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Toast Notifications…..Any Time You Want Them

Waiting patiently (lie, actually impatiently) for the WinMilk Task application to release an update with Live Tile support. It is in final testing and promised for the next version release. Already have Remember The Milk sending me text messages every morning I have tasks due along with texts 15 minutes before a time sensitive task is due. But in this unrehearsed drama we call life, the more things we have slapping us up side the head the better. Like yesterday, when in a light wind, the open bistro umbrella on the deck set sail like Auntie Em’s house, slamming into the screened porch and leaving behind a two foot hole. Definitely not part of yesterday’s program.

Sure I could use the built-in Alarm app, but I have an HTC device. So unless I carry my phone everywhere I go with a set of headphones on all the time to make sure I hear the alarm, I am bound to miss the reminder’s initial tinkle AND have a frozen, or sound deprived device that requires a reset. Oh, and make sure you plug those headphones in with music paused, or the phone will reset your volume to zero. I could use one of the many third party alarm apps, but without multitasking I would need another reminder to make sure the app was loaded behind the lock screen each time I turned off my device.

On Monday I ran across ToastMe, a new Marketplace app that sends toast notifications and/or emails to your phone at pre-set times. There was no Trial and it costs $1.29 so let’s just say, I took a bullet for ya. The layout of the app is a bit odd, but everything sort of works. For starters, you have to give the app permission to send you toasts. I didn’t tap OK quickly enough the first time the app opened  and had to reset things (they have a Deregister button for that) to get it to work.

The Remind Me screen has standard date/time fields that are set using the typical WP7 interface. You set the date/time before creating/assigning a new reminder. Then change the date/time for the next reminder. Below that are a series of quick buttons for changing those fields. “Tomorrow” does what it says, changing the date to tomorrow. Tap again to return to today. Same with “In An Hour”, adds or removes an hour to the time depending on the button state. There is a button labeled “Next”, which toggles the date forward one week from today. “Add a Day”, adds days one at a time and “Add an Hour” does the same. There is a “Day” field and when tapped brings up the seven days of the week, but changing the day “does not” change the date, so not sure what this is supposed to do.

Once you have set your date/time, you tap the + to create a new reminder, which can include a title along with content, plus an option to send the reminder to a specific email address (you need to type in the address). But you are not done yet. Saving the reminder simply creates a mini tile on the Remind Me screen. You need to double tap one of these pre-defined tiles to activate a reminder. I have had some issues getting just the right double tap speed to initiate a reminder. Part of the issue I believe is the app needs to communicate with it’s server which sometimes adds a delay to the double tap sequence before the reminder is saved. Once saved, the app will slide over to the Reminder screen showing your active reminders. You can turn a reminder off by tapping the toggle or you can delete any reminder or tile with a tap and hold. The ToastMe live tile shows you how many active notifications you have set and decreases each time a new toast is sent to your phone. The only setting is a checkbox to: “Always send reminder emails” to a specified address.

I have created and received about a dozen toast reminders, all on time, in the past two days so what’s not to like. Well, the toast notification only remains on the screen for a few seconds. So if you hear your phone tinkle and don’t “immediately” respond the notification is gone. And the notification disappears from the app (the mini tile remains though) immediately so while you heard a tone, you may not actually know what it pertained to. So much joy. And if you happen to have a full screen app opened, like ToastMe, forget about seeing anything. So while the concept is good, unless there is a way to keep a toast onscreen until you tap it, I don’t see any real usefulness. But if you can’t live another day without predefined toast notifications, just so you can say you can, then you can find the app here, under Tools in Marketplace. But you have been warned.