Part of the usefulness of Google's Gmail service is provided by the Notifier programs provided for Windows and Mac OS X, and which tell you about new messages from the system tray area. Sadly Google doesn't currently produce a Linux version, but no worry—just use Synaptic to download the community-created checkgmail package.
Once installed, you'll need to make the program start on boot-up, so click System ^ Preferences ^ Sessions, click the Add button, and in the dialog that appears, type checkgmail in both the Name and Command field. Leave the Comment field empty and click the OK button. Then close all programs, and log out and back in again.
As soon as the desktop appears, a dialog box will pop-up asking you to input your Gmail details. You'll only see this once. Fill in your username and password in the relevant text boxes. If you don't want to be prompted for your password each time you login, click the Save Password box, but bear in mind that password is saved as a text file that any user of the system can access, so this is considered insecure. There's no need to change any of checkgmail's other details, so click the OK button.
Following this, a new Gmail icon will be added to the notification area. It will change from grey to red to indicate new mail, and a small window will scroll down to tell you who the sender is. If there's more than one message, the senders will be listed in order in the scroll-down window. You can then hover the mouse over the icon to see previews of the messages , and select any of them to open them in Firefox (or just click the icon itself to view your Inbox). To create a new mail, right-click the icon and select Compose mail.
If you'd like to be notified of emails in non-Gmail accounts, see Tip 246, on page 286. To search your Gmail messages from the desktop, consider installing Google Desktop—see Tip 282, on page 325.
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