A crafty new Android notification power-up

April 24, 2024
Android notifications: Condensed

Has there ever been something as simultaneously invaluable and irritating as our modern-day device notifications?

All the beeps, bloops, and blorps our various gadgets send our way serve an important purpose, of course — at least in theory. They keep us attuned to our professional and personal networks and everything around ’em to make sure we never miss anything important.

But they also demand our attention, interrupt what we’re doing, and annoy us endlessly, often with stuff that really doesn’t require any immediate acknowledgment or reaction.

And while Android’s notification systems offer plenty of nuanced control over how different alerts do and don’t reach you, it still seems virtually impossible to avoid swimming in a sprawling sea of stuff in your phone’s notification panel at the end of each day.

So what if there were a better way — a smarter system that could monitor your incoming Android notifications for you, condense all the less pressing noise down into a single alert, and make sure you see only the messages, meetings, and reminders that really matter?

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My friend and fellow Android-appreciating organism, have I got just the thing for you.

Meet your Android notification nanny

Brace yourself, dear biped: I’m about to draw your attention to one of the best and most powerful Android productivity tools out there — and one shockingly few mortal beings seem to be aware of.

Much like the Android app drawer enhancement we talked about the other day, it’s a perfect example of the type of advanced customization and efficiency-enhancing intelligence that’s possible only on Android. But you really have to be in the know to know about it.

Allow me to introduce you to a brilliant little somethin’ called BuzzKill.

BuzzKill is an Android app that, in the simplest possible terms, lets you create custom filters for your Android phone’s notifications — almost like Gmail filters, only for Android alerts instead of emails.

I’ve talked about BuzzKill before and shown you all the basics of how it works and what kinds of simple, insanely helpful things it can do for you. Today, I want to zone in on a specific new “experimental” feature the app recently started offering and why it might be worth your attention.

The feature is called Summarize. And it does exactly what you’d expect, from that name: It takes clusters of incoming notifications that meet certain conditions and then combines ’em together into a single, far less overwhelming and distraction-creating alert.

You might, for instance, ask BuzzKill to intercept all incoming notifications from your Android Messages app during the workday and combine ’em into one notification you can easily see at a glance when you’re ready to catch up. Or maybe you’d want it to collect all your incoming Slack alerts in the evenings and group those together to avoid a freeway-style backup at the top of your screen.

Heck, maybe you want it to watch for all notifications from Messages, Slack, and Gmail on the weekends, keep ’em all together in a single summarized notification, and then ding your phone incessantly if any of the incoming messages has a specific word or phrase indicating a need for immediate attention — something like, say, “urgent,” “broken,” or “holy humbuggery, what in the name of codswallop just happened?!”

Whatever the specifics, you’ll only have to think through and set up those parameters once. And from that moment forward, anytime notifications meeting your conditions come in, you’ll see something like this:

Android notifications, summarized — with minimal clutter and distraction.

JR Raphael, IDG

Just a single combined alert for all that activity — not bad, right?

If there’s nothing particularly important, you can swipe it away in one swift gesture, using any finger you like (hint, hint; choose carefully). If you want to explore any of the summarized contents further, you can tap the “Expand” command in the notification’s corner to — well, y’know…

Android notifications: Expanded
My Android notifications expanded back into their standard, split-apart state.

JR Raphael, IDG

Kinda handy, wouldn’t ya say?

Where BuzzKill’s powers really come into play are with all the extenuating circumstances you can set up — and how impossibly easy the app makes it to manage it all. All I did to get the above going was create a super-simple “if this, then that”-style rule within BuzzKill, like so:

Android notifications: Summarize rule
The behind-the-scenes magic that makes my Android notification summarizing happen.

JR Raphael, IDG

And then, to build in a supplementary rule that makes sure certain high-priority notifications stand out from that summary and grab my immediate attention, I created a second “if this, then that” guideline:

Android notifications: Exception rule
BuzzKill understands that there’s an exception to every rule.

JR Raphael, IDG

See? Told ya it was easy!

And make no mistake about it: All of this all just scratching the surface of what BuzzKill can accomplish. One of my favorite ways to use it, for instance, is to keep low-priority notifications from interrupting me at all during the workday and instead have ’em batched together into a single evening-time delivery.

Android notifications: Cooldown
All my Photos alerts arrive in one batch daily, thanks to this nifty notification rule.

JR Raphael, IDG

I also rely on it to prevent rapid-fire back-to-back messages from buzzing my phone 7,000 times in seven seconds — a problem Android 15 appears poised to address, too, albeit in a much less nuanced and customizable way.

Android notifications: Batch
Take that, rapid-fire short-message texters!

JR Raphael, IDG

The app’s new experimental notification summarization option is so interesting and packed with potential, though, I just had to share it with you once I really started exploring it and thinking through all the ways it could be helpful.

BuzzKill costs four bucks, as a one-time up-front payment. The app doesn’t require any unusual permissions, doesn’t collect any form of data from your phone, and doesn’t have any manner of access to the internet — meaning it’d have no way of sharing your information even if it wanted to.

It’s yet another illuminating illustration of the incredible productivity power Android provides us — a power anyone can embrace, with the right set of know-how.

And now, you have it. Happy filtering!

Learn all sorts of useful tech tricks with my free Android Intelligence newsletter. Three new things try every Friday — straight from me to you.

Android, Google, Mobile Apps, Productivity Software

Source:: Computer World

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