Unified notifications are everywhere these days, and are built into the latest version of every major mobile and desktop OS. On the web, though, notifications are a mixed bag. Chrome supports notifications from web apps, but you’ll have to have your favorite app open to get notifications, and few support them as is. You’re better off relying on email notifications and keeping Gmail open in Chrome all day if you don’t want to miss out on anything.
That is, unless you install Chime, a new beta extension for Chrome. It’s the notification center the web has been needing, and it just might make more sense than most mobile notification centers do anyhow. Let’s take a look.
A Chiming Extension
You’d expect an app that ties together all of your favorite web apps – say, your social networks and email – to be a bit complex to setup. Think again. Chime is actually incredibly easy to setup, since all you have to do it is install the extension from the Chrome Web Store, and be logged into the web apps you want to use with Chime. Chime’s setup will recognize the accounts you’re signed into, and automatically let you start getting notifications from them. If you’re not signed in, just click the icon to login from a new tab.
Right now, Chime supports Gmail, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, Github, Flickr, StackOverflow, Foursquare, and Google+, with support for more apps planned in the future.
If you have unread notifications in any of those apps, you’ll almost instantly start getting notifications coming in small popups on the top right of your screen. All you need to have is Chrome running; you won’t have to have the web apps open in a tab to get notifications. They’ll just come in from your logged-in accounts.
When you get a notification, click the message to go right to the correct link in the web app: Gmail notifications send you to the email itself, Twitter notifications send you to the message screen so you can reply directly, and so on. If multiple notifications come in at once, Chime will bundle them together instead of taking over your whole screen. Or, if you want, you can dismiss notifications from the Chrome popover window or the notifications’s x button on the right
It works just like you’d expect it should, automatically. I know that shouldn’t be too much to ask of any app, but it comes as a surprise to see something integrated all of your apps this well automatically.
Back in Chrome
Chime works great as you’re doing your normal work in Chrome, too. You can click the Chime icon to see a drop-down menu of your unread notifications, or click the list icon to see a full tab list of all of your notifications. Click the network icons to filter notifications just for one app, or click the gear icon to turn off notifications for some of your apps.
Chime is even designed nicely, with a style that is reminiscent of Windows 8 but also blends into Google’s app UI well. It works great, looks great, and seems to be almost all you could want for a notifications app in Chrome. The only thing you might want to do is turn off push notifications in Windows 8 or OS X Mountain Lion for the apps you have in Chime so you don’t get duplicate messages about everything happening in your apps.
And that’s all!
As it is today, Chime is an incredibly great way to keep up with your web notifications on any platform right from Chrome. It works way better than I expected, and my only regret was that it didn’t support more services out of the box. The service I’d like to see supported most would be Basecamp, and the team has already said on Twitter that they’d like to see support for it in the future. Also, it’d be cool to have some IFTTT integration, say, to cook up your own notifications just like you can for the Mac.
For now, though, almost every web app supports email notifications, so Gmail notifications can cut it for the rest.
If you want a more integrated way to get push notifications for your web apps, and you use Chrome, Chime‘s the extension you need. Safari and other browser support is also planned, but for now, Chime’s cool enough to switch over to Chrome to try it out if you’re not a regular Chrome user already.