How to Fix the Notification Center in OS X

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The Notification Center gives you an overview of alerts from various applications. This feature originally introduced in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is pretty great, but like everything else, it can be better with a little tweaking.

By changing a few key settings and doing a little Terminal work, you can get Notification Center running smoothly and customize it exactly how you want it.

Check out these tips on how to improve this OS X feature.


Notification Center window in OS X

Notification Center 101: The Basics

Before getting into how to update the Notification Center banner persistence, it’s a good idea to tune up the Notification Center itself. Open System Preferences and select Notifications.

System Preferences window in Mac OS X

With Notification Center preferences open, you should see a column of notification items to the left, and the settings for each on the right.

Notifications window in Mac OS X

The first item is Do Not Disturb. This is used to tell your Mac to mute notifications during specific times. If you choose to use this, just set the times you wish to quiet your Mac. Also decide whether or not you want to hide notifications when mirroring your screen to a projector or other presentation-type display.

Next, you can click on each item in the list and choose how you want Notification Center to handle them.

Calendar alert options in Notifications window

Choose how you want the item’s alerts to show:

  • “None” obviously means no alert will show.
  • “Banners” means you’ll see a banner appear in the top right corner of the screen and then go away by itself.
  • “Alerts” are banners that require a click to remove.

OS X allows for you to show notifications on the lock screen. If you want to keep those private, uncheck that box here for each type of notification you want to be private.

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In the Sort Notification Center drop-down menu at the bottom left, choose if you want items to be displayed by time of notification or manually. If you choose Manually, you can drag the items to the left into the order you want.

Want to know more about settings in Notification Center? Check out Apple’s help documentation.

Notification Banners

With your Notification Center settings determined, we can tackle a problem whose solution is a little more technical.

For items that appear as banners, the banners often disappear too quickly, making you click on the Notification Center itself to see what just happened. This defeats the whole purpose of banners and wastes your time.

Adjusting code in Terminal window

With a little work in Terminal, you can adjust the amount of time these banners stay on the screen.

1. Open up Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal) and copy/paste the following command:

defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui bannerTime 10

2. Replace the “10” at the end of that command with however many seconds you want your banners to appear for. If you want them to stay there for 30 seconds, it would look like this:

defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui bannerTime 30

If you’d rather the banners pop up for only a second and then disappear, just to let you know something happened, change the number to “1” and now your banners are faster than ever.

3. When you’re ready to set them back to normal, just paste this command into Terminal and hit Return:

defaults delete com.apple.notificationcenterui bannerTime

This will change your banner display time back to the default, so don’t worry about playing with this to get it how you want, as you can always fix it.

By changing up these settings you can get Notification Center exactly how you like it, which can mean more productivity and fewer interruptions.

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