I use a few different Google Services, such as Gmail, Google Reader, Google Voice and Google Calendar. While there are a lot of different extensions and notifiers available for individual services, none that I’ve seen (including the subject of this article), are able to notify me about new messages for all the services I use. You’ll either find a Gmail notifier or a Google Reader notifier. There are Google Voice notifiers and Google Calendar event/task notifiers, but none that will let me know of a new email or blog post or calendar event or voicemail. The closest I’ve used was a Google Chrome extension called One Number, and it’s very nice (I have it installed right now), but I recently stumbled on an older extension, called Google Alerter, that had been dormant for a while but within the last couple months development started up on it once again. Google Alerter still isn’t my “perfect” updater, but it’s close.
Using Google Alerter couldn’t be much simpler. Assuming you’ve signed into one of your Google Services recently, you shouldn’t need to worry about credentials or anything else with Google Updater. It currently supports four services: Gmail, Google Reader, Google Voice and Google Wave. I don’t use Google Wave, but there’s no need to “worry” about receiving results (always empty) for a service I don’t use, because Google Alerter allows me to turn off any of the supported services. That means I use three of its supported services, and only receive updates for the three I use. Very handy.
How Google Alerter works is that based on the settings you’ve chosen, it polls each service, looking for new messages. When any or all services have something new, the toolbar icon gains a number badge, representing the number of new messages you have – total – from your supported services. Click the toolbar icon and a pop-up window appears, with each service broken down, so you can see exactly which service or services the new messages are coming from.
To go to a service with new messages (or simply to go to a service even if there aren’t any new message), click either the name or icon of the service, and it will open in a new tab. If it’s been a while since Google Alerter has refreshed the new items count, you can do this manually from the pop-up. You can also log out of your Google accounts, or access the options page.
On the options page you have control over which services are used, plus how often each service is checked for new messages. Google Reader can be checked every 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 or 60 minutes, while Gmail and Google Voice can be checked a little more often: every 1, 2, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 minutes. Google Voice, as it was intended to be more of a collaborate, “instant” communications platform, can be checked every 20 or 30 seconds, plus every 1, 2, 5 and 10 minutes. You can also tweak which services are represented in the total count shown on the toolbar icon. If you want to only see how many new items are in your Gmail inbox, uncheck the “In total count” option for the other services. You’ll still be able to see new messages from those services by clicking to view the pop-up window, but only new Gmail messages will show in the number badge. Finally, if you use a lot of filters in your Gmail account, you can choose to show new messages from everywhere, or only those that land in your Inbox.
As I said at the top, Google Alerter still isn’t the Google services notifier I’m looking for. First, I’d love to see Google Calendar support added, and according to the extension’s page on the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery, that is in the works. The only other thing I’d like to see done differently is a slight tweaking of how it checks for new messages. With the One Number extension, if my number badge shows 32 new messages (all from Google Reader), and I visit Google Reader and read them all, the second I close the Google Reader tab, One Number “sees” this and checks for my new unread items count. With Google Alerter, it sticks to the scheduled update times. Nothing wrong with that (it’s doing what I tell it do to), but I’ve grown accustomed to having instant updates when I close one of the supported services. Still, once Google Calendar support is added, I imagine I’ll make the switch from One Number to Google Alerter. It might not be perfect even then, but it will be as close as I can get in one extension.