When it comes to webmail, be it Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, we don’t ask for much. Truly. All we want is the ability to send an receive messages with minimal fuss. Many don’t even bother using the built-in address book or calendar features because as long as the mail keeps flowing, that’s what matters.
Being that mail flow is the most important thing, we like to know when new mail arrives, and we want to be notified in a very specific way: A notification icon in the taskbar (or dock or panel, depending on your OS).
Here’s how each of The Big Three webmail providers fare out when it comes to simple new-mail notifications:
Hands down, Gmail is the best of the lot when it comes to notifying you of new mail because of Gmail Notifier. The linked one here is for Windows, but OS X and Linux users are very aware there are variants of it for their respective OSes as well. It is exactly the type of notifier people like the best, that being a small low-memory program that sits in the tray and tells you when new mail comes in, either by a change in icon color and/or a toaster pop-up.
The only from-Yahoo! that exists is Yahoo! Messenger, and this is basically the only reason anybody has it installed these days. It’s a bulky app, but it does put an envelope icon in the tray along with toaster pop-up when new mail comes in.
If only there were something provided by Yahoo! that was mail-only in the tray. Alas, there isn’t. If you want mail notification in a from-Yahoo! client, you have to download the whole big honkin’ Y! Messenger to get it.
Like with Yahoo!, the only from-Microsoft app that notifies you of new mail is Windows Live Messenger, but the way in which it does it is just plain stupid.
When a new mail comes into your Hotmail account, you are notified by a toaster pop-up and an animated tray icon, however, that animation stops and the pop-up goes away. The problem here is that you only see these notifications if you’re at your computer when they happen. Otherwise, you have no idea you have any new mail unless you open the messenger. There is no tray icon to speak of for anything new that arrives. How or why WL Messenger was programmed like this I have no idea.
Are the alternatives better? Yes.
With Gmail there is no need for an alternative. What they have works exactly as it should.
With Yahoo!, you’re better off using a lightweight multi-protocol messenger like Pidgin or Trillian, both of which have the ability to notify you of new mail. Trillian is the better of the two for mail notification in this respect.
With Hotmail, the best is aMSN. This puts exactly what you want to see in the tray for new mail, that being a small envelope icon. Double-clicking it opens the browser and logs into Hotmail just like you would expect it to.
Is Gmail Notifier yet another reason why people love Gmail so much? Yes. Google knew early on that having a mail-only notifier was important to many, so they went ahead and did it.
Would you like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail better if they had a mail-only notifier like Gmail?
If I used either on a regular basis, I know I would. What do you think?
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