Set up custom iPhone email alerts with Boxcar and Gmail
By Jason Snell Macworld
Sure, you can set your iPhone to chime when you get new mail. But if you get a lot of mail, like I do, it’s not very helpful. What you really want is a notification when you get important mail from important people. So that’s just what I created, using a few Gmail filters and an iPhone app called Boxcar.
If you get a lot of mail and use a mail service with server-side rules, such as Gmail, you can do it too. Let me show you how in this week’s Macworld video tip.
You can also see a complete archive of all our videos on Macworld’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to that channel and you will be notified whenever we post a new video.
I like to get an immediate notification when certain emails from certain important people hit my inbox. In order to do that, I use an iPhone app called Boxcar, and a filter on my mail account, which in this case is Gmail. Let me show you how I do it.
After I open Boxcar, I tap on Add a Service. And then tap Email Account, because in this case what I want is a notification sent to Boxcar from an email address. Then I give this notification a name and I choose a custom sound—in this case I’ll choose one called Space.
When I press Save, the Boxcar app on my iPhone will say that it’s emailed instructions to my email account, that I can use to set up this push notification. And indeed when I go back to my Mac and check my email, there, I’ve got it—a custom Boxcar forwarding address. This is the email address any message that I want to trigger this alert must be forwarded to. Now I need to create a filter in Gmail to forward special kinds of mail to this address.
So here I am in Gmail and I’m going to click on Create a Filter, and start to create a filter that will hit a very particular thing—in this case, one From address that I’m going to get email from. When I click Create a Filter, what I want to do is choose Forward It To, and put in my new email address from Boxcar, but I actually can’t do that from here. I have to click Manage Your Forwarding Addresses. This is something that Gmail makes you do to verify you’re allowed to forward messages to a particular account.
So in the settings, I’m going to click Add a Forwarding Address and I’m going to paste in the email address I just got from Boxcar.
When I click Next, Gmail will tell me that it’s sent a secret code to that account. Now, if I have access to that account, I’ll know the code number, I can put it in, and then everything’s good. And of course the address that that confirmation code is being sent to is already wired to push a notification to my iPhone. Which I’m about to get.
And now that that code’s been sent to my iPhone, I can type it into Gmail for verification. And once that’s done I can finally create a filter with the special address, mark it as being Forward To the Boxcar address, and that’s it.
So let’s test it out. I’m going to send an email message that should trigger my iPhone’s alarm. And we’ll see what happens.
And it worked! Pretty much anything you can trigger with a mail filter and forward to a specific address will work here, and Boxcar has a lot of other options too, like for Twitter Direct Messages or Twitter replies, there’s a great one that interfaces with Growl, so if you’re using the Growl utility on the Mac, you can actually have certain events on your Mac send a push notification to your iPhone.