There is no doubt that the iPhone made push notifications cool and took that idea mainstream for Apple fans. But like most things Apple, at first push notifications weren’t open to all third party apps at launch. When users were clamoring for a way to get notified of things as and when they happen, Boxcar jumped in and filled the void effectively.
Boxcar was an elegant solution and alerted users with instant push notifications for all your social networks, email accounts, RSS feeds and more. As Apple opened up push notifications to third party developers, the influence of Boxcar dropped down a bit, but with 1.2 billion messages delivered to date, it’s an app with no match.
To make the lives of information junkies everywhere easy, Boxcar has released a beta version for Mac making it a breeze to receive super fast notifications when someone comments, updates or messages you. Join me after the break to check out if the app is as good as its iOS counterpart.
As I mentioned earlier, Boxcar notifies you of any updates from the services you have subscribed to. Like all the other versions of the app, the Mac version is available for free.
In addition to top free services like Twitter and Facebook, the app supports notifications from popular paid services. 27 different services are available for you to choose from. To add and keep track of all of them will require you to sign up for a Boxcar account.
Installation and Setting Up
You will have to download the app at present from their homepage and once they are out of the beta phase of development, the app will be available on the Mac App Store. After a simple drag and drop installation, the Settings screen of the app is displayed. To start using the app, a Boxcar account is essential and there are options to sign in or sign up in the same screen.
Clicking the sign up now button opens up in a new browser window, but it would be great to have the form built right into the app. Except for the hassle of moving your attention to a browser window, the sign up was painless and didn’t even require email validation. After signing up I noticed that a major chunk of app management can be done only via the web interface.
The Add Services button can be found in two different places in the desktop version of the app and neither of them function as they should be. Just like in the case of the sign up, whenever you hit Add Services, the web app will open up in a new window. But since there aren’t many hoops to jump to get a service added to your account, except for this process of back and forth, we can overlook this inconvenience.
Managing the Desktop App
So, when you are all done, wait for a few minutes (or less, depending on how frequent the services you have subscribed to are) for the notifications to come in. Assigning custom sound effects to each service you are tracking is a brilliant feature and means you don’t have to pay attention every time an insignificant notification shows up.
Speaking of sounds, Boxcar offers you two unique options to quiet the app when you don’t want to be interrupted. First, you can use the Mute button to temporarily silence the app for a short duration. Otherwise, you can turn them off altogether from the Preferences screen without having to visit the web app.
Notifications are properly labeled, timestamped and displayed in a chronological order. The badger number helps you stay on top of all the unread notifications since your last visit. If you plan to read the links, they will all be opened in new browser windows. Sadly, you can only read the notifications. Options to at least retweet or share the notifications will help make the app multifunctional to an extent.
I wasn’t thrilled to sign up from a web browser, configure subscriptions and then use the desktop app just for the sake of getting notifications. But it keeps the app free of bloat and makes a huge difference if you are using the mobile version of the app. A major downside I noted was after adding all the services, it took a long time for the notifications to start showing up.
It was weird because all the services I subscribed to earlier have added a bunch updates since then. But once the notifications finally started showing up, they came in regularly. And there were those occasional crashes too. Boxcar for Mac is a welcome new addition to the toolkit of information junkies. You should go for it if you are one!