If you regularly use or have used Windows, you’re familiar with the taskbar’s notification area (often called the “system tray”), canonically found in the lower right of your screen. This is the place where thoughtless application programmers stuff icons for their programs; programs that often don’t deserve or need such a prominent piece of real estate. System tray hijacking thus promoted further innovation from Microsoft in later versions of Windows that alternately nag you about unused icons, or hide them from you automatically.
Anyway, one important notification that you want is for new mail. That blessed little envelope icon with its siren call to drop whatever you’re doing at the moment and read your email, in the hopes that this new message will finally change your life for the better, perhaps with a promise of millions of dollars from some third world country.
(In my screen capture here, I don’t have an example of a Windows new mail icon, since I no longer have access at home to a Windows machine with a mail program that receives mail. It’s almost always going to be a cute little representation of a snail mail envelope though, right? The side with the paper seams and folds, of course, since that is immediately recognizable with small icons. I guess you might get a mailbox, which I seem to remember seeing at one time with Eudora.)
When I switched to using Mozilla Thunderbird on Ubuntu GNU/Linux, it was a very easy switch, but I missed my little tray notifier. Instead of waiting for new mail to arrive to abandon my focus, I had to regularly toggle between applications to see what the world might have to say to me. Sure, this was also a nice way to be lazy, avoid engaging my intellect, and stay out of that elusive, terrifying state of flow, but it somehow seemed gratuitously obsessive.
So I was pleased recently to find the Mozilla New Mail Icon extension, or, “Biff”. According to the extension web site: “Mozilla New Mail Icon is an extension which displays an icon in the system tray when new mail arrives in your Mozilla or Mozilla Thunderbird. It supports the standard (FreeDesktop.org) system tray, as used by GNOME, KDE and IceWM.”
A simple patch with humble ambitions. It installed very easily and works perfectly on my Ubuntu machine, with the notifier appearing in the upper right GNOME panel. Ah, now I can more efficiently allow my thoughts to be interrupted the next time a penny stock opportunity shows up in my inbox.