Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tech Column: Boxcar Email Alerts

Photo by vxla via Wikimedia Commons
by Bill Adler

If you use the default iPhone mail app, you can set things up so that you get an alert when you receive an email from that special somebody, be it your boss, boyfriend or bookie. (The alerts are called VIP alerts, and you can read about them here: http://bit.ly/133x08F.)

But what if you don't use the iPhone's built-in email app, or don't have it set up to automatically check for email because auto checking eats up battery power? Is there a way to be notified that you've received an email from a particular send? Yes!

That alternative is Boxcar, www.boxcar.io. Boxcar is free service that will push notifications to your iPhone or iPad when you receive an email from whomever you designate. It's actually better than the built-in iPhone notification system because your phone doesn't have to actively check for mail at pre-set intervals.

Here's how Boxcar works: Go to www.boxcar.io and download the free iOS app. Create a Boxcar account and set up a forwarding email address. Any email sent to your Boxcar address, which is a randomly generated address like 3434gk90992ti@boxcar.io, will trigger the Boxcar app's notification feature. After you've created an email address, go to your regular email service, be it Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, or whatever, and set up a filter so that whenever you get an email from somebody important, that email is forwarded to your Boxcar email address.

That's it. Once you have a filter for your regular email account created, you're good to go, and you'll be notified whenever an email arrives that you want to know about. Your iPhone or iPad doesn't have to check mail or do anything because Boxcar uses the iOS notification system.

Boxcar can notify you about other events, too, including if your website goes down, you have a Facebook notification, somebody direct messages you on Twitter, and more. You can combine Boxcar with IFTTT (If This, Then That, another powerful alert service, www.ifttt.com) to extract even more capabilities out of Boxcar. You can use IFTTT along with Boxcar for email alerts, among other things: https://ifttt.com/recipes/42541. Boxcar, http://boxcar.io , is worth checking out, especially for the VIP email feature.


Bill Adler is a writer. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft, "Outwitting Squirrels," http://amzn.to/VXuLBh, and a mess of other books. He tweets at @billadler. His tech column is published on Tuesdays.

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