While Google’s official Gmail Notifier for Windows is a bit old these days, it’s still one of the email programs we list on our Best Windows Software page. Many of us live in the browser and can get by with a browser extension for checking Gmail, but Gmail fans that don’t leave a browser open all the time will find a lot to like in the Gmail Notifier. As our Best Of page says, it’s just “simple and handy.”
The main alternatives to Gmail Notifier for Windows are browser extensions like Google Mail Checker for Chrome and more full-featured desktop email clients like Mozilla Thunderbird. While a few unofficial Gmail Notifier-like utilities exist, Gmail Notifier does a good job of straddling the boundary between Web and desktop applications.
This program is only available for Windows.
Gmail Notifier is a simple program with only a few options. When installing it, you’ll be asked whether you want to run it at startup and whether you want to use Gmail for your outgoing mail. Both these options are selected by default, and you’ll probably want to leave both of them enabled – the Run on startup option will ensure Gmail Notifier is running all the time and monitoring your account for new emails, while the Use for outgoing mail option causes Gmail to take over mailto: links in every application – any time you click an email link in a Windows program, Gmail Notifier will launch a Gmail compose window.
When you first start Gmail Notifier, you’ll be prompted to log in with your Google account’s username and password. Select Remember my credentials and you won’t be prompted again. If you’re using Google Authenticator with your Google account, you’ll need to create an application-specific password instead of providing your Google account – see the next section for more information.
There are a few issues you may run into while setting up Gmail Notifier for the first time.
If you’re using Google Authenticator’s two-factor authentication to secure your Google account, you’ll be asked to use an application-specific password instead of your regular password. To do so, go to the Authorized Applications account page on Google’s website and use the Generate Password form near the bottom of the page to create a new application-specific password. Give that password to Gmail Notifier and it will log in properly.
You’ll probably also see a “Service temporarily unavailable” error message. This is caused by Gmail using HTTPS encryption to secure your mail.
The Google Notifier installer was never updated to support HTTPS, but there is an official patch you can download and run to fix this problem. Click here to download the notifier_https patch from Google. First, close the Gmail Notifier application. Open the download .zip file on your computer, double-click the notifier_https.reg file, and agree to the confirmation prompt.
Restart Gmail Notifier after installing this patch and it will work properly.
The application itself is simple. Gmail Notifier will appear in your system tray and check for new mail every few minutes. When it finds new mail, the icon will become bolded and you’ll see a preview pop-up for each new email.
You can double-click the Gmail icon to go directly to your Gmail inbox or right-click it to immediately check for new mail or adjust the notifier’s options.
The Options window is pretty minimalistic – you can toggle Gmail’s handling of mailto: links and select which browser Gmail Notifier uses to open Gmail. By default, it uses your computer’s default browser.
Click a mailto: email link in any program (assuming you haven’t disabled this option) and a Gmail Compose window will open in your web browser, just as if you were using a desktop email application. No more copying and pasting email addresses to your browser!
Google Chrome users can actually get system-wide support for mailto: links in Gmail without the notifier – just visit Gmail in the latest version of Chrome and you’ll be prompted to enable this if it isn’t already enabled – but this feature can be useful for fans of other browsers, such as Firefox.
How do you monitor your Gmail account for new emails? Leave a comment and let us know!