10 tips for using Notification Center on the Mac

Make Notifications Center do what you want it to do with our tips and tricks.

notification center do not disturb
Quickly activate Do Not Disturb

The Do Not Disturb mode can be activated and configured in System Preferences > Notifications, but you can ultra-quickly activate it in two ways.

Hold down Option (Alt on some keyboards) and click the Notification icon at the top right of the screen. The icon will go grey to indicate its in Do Not Disturb mode.


Open Notification Center, ensure Today is selected, and with the cursor in the Notifications area, swipe down with two fingers on your trackpad or scroll down with your mouse’s scroll wheel (using the down arrow key will not work). A Do Not Disturb switch will appear at the top, which you can click.

Using either of these methods will activate Do Not Disturb until the end of the day.

do not disturb keyboard
Do Not Disturb keyboard shortcut

An even quicker way of activating Do Not Disturb is to use a keyboard shortcut.

Unfortunately, this isn’t setup by default but it’s easy to configure. Open System Preferences > Keyboard. Click the Shortcuts tab and select Mission Control at the left.

Then put a tick alongside Turn Do Not Disturb On/Off and type the keyboard shortcut you wish to use, something like Shift+Option+Command+D works great and isn’t already in use.

notification center hot spot
Quickly open Notification Center

If moving the mouse cursor to the top right of the screen and clicking the Notification Center icon is just too much work, you can make it so that simply touching the very top right corner of the screen with your cursor opens Notification Center.

To do so, open System Preferences > Mission Control. Then click the Hot Corners button. Choose the dropdown at the top right in the dialog box that appears, and select Notification Center.

Pro tip: By holding down any (or a combo) of the Command, Option, Control, and Shift keys while clicking the menu option, you can configure it so Notification Center will only appear if those keys are held down while you touch the cursor to the corner.

app store notification widgets
Compatible apps

Lots of built-in apps feature Notification Center widgets and there are a handful of other widgets built-into OS X too, but several third-party apps come with their own add-ons.

To see a list, open Notification Center, ensure Today is selected, and click the Edit button at the bottom. Then click the App Store button.

This will open the App Store to show a specially-curated list of available apps.

mail notifications settings
Change individual app settings

Although global notification settings can be configured in System Preferences, several apps have their own specific settings. You can access these setting in each apps preferences. (An easy way to open an apps preferences is to tap Command+, while in the app.)

For example, in Mail you can configure which of inboxes trigger notifications.

notification center select
Avoid the mouse

If you decide to use a keyboard shortcut to open Notification Center then you can continue to avoid the need to use the mouse or trackpad by tapping the cursor keys to move the highlight up or down, and hitting Enter to select an item.

Alas, this only works if Notification Center is already switched to the Notifications heading when it opens, and it appears there isnt a keyboard shortcut that lets you switch between the Today and the Notifications headingand nor does such a thing appear to be possible via the Shortcuts tab of System Preferences.

notifications day
Select notifications by day

By tapping the number keys when the Notification Center is opened to the Notifications view you can instantly switch to notifications of a certain age.

For example, tapping the 2 key will switch to you the first notification in the list from two days ago. Tapping the 3 key will do the same for the first notification from three days ago, and so on.

Note that sometimes you have to press the number keys a few times for this to work, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all.

terminal notifications
How to turn off Notification Center

If you don’t use Notification Center, you can turn it off completely, which will also stop notification pop-ups appearing. To do so, open a Terminal window (it’s in Applications > Utilities) and paste-in the following as one line:

launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

Then log out and back in again to see the change. Alas, the desktop icon sticks around but it now does nothing when clicked.

To bring back Notification Center in future, open Terminal and paste-in the following as one line:

launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

notifications timer terminal
Make notifications stick around for longer

Notifications that pop-out at the top right of the screen disappear after just a few seconds but you can change this time period via a secret setting. You can even make it so notifications essentially never disappear unless you click on them or otherwise dismiss them.

To change this setting, open a Terminal window (Applications > Utilities) and paste-in the following (this will set it so notifications stay on screen for half a minute; the number at the end is the number of seconds):

defaults write bannerTime 30

To have notifications stick around essentially forever, paste-in the following instead:

defaults write bannerTime 86400

Then log out and back in again for the changes to take effect. To restore the default time period, open a Terminal window and type the following:

defaults delete bannerTime

custom notifications terminal
How to create your own notifications

Here’s a cool little trick that makes it possible to create your own notifications that pop-up at the right of the screen and appear in the Notifications list within Notification Center.

To start you’ll need to install some extra software. This is a one-off process. Open a Terminal window (Applications > Utilities) and paste-in:

sudo gem install terminal-notifier

Once installation has finished, you can use the following command to make a basic notification appear:

terminal-notifier -message "Hello, this is my message"