One of the few utilities that I can’t imagine living without is an e-mail notifier running in the Windows system tray, and the best I’ve found is a freeware open-source gem, PopTrayU. My main reason for wanting PopTrayU on my system is the obvious one—I want it to pop up a window that alerts me to new incoming mail. But I also want it for the less obvious, and slightly counter-intuitive reason, that it helps me to concentrate on my other work. With PopTrayU running in the system tray, and set to check new mail at regular intervals, I’m less tempted than I would otherwise be to open my mail client obsessively to see whether anyone has dropped me a line.
PopTrayU stands out from other mail notifiers with its clean, customizable design and complete keyboard support. Other notifiers tend to display either large, cluttered windows or tiny indicators with merely the number of new messages but no details. PopTrayU gives me the option of opening a tiny indicator or exactly what I want in a mail notifier, which is a compact window that lists the sender, subject, and time of each new message. If I click on one of the messages in the list, a preview window displays its contents, or I can right-click on the message and delete it or open my mail client and reply to it.
I like the way PopTrayU can be set up to list only new messages, not the hundreds of messages that I’ve accumulated in my inbox. I regularly check four or more accounts, and PopTrayU displays each on a separate tab, and lets me temporarily disable checking any account that I don’t want distracting me.
Unlike every other mail notifier I’ve tried, PopTrayU lets me assign hotkeys to all its functions, so that, if I don’t want to wait until the app performs its scheduled mail check, I can simply type Ctrl-Alt-C (or any other key-combination that I choose) and wait a few seconds while the app checks my mail. Of course I can also click on its tray icon, but keyboard is far more efficient and less distracting. An enormous range of options lets me specify periods when the app won’t check mail, or exactly how many lines of a message to display in the preview window, or exactly how I want the program to notify me. A useful security option lets you password-protect the whole program against prying eyes.
PopTrayU is an update to a popular ten-year-old mail notifier called PopTray, originally written by Renier Crause, and now being updated by Jessica Brown with encouragement from the original author. The new version is currently in open beta, and still has a couple of rough edges that are scheduled to be smoothed out soon. For example, if you want to set up PopTrayU to check an account through the modern IMAP mail protocol, instead of the old-school POP protocol, you’ll need to download and install the IMAP plug-in for PopTray from htttp://www.poptray.org/plugins.php. The new developer plans to integrate the app’s plug-ins in a forthcoming beta version.
When you click Reply on PopTrayU’s menus, the app launches your mail client, which is typically Thunderbird or Outlook. Even when I’m sending mail through web-based services like Gmail or Microsoft’s new Outlook.com, I prefer to use a mail client, not the mail service’s browser-based interface. But I’d like to see an option in PopTrayU that would let me click a message in its list of messages in my Gmail account and have my browser open Gmail’s web interface. Maybe I’ll get my wish in a feature version. Meanwhile, for anyone who uses a mail client, as I do, PopTrayU is an indispensable time-saver and distraction-reducer. Even as a work in progress, PopTrayU is better-designed than any of the dozen or more rival mail-checkers I’ve tried over the years.
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|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows XP|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc