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Cut Through the Noise with Notification Center in Mountain Lion

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This post is part of a series called Mastering Mountain Lion.
Gatekeeper in Mountain Lion: What You Need To Know
An In-Depth Look at Social Sharing in Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion takes a lot of cues from its little brother iOS. One great feature that has made its way to Mountain Lion is Notification Center. Notification Center lives behind the right side of your screen and can be accessed from anywhere inside of Mountain Lion. Notifications work in much the same way as the iOS version, with some enhancements to be more practical on a desktop computer.


Notification Center will display a wide range of Notifications like email, Calendar events, missed FaceTime invites, Messages, Reminders and Social Media alerts like Twitter mentions and Direct Messages. Read on to learn how to navigate your way around Notification Center and how to set up the preferences.


Screencast


Watch the video for a quick overview of the methods in the article.

Viewing & Hiding Notification Center

There a few ways you can navigate in and out of Notification Center in Mountain Lion. It will only take you a few moments to get the hang of it with your mouse or with an Apple Magic Trackpad.

The three primary ways into Notification Center are as follows:

  • Clicking the new Notifications Icon on the right side of the Menu Bar will slide your screen over to the left and reveal the Notification Center. Clicking the Notifications Icon again will slide the screen to the right and cover Notification Center back up. You can also just click anywhere inside of the screen when inside Notification Center to close it.
  • If you have an Apple Magic Trackpad, there is also a swipe gesture that will give you access to Notification Center. This will also work if you are in an app in full screen mode, where the Menu Bar is not visible. If you swipe with two fingers on the right most side of the Trackpad, you will reveal Notification Center. Swiping two fingers to the right anywhere on the Trackpad will take you back to the desktop.
  • Finally, hitting the Esc key while inside Notification Center will take you out as well.

If you swipe with two fingers on the right most side of the Trackpad, you will reveal Notification Center.

Notification Center Preferences

To set up Notification Center Preferences, you can click the little gears icon in the lower right corner which will take you into the Notification Center Preference Pane; or you can get to it by going to Apple > System Preferences > Notifications.

Clicking On The Gear icon Inside notification Center Will Take you To The Preferences Settings
Clicking On The Gear icon Inside notification Center Will Take you To The Preferences Settings

The Notifications Preferences Pane is pretty straight forward: On the left side you have a list of every App that can use Notification Center. It's broken into two sections, In Notification Center, and if you scroll down to the bottom of the list, Not in Notification Center.

If you don't want an item to show inside Notification Center, you just simply click and drag it below the "Not In Notification Center"

If you don't want an item to show inside Notification Center, you just simply click and drag it below the "Not In Notification Center" area or uncheck the Show In Notification Center check box in the right side of the preferences window.

Notifications Preferences Window
The Notifications Preferences Pane Is Divided Into Two Main Parts

You have two options for how Notifications are sorted inside of Notification Center; manually or by time. Manually will sort Notifications inside of Notification Center in the order that you have them here in the Preferences. You can change the order by clicking and dragging to arrange them.

Sorting Notifications by time will show them in chronological order inside of Notification Center regardless of the order in the Preference Pane.

Twitter

On the right side of the Preference Pane, you will see the various options for the selected application. The options are all the same for the most part, the major exception is that Twitter has an extra option here which will let you show or hide Notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages.

Twitter has an extra option here which will let you show or hide Notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages

You need to sign into Twitter inside of OS X in order to receive Notifications for Twitter by going to the System Preferences > Mail > Contacts and Calendars and signing into Twitter.


Alert Styles

There are three options for the alert style when you get a Notification, this is pretty much a mirror of how iOS Notifications work:

  • You can have none, which will give you no alert, but will still show inside of Notification Center.
  • Banners will give you an alert in the upper right hand of your screen and fly away after a few moments.
  • Alerts require an action before they will go away, either dismissing the Alert or viewing the Alert.

Below the alert style you have three checkbox options. The first allows you to show or not show an app inside of Notification Center (this is the same as dragging the app to the Not in Notification Center area to the left) and also set how many items will show inside of Notification Center for the particular app.

Checking Badge App Icons will show you a little red badge on the app icon with the number of alerts inside the badge just like in iOS. Finally, Play Sound will do just that and play a sound when a new Notification arrives on screen.

Other apps such as Mail and Calendars now have their own options for how Notifications are used inside the individual apps. For example. in the Mail Preferences under the General tab is a drop down for which emails you want to show Notifications for.

system preferences
Some Apps Have Settings For Notifications Inside Their Specific Settings
  • Inbox Only will show you all emails from all of your inboxes inside Mail.
  • VIPs is a new label you can apply in Mail in Mountain Lion. Assigning a contact as a VIP will, in addition to giving that contact their own folder in the Mail favorites list, give them special priority in Notification Center.
  • Contacts will show you Notifications only from email accounts that are assigned to someone in your contacts.
  • All mailboxes which will show all email from all your mailboxes.

Conclusion

Notification Center is a great productivity enhancement tool inside of Mountain Lion. It allows you to quickly see what is going on in your digital world without pulling away from what you're doing.

It's probably a safe bet to assume that Notification Center is going to quickly replace other widely used notification utilities on the Mac once developers begin to incorporate Notifications into their apps.

I hope you're feeling more up to par using Notifications and Notification Center inside of OS X Mountain Lion, leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or questions.

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