It’s Time to Tame your GitHub Notifications, and Never Miss Another Pull Request Review!

GitHub has a lot of tools for handling notifications. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee ease of use. It’s really easy to forget to return to an issue, or miss a pull request you were assigned to review.

I’ve got some great tools and simple methods to tame your GitHub notifications. Let’s dig in.

Managing GitHub notifications in email

The first thing to do is to get a handle on email notifications. If you have a personal GitHub account that you also use for work, you can end up with a pile of emails from both worlds cluttering up your personal email inbox.

Go to Email settings in GitHub and add your work email. After you verify it, you can set it as the primary email address.

You’ll also want to visit Notification settings in GitHub to set up specific email update settings. At the bottom there is a section titled Custom Routing. You can route email notifications to different emails at the organization level. Select your work organization and select your work email. Now your personal inbox won’t have work-related email notifications going to it. This also means you can get a better idea of which work-related GitHub notifications you should look into. Work/Life (inbox) balance completed!

Next-Level Email Notifications

If you still need to separate notification messages from important customer emails (or if your boss still emails you like it’s 2004), I suggest you use a filtering system in your email. If you use Google (Gmail), this can be handled easily with Inbox Categories & Tabs.

Click the Settings icon (it looks like a cog) near the top right corner of your Gmail interface, and select Configure Inbox from that menu. From here, you can choose which categories you’d like to show in your inbox view. If you’ve chosen to display only Primary, then your email interface is currently displaying a basic list of email messages.

Once you choose to display more categories, they will appear as tabs at the top of your inbox view. This will help you separate the different types of messages you receive. Google offers the following options: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. Google will take a guess at which type of messages should fall into which tab, to keep your primary inbox uncluttered. (You can go back and check its work: Tell it how to treat specific messages if you don’t like their first pass at it.)

Most likely, your GitHub notifications will automatically self-select into the Forums tab. Magic!

GitHub notifications in email

The Gmail mobile app will honor these same settings, so you should never see 3,698 unread messages on your phone (from GitHub at least). Your mileage will vary if you’re using other mobile email apps.

And if your work email is managed through something other than Google, try this: Create filters and rules in Outlook or Use rules to manage emails in Apple Mail.

Control and view GitHub notifications at the source

While you are visiting Notification Settings in GitHub, you can also control your watch settings. I turn off Automatically watch repositories. I don’t need to be notified of all activities in repos that do not concern me.

If you really want to cut things down, you can also go to your watching page in GitHub and either unwatch one repo at a time, or all of them.

In addition to your watching page, there are a few different pages right on GitHub that I like to use to get visibility on my notifications.

Your notifications page is a good page to view everything. Notifications are split by repository. This page sometimes becomes my central hub in GitHub.

Your pulls page is also a good place to check up on pull requests. On this page, you can use GitHub’s search to further filter what you are looking for. The same can be said for your issues page, but with issues.

Next-Level GitHub alerts

To really get a handle on my GitHub notifications – and never miss an important pull request – the tool I personally like to use is OctoboxYou can self host it. I have a personal version hosted in Heroku for myself. Think of it like the notifications page mentioned above, but with a few more bells and whistles. Take a listen to this Changelog Podcast episode featuring the creator of Octobox.

If you like using Slack for all your assignments and alerts, there are several ways you can create webhooks to get notifications right to Slack from GitHub with Zapier. This is especially helpful if you get tagged in on tickets that live in repos you don’t normally watch. Caution: your organization may not authorize access to all of your repos by third party applications. Thankfully, you can still get a Slack notification by using an email workaround.

Make sure you are watching all relevant repos and getting email notifications. And, in order to avoid duplicate notifications, you can tell your email filters to automatically archive your GitHub messages. Then, you can set up a Gmail recipe on Zapier. Based on the GitHub email subject lines, you might choose to filter by mention, by assigned, or by requested your review. This will help you send the notifications you want to see, where you want to see them. You might choose to send them in a direct message to yourself, or to a particular private channel that works best for you.

I hope I have notified you of enough ways to make GitHub notifications more tolerable. Any tools you want to notify me of? 😎

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