One of the most often criticized features of Windows XP and Windows Vista are the constant, work-interrupting balloon messages in the notification area. Usually they pop up when you are in the midst of something that requires your full attention. Often they keep complaining about things you are quite aware of anyway, such as the firewall is turned off, UAC is disabled or updates have to be installed. The perseverance of Windows in these matters is amazing. Only a wife who wants you to take out the trash has comparable staying power.
Unlike your wife, though, Windows Vista has a “secret” switch that allows you to turn off these gentle reminders. It is a Group Policy setting under User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Start Menu and Taskbar: Turn off all Balloon Notifications. (You can change this setting on your machine using the Local Group Policy Editor, which you can launch by typing gpedit.msc at the Start Search prompt.) Vista Home users have to hack the Registry.
I usually don’t disable these balloon tips, however. Every now and then Windows has something important to announce. (This is where the wife analogy ends!) I always feel I am missing something important if I turn these off, so I bear with these annoying balloons and try to ignore them as much as I can.
In some ways, it appears that Microsoft took pity on us. In Windows 7, these notification messages have been significantly improved. Most important is that they are not as intrusive as they used to be. Once Windows has managed to show a message, it remains as only tiny flag with a red cross in the notification area. Multiple notifications are united in one message box.
Even better is that it is now possible to turn off notification messages selectively. If you click on “Change Action Center Settings” in the navigation bar of the Action Center, you can tell Windows 7 what kind of problem messages you want to be notified about in the future. Nine types of messages can be turned off or on separately (see screenshot). Considering that Microsoft hid this notification switch in former Windows versions, this is a remarkable step. Obviously, the company has received many complaints about the talkative character of Windows. Not only stressed husbands will welcome this improvement.
Disclaimer: In principle, I am not against the institution of marriage. 😉