Tip o’ the Week #251 – Toasting a new email message


You got a new email – hurray! Back in the early days of using email, it was expected practice for your email program to play you a little fanfare, pop up a message box to tell you that you’ve got mail, put an envelope in your system tray etc.

In the last decade, nobody in most companies needed to know they got a new mail. We all get far too much of it, and yet most email programs notify you by default. Stop that, it’s silly.

The inspirational Prof Randy Pausch advised switching this off: he delivered a great talk on Time Management, and watching it is a better way of spending 90 minutes than pretty much any other productivity-enhancing measure. Children of the 1970s and 80s in the UK will remember Why Don’t You?, with its somewhat perverse advice to “switch off your television set”.

Well, stop reading this email now and go and watch Randy’s Time Management video (same link as above you click junkies).

Still here? If you’ve never heard of Randy, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006 and sadly succumbed less than 2 years later. In the interim, he delivered “The Last Lecture”, an awesome (and we’re not talking Microsoftie, “hey, that was super-awesome!” kind of awesome, more the laughing-out-loud, tears-welling-up and rapt-attention kind) lecture on achieving his childhood dreams. Make time to watch The Last Lecture video if there’s only one video you watch this weekend.

 Anyway, this tip reprises the topic of the very first tip of the week – but this time instead of switching off a pop-up in Outlook, it’s about disabling the “toast” that appears in the top right of the Windows 8 screen to tell you that you’ve got new mail.

In Outlook 2013, go into File | Options | Mail and look under the Message arrival section then un-check the Display a Desktop Alert option.

It’s possible to disable all “toast” notifications in Windows 8, but that’s something of a lumphammer to crack a pine nut. If you want to do it, see here… otherwise, it’s best to control things within individual applications. Within the same menu, you can selectively toggle each app’s notifications setting.

If you’ve configured the Windows 8.1 Mail app to connect to your company email, then you might have the weird experience of seeing an incoming toast from both Outlook (represented as the upper one in the screenshot above, with the fizzog of the sender as represented in the GAL) and within the Win8 Mail app, shown by the different toast below (and possibly a different picture, depending on how the sender is represented in your contacts).

 To disable the toast from the Mail app, go into the app itseld and bring up the Charms (press WindowsKey+C or swipe from the right if you have a touchscreen, or put your mouse in the top right of the screen). Now select the Settings charm, then Accounts, then go into the account you have set up to your corporate emai (since you can set notifications differently per-account).

The “Show email notifications” dropdown allows you to select that you want to allow all email to notify you (bad) or perhaps only to show you mail from your Favourites, as defined in the People app.

Or, of course, to switch off altogether.

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