Thursday, 23 May 2013

You've got webmail

As I've mentioned before we've changed over to Office 365 at the day job, and this has shown up an interesting little problem - before people would know they've got mail because they would have a minimized client in the system tray, and the client would provide a visual cue by changing its icon, ringing a bell, or some such event.

With webmail you don't get any of that. You have to have the email tab open in the browser on your desktop.

The same problem applies whether or not you use 365 directly as Microsoft intended, or, like me, funnel your email to another webmail service.

Essentially, what you need is a mail notifier, something like xbiff, that runs in the system tray and alerts the user.

This is especially useful for people who spend a lot to their day inside of an editor, be it a document or a code editor.

Basically there are two approaches - either use an existing notification engine such as growl or else write a small stand alone client - for example something like those listed at

Either way the logic would be quite simple - using a minimal pop (or imap) implementation poll the server separately and get the new message count, and when it increments display a visual cue.

While you could develop it as a browser application it is probably better done as a platform specific system tray application - after all not everyone has a browser open all of teh time ...

1 comment:

Arthur said...

Google provide a notifier and Chrome will do notifications.

However, really this strikes me as a feature not a bug. Email notifications are a massive productivity killer.