Chrome rich notifications go live for all Windows users; good luck using them
Richer notifications are now available in the latest stable version of Chrome for Windows, version 28.
Chrome has offered notifications outside of the browser window for some time, first introducing the feature for Gmail in 2011. The difference now is the richer-notifications feature lets developers of Chrome apps and extensions send interactive pop-up notifications to your desktop. Hangouts could, for example, send you a chat pop-up notification with options to reply, email, or call the person you’re chatting with.
The new feature also adds the oft-discussed notification center to Chrome for Windows, which allows you to get updates on the desktop from online services—even when the full Chrome browser isn’t running.
Although richer notifications and the notification center are activated by default, you won’t see anything new unless you’re using a Chrome app or extension that has enabled the feature.
Google did not provide a list of which apps and extensions the feature currently works with, but after publication, a Google representative contacted us to offer three specific examples of Chrome apps with rich notifications that Windows users can try out.
No richer than before
A Google spokesperson told PCWorld that richer notifications have to be enabled on a per-app basis. You can enable Gmail, for example, to send desktop notifications by clicking on the gear icon on the right-hand side of your inbox and selecting Settings>General.
Scroll down to “Desktop notifications” on the next screen and turn on notifications for mail and chat. These are the same settings that have been around for two years, so most users probably already have enabled them.
A Google spokesperson said the richer notifications should appear by activating this feature but, in my tests Wednesday, I couldn’t see any interactive features in the Gmail version.
I also tried getting notifications using the Hangouts extension for Chrome that puts Hangouts in the Windows taskbar. But again, no richer notifications. Checking out forums and sites around the Web, it seems other users are also coming up empty in the search for richer notifications and the notification center.
Update: After this story went live, a Google representative contacted us to offer three specific examples of Chrome apps with rich notifications that Windows users can try out. They are:
- Ouistiti: A simple example application that prompts you to take a photo with your Webcam every day.
- Checker Plus for Gmail: Desktop rich notifications for new email.
- Checker Plus for Google Calendar: Desktop rich notifications for calendar events.
Chrome OS invasion
Richer notifications, once they do work, are part of a larger push from Google to take features from Chrome OS and put them in Chrome for Windows and Mac that create a mini-OS inside your PC’s regular operating system.
Beyond richer notifications, Google is working on bringing packaged apps to Windows, which are Chrome-based apps that act as regular desktop apps. Packaged apps also come with a separate app launcher that allows you to launch specific Chrome apps right from the taskbar. This feature currently is only available to users in the Chrome Dev update channel.
Another long-anticipated service expected to land on Chrome for PCs is Google Now, the company’s take on a personal digital assistant that delivers information as you need it. The service can, for example, alert you when to leave for an appointment across town based on current traffic conditions, or let you know about the flight status for an upcoming trip. Google Now was spotted in Chrome Canary, the alpha build of Chrome, back in March, but was not operational.
The Richer notifications feature isn’t the only significant change to the latest stable edition of Chrome for Windows. The new build is also using the Blink browser engine first announced in April after Google split with WebKit. The new version of Chrome also fixes more than 15 bugs and security fixes affecting Windows users.
By now, most people should be using the updated version of the Chrome browser. If you want to verify you’re on the latest build, type chrome://chrome in your browser’s address bar. The version number at the top should be 28.0.1500.71m.