Multi-tasking amidst distractions can be a real productivity killer. As a system administrator, I spend a lot of time waiting for programs to load, services to start, or scripts to finish. It's easy to jump from one thing to another - like checking for new email while waiting for a server to boot up. The danger to this approach is that you might find yourself caught up in another issue then remember twenty minutes later: "Uh-oh, I was supposed to send out a confirmation note that the system is back up."
With that in mind, I use notifiers when possible to alert me to new messages, appointment reminders, and other things I need to be aware of. It may sound paradoxical - wouldn't notifiers REDUCE your productivity by yanking your attention in one way or another? However, for me "no news is good news" and the lack of any new mail alerts helps me to stay focused. Alerts which contain the subject or sender information of incoming items can also help me "screen out" that which I don't need to know or act on right away. And finally, if I receive 37 new emails from our system monitoring server within a couple of minutes, I can immediately guess I need to drop whatever I'm doing and go put out a fire.
Gmail Notifier is a handy free tool that can help keep you up to date on the current status of your email. It shows a preview of new items so you can quickly determine their relevance, and you can auto-sign into your Gmail account to review new items. While Chrome offers built-in desktop notifiers I find having a separate notifier application works better; the Chrome option requires the browser to be running and signed into Gmail which can hamper functionality.
If you have configured your Gmail account to "Always use https" (and I highly recommend this for security purposes) Google has a registry change for you to implement if you intend to use Notifier on Windows. This change sets the appropriate https URL for Google Mail (they also include a second patch to undo the registry change made by the first, if necessary).To check / apply this setting to your account, log into Gmail then look for and click the Settings icon (which resembles a gear) in the upper right. (Figure A)
Figure Baccess Google's site for the registry change you need (if you do not have this setting and do not wish to use it, you can skip down to "Installing Gmail Notifier"). (Figure C)
Save the .zip file, then open it and extract the contents. There are two files:
Double-click "notifer_https.reg" and answer yes to the prompt to add the information therein to the registry. The exact registry change is as follows:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
Installing Gmail Notifier
Windows users can install it from here.
Mac users can install it from here.Since I'm using Windows 7, I'll access the Windows download page to run through the process. (Figure F)
Click "Download Gmail Notifier for Windows."If using Chrome on Windows 7, as I am, you'll be prompted to save the application. (Figure G)
Save GmailInstaller.exe, and then run it.
You'll be presented with the standard installation box.
Review the EULA then click "I agree."The standard installation is selected by default. (Figure I)
You can leave the default Start menu folder as is, then click Install.When the program finishes installing you will see the box shown in Figure L.
You can click "Close."A separate box will appear prompting you to log into your Google account. (Figure M)
Enter your Google username and password, and check "Remember my credentials" if this is a secure system under your control (this box will appear every time the application starts up so you can update your password here if needed).Click OK. Observe the new Notifier icon in your system tray. (Figure N)
- "View Inbox" will open your Gmail account using your default browser.
- "Check Mail Now" will look for new messages.
- "Tell me Again..." will repeat the last alert in case you missed it.
- "Options" lets you set whether to use Gmail as your default mail client for clickable "mailto" links, as well as configuring the web browser Notifier should use to access your Gmail account (in case the default browser is not the desirable choice).
As soon as you read the new email, the icon goes back to its original greyish tint, at least until your next unread message arrives.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.