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Notes on notifications

Christopher Breen | Jan. 4, 2013
If, as is the case for an increasing number of people, your first experience with an Apple product came via an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you've likely noticed that your iOS device and your Mac offer some of the same features. This is part of Apple's "Back to the Mac" strategy, where features introduced in iOS, its mobile operating system, are then brought to the Mac OS. One such feature is Notification Center, the subject of today's lesson.

You might use this feature if your Mac sits nearby your sleeping form and you'd rather not have late-night audio alerts wake you. If you find it too much trouble to use the switch, you can simply hold down the Option key and click on the Notification Center icon in the menu bar. It will turn gray, indicating that notifications have been switched off.

If you've set up Twitter and/or Facebook accounts within the Mail, Contacts & Calendars system preference (something we'll discuss in the future), you'll also find 'Click to Tweet' and/or 'Click to Post' buttons in this area. To use these buttons, just click on one and a small text window will drop down where you can enter your tweet or Facebook post. If you click on Click to Post, you can choose who can view your post on Facebook--everyone, friends, only me, family, close friends, or acquaintances. Both of the buttons support the Mac's ability to broadcast your location, so if you want the world to know where you've tweeted/posted from, just click Add Location and your whereabouts will be appended to your entry.

At the bottom of the pane you'll see a Settings icon. As it happens, that's what we'll address next.

Notifications settings

Earlier I mentioned that what appears in Notification Center depends on how you've configured it. And configure it you shall in the Notifications system preference. You can reach this preference either by clicking on the aforementioned Settings button or by choosing System Preferences from the Apple menu and clicking on Notifications in the resulting System Preferences window.

Along the left side of the window, you'll see a pane that lists applications that are capable of sending you notifications--this includes Apple applications as well as third-party applications that support notifications. Those that appear under the In Notification Center heading are capable of making their presence known in Notification Center. Applications that appear under the Not In Notification Center heading support notifications, but you've chosen not to allow them to produce such notifications. (I'll show you how that's done soon.)

To the right is the area you use to configure how notifications are presented. Select Calendar and I'll show you how this works.

Near the top of the area, you see three alert styles--None, Banners, and Alerts. We'll start with banners and alerts.

A banner notification is one that appears briefly and then disappears. For example, you might see the subject heading and sender of an email message. An alert notification requires that you manually dismiss the notification by clicking a button within the notification. Calendar alerts, by default, use this kind of notification.

If you select None, no notification will pop-up on your Mac's screen to warn you of the impending event. However, the notification will still appear in Notification Center.


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