Creating a permanent New Mail Desktop Alert

The New Mail Desktop Alert is a handy pop-up alert for new emails. In Outlook XP/2002 and previous, this was a dialog box (one for each email!) which stayed open until you dismissed it.

Starting with Outlook 2003, this alert got a huge functional and cosmetic overhaul but automatically goes away after 7 seconds but is configurable up to 30 seconds. When you use Outlook 2013 on Windows 8, the notification even goes away after 5 seconds.

Another often heard complaint is that it only works for the Inbox folder.

This guide explains how you can configure to display a New Mail Desktop Alert for all your mail and/or longer than 30 seconds or even doesn’t go away at all until you dismiss it.


The New Mail Desktop Alerts throughout the version

Below is an overview of how the New Mail Desktop Alerts look throughout the versions of Outlook and Windows.

New Mail Alert 2002 and previous
Old New Mail Alert for Outlook 2002 and previous.

New mail Alert Outlook 2003
New Mail Desktop Alert for Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013.

New mail notification for Outlook 2013 on Windows 8
New Mail Desktop Alert for Outlook 2013 on Windows 8.

Display the Mail Alert for longer than 30 seconds; even permanent!

Well permanent isn’t actually possible but how does 50 days sound? Through the Registry you can set the New Mail Desktop Alert as long as 4,294,967,295 milliseconds ≈ 50 days.

Note:
When you use Outlook 2013 on Windows 8, customizing the new mail alert duration works a bit differently as described below as these alerts are controlled by another notification mechanism which is specific to Windows 8. For more info about this see:
Increase the New Mail Desktop Alert duration for Outlook 2013 on Windows 8

Just a little math first to clarify the working of the registry key;

  • The value is defined in milliseconds.
  • When the registry key is set to 0 the New Mail Alert still shows for 3 seconds so this is hard coded in the program thus 3,000 milliseconds.
  • 4,294,967,295 is the maximum value you can set a 32bit DWORD value to in the Registry.
  • As the object that controls the time of the New Mail Desktop Alert is also defined as a DWORD and is 3000 already we cannot give the TimeOn registry key a higher value than;
    4,294,967,295 – 3000 = 4,294,964,295
  • To convert from milliseconds to days, we must divide the milliseconds through; 1000 to convert to seconds, then 60 to convert to minutes, then 60 to convert to hours, then 24 to convert to days
    (4,294,964,295 + 3,000) / (1000 * 60 * 60 *24) ≈ 50

After all this math it’s time to tell which Registry value controls all this:

Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Common\DesktopAlerts
Value name: TimeOn
Value type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 - 4294964295 

If this key isn’t available choose Edit-> New-> DWORD Value and name it TimeOn(case sensitive!).

Double click the key to give it a decimal value between 0 and 4294964295 (in Hexadecimal value this will be fffff448).

The TimeOn Registry value controls how long the New Mail Desktop Alert dialog shows for Outlook.
Setting the maximum decimal TimeOn value in the Registry.

Tip!
To easily set the New Mail Alert without going into the registry you can use OutlookTools (free!)

Configure the Mail Alert to monitor al folders; not just the Inbox

By default the new New Mail Desktop Alert will only show when the mail is delivered to the Inbox. This means that when you have a rule configured to move your mail to a different folder the Notification won’t show.

To workaround this, you can add the action “display a Desktop Alert” to each and every rule. Besides the fact that it is very tiresome, the real downside of this is that when you are in an Exchange organization the rule will become a local rule so that it will only execute when Outlook is running. This means that when you have added extra actions to the rule, like forwarding it to another address, those actions won’t be executed either.

A better solution is to create a generic rule with no conditions and just the action to display the Desktop Alert.

  1. Open the Rules and Alerts dialog;
    • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007
      Tools-> Rules and Alerts… (press OK if you get an HTTP warning)
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      File->  button: Manage Rules & Alerts
  2. Button New Rule…
  3. Select “Start from a blank rule” and verify that “Check messages when they arrive” or “Apply rule on message I receive” is selected.
  4. Press Next to go to the Conditions screen.
  5. Verify that no condition is selected and press Next.
  6. A warning will pop-up stating that this rule will apply to all messages. Press “Yes” to indicate that that is correct.
  7. Select the action “display a Desktop Alert”.
  8. Press Finish to complete the rule.
  9. If needed move the “display a Desktop Alert” rule all the way to the top.

New Mail Desktop Alert rule (click on image to enlarge)
You can create a rule to show the New Mail Desktop Alert for each message that you receive. (click on image to enlarge)

Show a Mail Alert with a list of all newly received e-mails

The New Mail Desktop Alert only shows for the last e-mail received so when you’ve received multiple new e-mails across folders it still might be a bit hard to immediately locate them. This has actually always been the case with any version of Outlook. Outlook 2003 has a new action rule for this; display a specific message in the New Item Alert window.

As an example, we are again going to create a generic rule with no conditions and just the action to display the New Item Alert window. You can of course set conditions and exceptions as desired and note that, since Outlook 2003 SP1, rules get executed after Junk E-mail filtering so the New Item Alert window won’t get polluted with Junk E-mail.

  1. Open the Rules and Alerts dialog;
    • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007
      Tools-> Rules and Alerts… (press OK if you get an HTTP warning)
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      File->  button: Manage Rules & Alerts
  2. Button New Rule…
  3. Select “Start from a blank rule” and verify that “Check messages when they arrive” or “Apply rule on message I receive” is selected.
  4. Press Next to go to the Conditions screen.
  5. Verify that no condition is selected and press Next.
  6. A warning will pop-up stating that this rule will apply to all messages. Press “Yes” to indicate that that is correct.
  7. Select the action: display a specific message in the New Item Alert window.
  8. Type your specific message (this is handy when you create more than one rule that displays the New Item Alert window so that you can easily distinguish between them).
  9. Press Finish to complete the rule.
  10. If needed move the “display a Desktop Alert” rule all the way to the top

New Item Alert window
Get your newly received e-mails in a handy overview.

Tip!
As an alternative, you can also consider the “Today’s Unread Mail folder” Search Folder solution.