Take control of notifications
Learn how to make Mac notifications work better for you
Notification Centre is one of the most important aspects of OS X, and yet it is rarely used to its full potential. Hidden at the right-hand side of your screen, Notification Centre has all but replaced the Dashboard feature that was introduced 10 years ago in OS X Tiger. It gathers both widgets and alerts in one sidebar, accessible by clicking the list-like icon in the top-right corner of the screen or swiping inwards with two fingers from the right edge of a trackpad, and is vital to staying on top of things – as they happen or later on.
The sidebar is divided into two tabs. The Today view manages your domestic information: the date, the weather, your daily calendar, and the stock market. Its contents can be customised by clicking the Edit button at the bottom, so you can add widgets provided by Apple – such as the Social widget that gives you a quick way to send texts, tweets and Facebook status updates (provided you’ve added your login details in System Preferences’ Internet Accounts pane) – and with third-party apps such as Wunderlist, Fantastical and Deliveries. Many widgets can be configured by putting the pointer over them and clicking the ‘i’ that appears at its topright corner. You can add locations to the Weather and World Clock widgets and companies to the Stocks section.
The second tab is for notifications, and it manages every bit of information sent to you by apps, such as emails, reminders, iMessages and calendar events. When a notification is shown, sliding in at the top‑right corner of the screen, it comes in one of two formats: banners disappear automatically after a few seconds; alerts, in contrast, stay on the screen until they are engaged with. In System Preferences > Notifications, you can specify whether notifications appear as alerts or banners on a per-app basis. In both cases, you can control an app directly from a notification; for an iMessage, say, you can choose to reply, which opens a text box in the alert, rather than going to the Messages app, or you can mark the message as read, which dismisses the notification.
Any item that is not engaged with gets added to the Notifications tab in Notification Center (unless you have turned off ‘Show in Notification Center’ for that app). Items in that tab are listed chronologically, but also grouped by app. For example, if you receive a text message at 12:00, followed by an email at 12:05, the email message will be shown above the text message. However, if you then receive another text message at 12:10, both the recent text message and the older one will be placed above the email. So, no matter how many notifications you get from different apps, they remain grouped.
Of course, notifications can be suppressed. Do Not Disturb hides all banners and alerts until midnight, or until you turn it off. It can be scheduled to turn on for part of the day, so you can keep your Mac on overnight without noisy interruptions. Adam Smith
Notification Centre has all but replaced the Dashboard that was introduced in OS X Tiger
You can schedule Do Not Disturb to mute notifications between two times, and so banners and alerts don’t distract you.
Notification Centre enables you to manage alerts that come from your Mac’s apps and some websites.