When you are working on a computer, it takes a fair bit of will power to resist the attempt to multitask. But even if you manage to restrain yourself, many programs manage to throw in distracting notifications that will divert your attention. Especially after setting up a new computer or re-installing, it can be a pain to track down the common offenders and turn off annoying focus killers.
In this article I will list the most common programs, what type of notifications they put out, and how you can disable them.
Windows System Tray / Notification Area
Generally, you can individually turn off desktop notifications for any programs or services represented in the Windows system tray. Right-click the task-bar and select Properties. Under Notification area click the Customize… button. This will open the respective Control Panel window with a list of icons for any program or service that was ever registered in the notification area.
To turn off the notifications for a specific item, find it in the list, and select Hide icon and notifications from the drop-down menu to its right.
As far as I’m concerned, Skype is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to annoying notifications. Whenever someone comes online or goes offline, a little message pops up to share the event with you. Haven’t we all seen this obtrusive little notification jump on top of full screen videos or public presentations?
To manage your Skype notifications, click through to > Tools > Options… and switch to the Notifications side tab. Under Notification settings you will find a list of Windows tray notifications which you can check or uncheck.
While you are at it, you can also jump to the Alerts & messages section and turn off the unwelcome Help and Skype tips as well as Promotions.
Thunderbird is a great desktop email client, but when it comes to notifications, there is room for improvement. It has been a long time since I started from scratch with it, but as far as I remember, the default setting is to show a system tray alert and play a sound.
To stop this impertinence, go to > Tools > Options… In the General tab under When new message arrives you can uncheck the boxes to Show an alert and Play a sound. If you were a fan of incoming email notifications, you could also customize them to include the subject and sender or play a favorite sound. But seriously, who wants that?
When I recently re-installed my computer, I suddenly received all these new email messages and had no idea where they came from, especially since they were turned off in Thunderbird. Finally it dawned on me, that the source was Google Talk.
As with the previous programs, you can easily turn these notifications off if you know where to find them. Click Settings in the top right of Google Talk, then navigate to the Notifications tab and uncheck Show notification for New email.
Windows Balloon Tips
Windows is set up to deal with DAUs (dumbest assumable users). Consequently, it likes to pop up messages about things the average user either doesn’t care about or already knows. These unhelpful notifications are called balloon tips.
To disable balloon tips, go to the Start menu and search for Group Policy. Open the result Edit group policy, then navigate to > User Configuration > Administrative Tasks > Start Menu and Taskbar. In the list find the entry Turn off all balloon notifications and double-click it.
“If you enable this settings, no notification balloons will be shown to the user.” Hence, to disable the balloon notifications, you have to select Enabled for this setting. To enable the balloon tips, select Disabled or set it to Not Configured.
You can also disable or enable balloon tips with a registry hack. A registry fix for either enabling or disabling the tips, which will save you messing around with the registry itself, is available from SevenForums.
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What do you find most distracting when you work on your computer and are there any notifications you have struggled to get rid of?
Image credits: Kitch Bain
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