Getting the Most Out of OS X Notifications and Notification Center

Even though Notification Center has been around for a while now, I still love to show people what it is and why it can be a huge time-saver for them. There are two pieces to Notification Center: Notification Center itself and real-time notifications (which appear in the top-right corner of your screen). Accessing Notification Center is simple. You can either use two fingers to swipe from the very right of your trackpad in the left direction (as if you were swiping it onto your screen) or you can click on the Notification Center icon in the top-right corner of your screen. Regardless of the method, the results are the same.

The notifications that appear in the top-right corner are great because they are push-based, meaning they come to you, rather than you having to find them. In this how-to post, I want to walk you through customizing Notification Center to make sure you're getting the absolute most out of it.

First, let's look at notifications. There are two styles of notifications: "banner" and "alert". A banner notification appears in the corner of your screen for about 5 seconds, then disappears. It acts as a quick heads-up notice. An alert, on the other hand, is a persistent notification, meaning it remains on the screen until you choose an action to take (close, remind me later, etc). Each style has their role to play. Built-in apps (like Mail, Calendar and Reminders) have a default style that they use. Reminders, for example, is automatically set to the alert style (forcing you to dismiss it).

In many cases, these defaults work to your advantage (they are usually set that way for a reason), but in some cases, you may want to consider changing them to suit your needs. The style can be changed for each application independently. In other words, Mail can use one style while Transmit (a 3rd-party FTP app that I use) can use another style.

To change your notification settings, open Notification Center (by either two-finger swiping or clicking on the Notification Center icon). Alternatively, you can also open System Preferences and click on the Notifications icon. From here, we simply scroll to the application we want to adjust, then choose the style of alert we want to use.

As I mentioned before, the default style for Reminders is alert. It looks something like this:


It will stay here until we choose an action. If we change it to the banner style, it will look like this:


The information is the same, but the style and your interaction with it changes. In this case, it will appear for about 5 seconds, then disappear.

Not only can you adjust the style of alerts for notifications, but you can also change the order in which they appear in Notification Center. This can be done by dragging apps up or down in the list, so that they are ordered the way you want them. If you want to exclude an app from displaying in Notification Center, simply uncheck the box labeled "Show in Notification Center".

That app's notifications will still appear as an alert or banner, but won't be listed in Notification Center.

Finally, you can use Notification Center settings to schedule Do Not Disturb time. This is time where you do not want to receive notifications of any kind. The typical use for this would be at night, but another way to use this would be during the day when you are focus on the work at hand.

In addition to scheduling Do Not Disturb time, you can also turn on DND in real-time (great for those 10 minutes of quiet time you need) by opening Notification Center, swiping down to reveal the option, and enabling DND. Just don't forget to disable DND when you're done!

Posted on September 15, 2015 and filed under How To, Mac, Opinion.