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I use Gmail for all my e-mail needs, but I'd like to be able to compose e-mails in offline situations, like when I'm someplace with no wifi.

I do this with, but then when I connect to the Internet Mail tries to download thousands of old e-mails.

How can I set—or maybe some superior OSX e-mail app—to allow me to compose and send e-mails but not download/receive them?

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Try this:

Mail->Preferences->Accounts, select your gmail account, and then click Advanced. In the Keep copies of messages for offline viewing, select Don't keep copies.

I think that should stop it from downloading emails. It will still download a list of folders, and a list of headers for the current folders.

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