical email correspondence can be accessed even during network or Gmail outages. That's a huge bullet point that Google can use when trying to convince people to adopt their Apps for Domain.
    • by AlXtreme (223728)

      The reason most (but not all of us) switched to and stayed with GMail in the first place back in 2004 and 2005 was the interface.

      There, fixed that for you.

      You might trust Google with your e-mail, but not everyone does.

    • by isorox (205688) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:04AM (#26638767) Homepage Journal

      No, the important development here is that now, you don't need an email client. Ever. again. Install Gears, and you can access GMail even when you're on a train or a flight. Moreover, you can set it up as a launchable application from your desktop using Prism, install GMail Notifier, and have the Notifier use Prism as the default "browser" to launch for :mailto links.

      So:
      Option 1) Install Thunderbird on every PC, set up connection to gmail

      Option 2) Install Gears, Prism, Gmail notifier and/or whatever, set up connection to gmail

    • No, the important development here is that now, you don't need an email client ... The reason most (if not all of us) switched to and stayed with GMail in the first place back in 2004 and 2005 was the interface ... Show a user IMAP through Thunderbird and Gmail side-by-side and see what interface they prefer.

      Sorry, to put it kindly, the above is no different from the advocacy and arguments put forward by WebTV and AOL users. They, too, are very happy with their setup.

      I've had a Gmail account for years, but

      • My gmail account is for some unknown reason a spam collection magnet. I get hundreds of spam messages daily. I find this interesting because I never use the damn account and yet there's all the spam. (No, it's not a dictionary name or my actual name for the address.) I used to attribute this phenomenon to hotmail but I guess gmail felt they needed to show me how good their spam filter is and look at all the spam it caught.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hacker (14635)

      "The reason most (if not all of us) switched to and stayed with GMail in the first place back in 2004 and 2005 was the interface. Sure, it gave you a ton of storage space compared to Hotmail and Yahoo, but they've since caught up. What Microsoft and Yahoo haven't matched since then is the interface. Show a user IMAP through Thunderbird and Gmail side-by-side and see what interface they prefer."

      I'm going to have to strongly disagree here. Gmail's interface is, hands-down, one of the clunkiest interfaces I'

    • by eples (239989)
      I just wanted to chime in with my $.02:

      Show a user IMAP through Thunderbird and Gmail side-by-side and see what interface they prefer.

      I use Thunderbird, and I prefer the interface because I have been using it for about 15 years now (Netscape mail originally).
      And I write software for a living, including designing UIs.


      So I'm curious and I genuinely would like to hear your opinion, what is so great about the GMail interface that I am potentially overlooking?

  • I have Offline gmail since long now, thanks to IMAP4 and the "disconnected IMAP" by KMail [kde.org].
  • Just looked in labs. No option for me. Must be rolling it out in waves or something.

    • by chill (34294)

      Nope, it is just you they aren't giving it to. There was a discussion about "that Danathar guy" and after 5 minutes it degenerated into a flame fest and was finally Godwined out. Sorry. Maybe next time.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:52AM (#26638603)

    The two arguments against this seem to be (1) people rarely are offline, and (2) IMAP and POP already do this.

    Well, if you put those two together, you know why this is a good thing: Gmail+Gears is good for people who are out of touch a few times a year (airplane etc.) and don't want the hassle of setting up a separate mail client and the bother of learning two different mail clients.

    And a hassle it is. Right now, I use Thunderbird for off-line access, and I use it so rarely that on the few occasions I start it up, things usually take forever to sync and nothing works quite right.

    • And a hassle it is. Right now, I use Thunderbird for off-line access, and I use it so rarely that on the few occasions I start it up, things usually take forever to sync and nothing works quite right.

      I think that's more a function of the fact that Thunderbird v2 is a horrid IMAP client. Yet it's still a major step above Outlook over IMAP.

      (I fight with Thunderbird on a weekly basis, using it as an IMAP client. It's near hopeless if a folder has more then a few thousand messages because Thunderbird con
      • by speedtux (1307149)

        Well, Thunderbird may be horrid, but others are even worse in my experience: Evolution, Outlook, etc.

  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:54AM (#26638635) Homepage

    I use GData APIs to backup my Google docs and about once a week use POP3 to locally backup my Gmail. I require/want data formats that are open and easy to process with Ruby scripts, etc. I export my Google docs in OpenOffice.org format (check!). POP3 mailbox data is easy to process (check!).

    How easy it is to access Gears local data? Is the file format well documented? (Why look it up when I can ask Slashdot :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MarkWatson (189759)

      Answer to my own question: Gears is just using embedded sqlite - should be easy to access local email, docs, google reader data, etc. in my own programs (check!)

      • SQLite really is the best thing to ever happen to local data storage. I only wish all app developers used it.

        I only discovered it myself relatively recently, when I needed to get some information out of Firefox. I thought it was probably a lost cause, but Firefox stores all of its information in a SQLite database, so it couldn't have been easier.

        Now I use it in every app I write, so if anyone ever needs to get low-level access to data in my applications, they won't have any trouble.

        • by koehn (575405) *

          I second the motion.

          QuickBooks Pro (at least the Mac version) uses SQLite as its file format, which makes getting direct access to accounting data really, really simple.

  • So the GOOG gives a wink-wink to network intrusion: ".....And if you're on an unreliable or slow connection (like when you're "borrowing" your neighbor's wireless), ....."
  • This measure will save the process from downloading pieces of information not quite valuable.

    That's all well and good, but who's going to save me from reading Slashdot summaries not quite grammatical?

  • Google also announced their *off*-offline mail. But first they have to find somebody to print the stamps.

  • Is that some kind of advanced troll? Unless there's an interface option I've missed, gmail is hardly cutting edge when it comes to web interfaces. If I want to read a message in a new window, I have to open it, then find the little icon, then click it. Why can't I just double-click on a message to open it in its own window? And why can't I collapse my folders? Sorry. Labels. Or stretch the folder...label window a bit so I can read the frickin' names? Or drag message into folders? Where's the contex

    • by speedtux (1307149)

      Unless there's an interface option I've missed, gmail is hardly cutting edge when it comes to web interfaces.

      It's not cutting edge, but people still prefer it. Makes your head explode, doesn't it?

      If I want to read a message in a new window, I have to open it, then find the little icon, then click it

      Or you just shift-click it, like it says on the help screen.

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