Getting started with Mountain Lion's Notification Center

Mountain Lion has arrived, bringing more than 200 new features to OS X. One of them is Notification Center. Here's what you need to know.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read
Apple Inc.

Mountain Lion has pounced into the Mac App Store. If you haven't already upgraded to the latest version of OS X, you'll want to make sure your Mac is ready for the upgrade.

Once you have gone through the preparation and installation of Mountain Lion, you're not going to want to wait to dig right in and get all of the new features set up.

One of the (many) features OS X has incorporated from iOS in Mountain Lion is the Notification Center. If you use an iOS device, you're already familiar with how it works to an extent. You can drag it down from the top of your screen at any time to reveal any pending notifications.

The same principle applies to Notification Center on OS X 10.8, except, you don't pull down from the top of the screen. The Notification Center is hidden under the right side of your desktop. There are two methods for you to use to reveal your notifications.

  • You can click on the Notification Center icon at the far right of your menu bar.
  • You can two-finger swipe from the right edge of your trackpad.

To access Notification with gestures on a trackpad, make sure to enable it in System Preferences. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The second method will have to be enabled in System Preferences under the Trackpad option. I wasn't able to find any settings or options for those using the Magic Mouse and not a trackpad. If you find a way to access Notification Center via a gesture on the Magic Mouse, please leave a comment below.

Your Notification Center settings can be found in System Preferences under Notifications. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Settings for the Notification Center can be found in System Preferences under the Notifications option.

When you open the Notifications option, you'll see a list of apps integrated with Notification Center, much like you do on iOS in the Notification Settings.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can then select the type of alert each app will use, whether or not the app will show up in Notification Center, the amount of history to display, and if you want a sound or badge icon to be used when a new notification comes in.

You can reorder the list of apps in the settings and set Notification Center to sort manually if you want certain apps to always remain on top. Or, you can choose to let the notifications be displayed in order of last received.

On the left, an example of a Banner notifications. On the right, an example of the Alerts notifications. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

There are two alert types to choose from in Notification Center. The first, Banners, will display a notification in the top right of your screen for a few seconds before it slides off into Notification Center. The second, Alerts, requires you take an action on the alert before it will go away.

One feature that iOS currently doesn't have in Notification Center, that OS X does, is a do not disturb-like setting. If you're watching a movie, or need to get some work done without the distraction of notifications popping in all the time, you can temporarily turn off alerts and banners.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To access the feature, open Notification Center and scroll down using two fingers until a toggle switch is pulled down from the top. You won't receive any further alerts from Notification Center until you either turn them back on, or the following day, whichever occurs first.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

With Twitter integration now throughout OS X Mountain Lion, you will also see a Click to Tweet button in Notification Center after you have added a Twitter account in System Preferences > Mail, Contacts & Calendar. Clicking on the button will allow you to compose a tweet directly from the Notification Center.

How do you feel about Notification Center making its way to OS X? Is this something you'll find useful, or an iOS feature you wish would rather stay on iOS?