Want a little alert to pop up on your desktop whenever a new Gmail message arrives? Easily done, but you’ll need the right browser first.

Gmail’s built-in desktop notifications are fairly unobtrusive. There aren’t any startling pings or buzzes, and the alert windows themselves are relatively small, plain, and disappear after a few seconds. Personally, I love them.

Pretty nice, but here’s the thing: Gmail’s desktop notifier only works using Google’s (excellent, if you ask me) Chrome browser. If you don’t already have Chrome installed, you can download it right here; versions are available for both Windows and Mac.

Gmail desktop notifier settings

Just click “New mail notifications on” to get a desktop alert when new messages arrive in your Gmail inbox.

To turn on Gmail’s desktop notifier, here’s what you do:

  • Go to your Gmail account, then click the little gear icon in the top-right corner of the screen, then select Settings.
  • Under the General tab, scroll down until your find the Desktop Notifications section, then click the button next to the “New mail notifications on” setting.
  • You can also opt to have Gmail only notify you when “Important” messages arrive (as determined by Gmail based on your messaging habits).
  • Want an alert to pop up whenever someone wants to chat via Gmail’s IM service? If so, click the option marked “Chat notifications on.”

That’s it! You should start seeing desktop alerts the next time someone sends a message to your Gmail account. Just remember that you’ll need to have your Gmail account open in at least one browser window for the notifications to appear.

OK, so what if Chrome isn’t your browser of choice?

Well, one solution is to open your Gmail account in Chrome, minimize the browser window, and carry on with your favorite browser. Having two browsers open at once shouldn’t slow down your system too much, and the Gmail notifications will still appear even if Chrome isn’t your default desktop browser.

There’s also a downloadable Gmail notifier for Windows or Mac that you can install on your system, but it appears Google hasn’t updated the app in some time.

Bonus tip

Want Gmail’s desktop notifications to appear in a specific corner of your desktop? Just click the little wrench icon in the next Gmail alert that pops up, then select “Change position” from the menu.

Have more questions about Gmail or Chrome? Let me know!