The last couple versions of Ubuntu have included a new menu, the Indicator Applet, which lets you know when something needs your attention. This can be handy for incoming emails, instant message requests, or for keeping up with Twitter updates. I think it’s a great idea; my only problem is that I use Gmail’s web interface pretty much exclusively, and by default the Indicator Applet only supports Evolution, the default Ubuntu email client. Thankfully, third party developers have extended the Indicator Applet’s functionality by hacking ways for Thunderbird and Gmail users to take advantage of it. In this article I’ll discuss a new project (recently highlighted on Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s blog), called Gmailwatcher.
Gmailwatcher isn’t in the Ubuntu repositories (yet?), but the goal of the developer is to have it completely ready by the time Ubuntu 10.10 is released in the middle of October. I tried out the version currently available in the Gmailwatcher PPA (see the link at the end of the article), and was impressed by what it can do already.
Setting up Gmailwatcher is pretty simple. If you’ve ever used any type of email checking utility, you’ll pretty much know the drill. After you’ve launched Gmailwatcher from the Internet applications menu, a new icon will appear in your Indicator Applet. Click this to get the Gmailwatcher interface, then click on Preferences. Click to add a new account. Enter in your email address and password, and modify – if you want – how many minutes will pass between Gmailwatcher checking your inbox. If you want it to check other folders/tags, you can. This is helpful in case you have Gmail set to compartmentalize your email via filters.
Once set up, you can immediately have Gmailwatcher check for new messages. If new messages are available, you’ll be able to see them (or at least the first couple lines) in the Gmailwatcher interface. You can’t navigate to a particular message directly, but clicking the Inbox link (or whatever folder you’re viewing, if you have it set to check more than your Inbox), will take you there.
If you don’t have the Gmailwatcher interface visible (which is likely how many people will use it), you’ll still be notified when a new message arrives. First, you’ll see a pop-up message appear, with the same information as is available in the previews just described. And since Gmailwatcher is in the Indicator Applet, you’ll also notice the icon turn green, the same as when a new Twitter update or Chat invite arrives.
Gmailwatcher has a couple other features. You can add extra themes from the same PPA you installed Gmailwatcher from, that give you more options of how the email previews are displayed (the screenshot included shows the elementary theme). You can choose to start Gmailwatcher when you log in, as well as a couple other advanced features.
Honestly, at the moment I’m not sure what, if anything, I feel is missing from Gmailwatcher. I suppose it would be nice to be able to click on a preview message and be taken directly to that message. And possibly the option to create a new email from the Gmailwatcher menu. But the first isn’t necessary, and the second is really beyond the scope or description of an email checking applet. So, I like it. It’s easy to set up, has a couple nice features, and integrates nicely into the Ubuntu desktop. Now if only something like this came installed by default!