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When processing tons of pending emails I like to put Mail (OS X Lion) in offline mode so that I do not receive more emails and therefore distraction.

The problem is that I am not able to send email in this mode, or is it possible somehow?

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If you don't want to receive mails automatically, simply go to Mail's preferences and disable automatic downloads.

Set Check for new messages to Manually and hit the envelope symbol in the toolbar (or press ⇧⌘N) to fetch new mail.

If you want to switch this mode globally, you can create a new Automator service that runs the following shell script (drag Run Shell Script from the left to the right pane):

pt=$(defaults read PollTime)
if [ $pt == 0 ]; then
  defaults write PollTime 1
  defaults write PollTime 0

The service should look something like this:

Of course you can change the PollTime 1 to another value, as long as it's available from the select dropdown (i.e. 23 will not work). Save the service and then under System Preferences » Keyboard » Keyboard Shortcuts, add a new global shortcut for your service.

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ups! I did not realize about it! Last thing is, can one assign a global shortcut for switching this from manual to automatic and viceversa? – flow Jul 5 '13 at 15:55
As usual, you can set the preferences through an Automator service—see my updated answer. – slhck Jul 5 '13 at 17:28

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