Browser notifications for neophytes

There’s no reason to be nonchalant about browser notifications but I’m cognizant that some people complain that notifications are simply superfluous announcements.  For example, the jovial bunch at status99.com found mocked this Facebook status:

Running away does not help you with your problems, unless you are fat

I get it, most people already feel like they’re drowning in a deluge of data; however, not all notifications are useless.

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to get the most out of browser notifications.  Almost all the major browsers can now push relevant notifications from web feeds that you subscribe too. I mean, why should your smartphones and tablets get all the fun?  Now, your desktop can join the fray and play too.

Oh no, don’t say IE

First, let’s talking about notification in the browser everyone abhors: Internet Explorer.

There no easy way to make IE more palatable to the world; as it leaves a noisome taste in everyone’s mouth; however, droves of people still use it; therefore, I need to talk about it briefly.  Windows 7 and 8.1 both let you snap web pages to your taskbar for easy access.  The Microsoft wizards call this action, pinning.  

To pin a website just drag the tab from internet explorer down to your taskbar.  Sites that use the notification API will decorate the icon with a little graphic indicating a new message, news article, email or song.  It all depends on the kind of site you pinned.  You can browse the complete catalog of pinned sites on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Gallery page.  Here are some sites popular that support IE notifications:

As an aside, one nice feature is that right clicking most pinned sites opens related links.  For example right clicking the Outlook.com pinned site displays a jump list that takes me right to my Inbox, Skydrive or even a new message.

Windows 8.1 Pinned Sites Jump List IE11

Say Hi to your favorite fox

Firefox has typically been behind when it comes to displaying notifications; however, don’t foreclose america’s favorite fox yet.  Mozilla released Firefox 27 which adds an application programming interface (API) for social apps.  This means social sites finally have the means of coding notifications into Mozilla.

Firefox 27 is currently a beta release and isn’t slated for general availability until February 2014 but despite this ostensible shortcoming, it’s still good to know Mozilla is joining its gregarious peers by getting social.

I’m expecting to see social integration from the big players in 2014.

What about Chrome?

Chrome now comes replete with its very own notification center that slides onto your screen from the bottom right corner of your desktop.

Gmail users will be ebullient when I show you guys this next trick: instead of downloading a Gmail checker extension for Chrome you can have notifications automatically delivered to your screen.

Open Gmail in Chrome then click the little gear icon in the upper right corner under your avatar. Choose Settings and scroll down until you see the Desktop Notifications section.

I actually scrolled by it twice so I recommend typing Ctrl + f and typing notifications to zero in on it.

Desktop Notifications with Gmail

Just enable New Mail Notifications On and you’ll be all set.  Now you’ll never miss a gmail email as long as the gmail tab remains open in the background.

The Bottom Line

Internet Explorer, Chrome and soon Firefox all have notifications.  This is the direction the web is going. I just wanted you to know about these trends before your friends do so you can show them a few tricks over the holidays.

Happy Christmas.

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