I’ve tried more than a few Facebook menubar apps, because while I want to keep in touch, I don’t want to be constantly refreshing a browser or checking a separate window. It throws off my workflow and I inevitably end up playing Farmville, even if I just went there to look at a picture of a panda waving.
Keeping me off Facebook and on task is Glow for FB. It notifies me whenever something happens, but unlike a lot of other Facebook menubar apps, I can’t update my status or browse my News Feed. Glow removes that temptation while still keeping me connected. With this week’s release of Mac OS X 10.8.2 and new Facebook integration, though, there may not be a lot of use for Glow in the future. We’ll take a look and see if it has anything special to offer.
A Two-Trick Pony
Glow for FB does two things for you; it notifies you of Facebook updates, replies, and messages, and it and opens Facebook in a browser window. You can’t post a status update to Facebook from Glow or browse your News Feed. That’s not what Glow’s trying to do; it aims to be a lot simpler and a lot less obtrusive that a mini Facebook menubar app.
You’ll have to login to Facebook via the Glow Activator app on Facebook, and Glow will ask for permission to read all of your messages and notifications and whatever else it needs. Without that permission, it’s not going to work. The developer promises they’re not gathering super secret information on you, though, so keep a good thought.
Click on the Glow icon, and you can check or uncheck what updates you want to see on your Mac. Glow will let you know when you have a new Facebook notification, friend request, or message. If you want your notifications and messages but not friend requests, make sure you deselect friend requests. If you’re getting notifications you really don’t want, you can tailor them in your Facebook preferences, but you can’t do that through Glow.
It’s worth noting that there was a comment on the App Store that Glow was consistently using 50% CPU. I couldn’t replicate this. Not even close. I kept a level 0.0%, with one spike to 0.2%. The user thought it was tied to an issue with the permissions dialog popping up repeatedly, but I also didn’t experience this. There aren’t enough reviews in to say if this the norm or an anomaly, but if you experience anything out of the ordinary, always contact the developer.
Getting Your Notifications
There are a few different ways to get notifications. Glow’s notifications give you a Growl style notification banner or alert popup, but you can also have them go to Notification Center in Mountain Lion, too. Clicking on the popup will open Facebook in your browser, and you can adjust whether you want self-clearing banners or sticky alerts in System Preferences.
The Notification Center update, however, will stay there until you clear it, so you won’t feel you need to stay on top of Facebook notifications. You can just open Notification Center whenever you have a moment and take care of them then.
If you choose detailed notifications, you’ll get a little blurb from Glow about the Facebook update in both the popup and Notification Center. Otherwise, you’ll get a generic “New Notification.” I preferred the detailed notifications, because I’m more likely to click if someone has responded to an update while I might put off checking out a new photo album. However, it’s precisely for that reason the more generic notifications will work for some people, as they won’t be as tempted to rush to Facebook when they’re working.
Clicking “More…” gets you to a few additional options and the application settings. If you’d like some quiet time, you can mute Glow for ten minutes. The Glow icon will go gray to let you know you won’t be getting any notifications for a while. It would be nice to adjust that interval, if you need to focus on a project or are giving a presentation.
Glow vs. Mountain Lion
Glow isn’t going to be a rival for Mountain Lion’s new Facebook integration. Similar to Twitter integration, you’ll be able to post updates from Notification Center or send links from Safari. Mountain Lion will add Facebook information to all of your contacts, and send updates to Notification Center.
With the exception of seeing your updates in Notification Center, Glow isn’t going to do any of that. And it’s not trying to. Glow wants to make it easy to manage your Facebook notifications, and only your notifications. It’s trying to keep you off of Facebook and on the job while keeping you connected to your friends and family. Glow also makes it’s really easy to manage your settings. It’s all up there in the menubar, and I didn’t have to go digging through System Preferences to get anything setup or to change those settings.
It’s possible Mac OS X 10.8.2 may make Glow obsolete, as it goes so far beyond what Glow offers, but that’s true of plenty of Facebook menubar apps, too, that allow you to update or read your News Feed without opening a browser. And that’s part of Glow’s charm. Like so many inexpensive App Store buys right now, it’s doing one thing well. And for some users, that one thing, access to notifications with no other Facebook distractions, is going to be all they really want or need.