I don’t know about you, but I’m getting increasingly used to being notified instantly about anything that happens. A new text message? I get a pop up and a sound. A new email or Facebook update? I get a red badge. A new update is available? I get an icon in my phone’s notification center. No matter how small the change is, I’m notified about it one way or the other. Unless, of course, this happens on my computer.
No, I’m not running Windows 98; My computer runs the relatively modern Windows 7, and still, there’s nothing like the notification center you can find on iOS, OS X, Android, etc. There’s no one place I can go to and find out if anything new is happening, if I’ve received a new email, if a new article is available on my favorite blog, etc. Must we live this way if we’re Windows users? Not necessarily. I launched on a quest to find a suitable notification center for Windows, and while none of the solutions are just like the real thing, they each have pretty cool features, and can even be used on your Mac or Linux machines, if you want.
Keep Things Simple: Chime [Chrome]
Chime is a beautiful Chrome add-on that simulates a notification center inside your Chrome browser, no matter which OS you’re using. Chime’s notifications can include Gmail, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GitHub, Flickr, Stack Overflow, Quora and Google+. You can add or remove services at any time, and get instant notifications when anything at all happens on one of your networks. These notifications appear as a small red badge on the add-on’s icon, and can also appear as desktop pop-ups.
Clicking on a notification will lead you to it, whether it’s an email, a Facebook message, or anything else, and will also cause the notification to disappear from the list. At any time, you can click the list icon to view all your notifications and add or remove services.
Don’t want notifications right now? No problem, Chime comes with a ‘do not disturb’ mode, which stops notifications from showing up when you’re busy. Chime is an excellent way to stay on top of your entire online presence, too bad it only works on Chrome.
Growl, at least Growl for Windows, is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t like tweaking, configuring and messing around with experimental programs, Growl is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to work to have the perfect notification system, Growl is a true gem. By itself, Growl doesn’t do much – you have to install additional plugins or apps for your favorite services. For example, you can install Growl for Gmail, Growl for Facebook, Growl for RSS, and more. Each one has to be installed and configured, but there’s almost no limits to what you can customize.
After a Growl program is registered on Growl, you can fine-tune which notification it sends, how each one looks and sounds, how long they appear for, etc. You can even forward notifications to other computers or mobile devices, and subscribe to notifications from them as well. It all depends on how much you’re willing to invest in configuring Growl. A good place to start is the online help.
Keep Things Social: Yoonoo [Cross-Platform]
To be honest, Yoonoo is not exactly a notification center replacement – it’s much more than that – but if you’re looking for a convenient way to stay on top of all your social networks in one place, Yoonoo is worth checking out.
Yoonoo is a social dashboard, notification center and updater for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace (I’m pretty sure it only supports to old one, though), Flickr, FriendFeed, and Foursquare. It also supports several other services, albeit in beta, such as various IM protocols, email and Last.fm.
Yoonoo comes as a browser add-on (Chrome, Firefox), a desktop app (Windows, Mac, Linux , portable) and an iPhone app. For the purposes of this review, I checked out the Firefox add-on, which integrates a multiple-service social dashboard into your browser’s sidebar, and helps you keep up with everything that’s going on everywhere. Yoonoo supports multiple accounts for most of its services, and lets you easily customize appearance, columns and which kinds of updates appear where. You can also set up desktop pop-ups for your most important services.
The nice thing about Yoonoo is that it’s also a client, and can be used to send updates, share and more. Yoonoo makes it very easy to share items you encounter on your social feed or while browsing, and lets you share these to any of your networks with a simple click.
On my machine (a 4-years-old Windows 7 laptop), Yoonoo caused Firefox to slow to a crawl, but it might not be the case on stronger, newer machines, and on other platforms. If you’re a social media fiend and absolutely must keep up with updates at all times, Yoonoo is a great service to try. Many of its features are still in beta, though, so be prepared for some malfunctions.
Do you think the notification center is useful? Or is it annoying? Do you know of other ways to get it when it’s no built in? Share in the comments.