When email first became popular, people started forming a peculiar habit: they would repeatedly check for new email multiple times a day, like an info-addict. If they got a new email they were quite excited ("You got mail!"). If not, feelings of disappointment and regret ensued. Why should we spend so much time checking for things? Wouldn't it be better to know exactly when to check? Fortunately many services exist to help solve this problem. Email is an easy target so let's start there. If you use Gmail, I recommend these:
Gmail Notifier - Great for most users. It puts a little blue envelope in your system tray when you have new mail. Double click it to access your Gmail account.
Gmail Notifer Plus for Windows 7 - This notifier takes advantage of some new Windows 7 task bar features. It provides options when you hover over it, allowing you to preview and open new emails.
What About Other Email Providers?
Actually, my favoriate email notifier is Digsby, which handles all of your Instant Messaging needs in addition to notifications for social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn) and a variety of email providers: Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail, IMAP, and POP accounts. I find there notification interface to be the most intuitive and useful.
What About Other Things I Check Too Much, Like Twitter?
One of my main gripes when I started using Twitter was that I wasn't notified when someone started talking to me. People converse with you on Twitter by "mentioning" you, which means they include your username with the "@" symbol in front ("@martymatheny" in my case) in their tweet. Twitter would email me if someone sent me a Direct Message, but not if they mentioned me. I didn't want to repeatedly check Twitter, so I started using Boxcar, which is an iPhone app. Boxcar kindly sends me a "push notification" on my iPhone when I'm mentioned, so I know when to engage. It can also notify you based on the results of any Twitter search query (e.g. "MyCompany").
Cool, What About Blogs?
The best way to check blogs and news sources is use an RSS reader, but that's a topic for another post. Do you have a favorite notification service?