How to take control of macOS notifications

Are you annoyed by how quickly the macOS notification banners that appear in the top right corner of the screen disappear? Has it ever annoyed anyone you know? Is that person so frustrated with macOS notifications and multitasking that they write an 826 word attack against the preferred platform of many of their Forget colleagues?

Maybe I can help you make it a little less annoying. All you have to do is decide which app notifications you want to keep on screen, which you want to hide automatically, and which you’d rather just show as a red badge on your dock.

A note: For these directions, I used a Mac loaded with macOS Ventura. If you have macOS Monterey or earlier, your prompts and screens may be slightly different.

a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin [&>a]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-white md:text-30">Notification settings for your screen

Notification settings in macOS Ventura.
Screenshot: Umar Shakir / The Verge

You can make changes to how your Mac displays notifications by going to the notification settings:

  • Start opening System settings.
  • click on notifications.

At the top you’ll see settings for the Notification Center, which has controls for general notification behavior. You can make the following adjustments:

  • Show examples: A drop-down menu gives you the choice All the time, When unlockedor Never. These options indicate when you want notifications for an app to actually show you the content, such as the actual text in a text message you receive. If you want complete privacy, come along Never. When unlocked gives you the convenience of seeing the message except when the Mac is locked.
  • To allow notifications when the screen sleeps: If your Mac puts its screen to sleep, you may not want it to keep flashing for every notification you receive, so you can turn that off. Or, if you prefer your Mac to warn you about everything, turn it on.
  • To allow notifications when the screen is locked: If you disable this, your computer will be silent about notifications that come in when you’re away from the keyboard when your computer is locked (by inactivity or when it’s manually activated, such as with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Command + Q).
  • To allow notifications when mirroring or sharing the screen: Whether you have a lot of conversations where you share your screen or use a PowerPoint in the conference room, it’s best to leave this setting off to prevent people from getting annoying notifications. Unless you want people to see your Slack or Teams DMs pop up…

a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin [&>a]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-white md:text-30">App notification settings

You can change different behaviors per app, in this case Slack.

You can change different behaviors per app, in this case Slack.
Screenshot: Umar Shakir / The Verge

That same notification settings screen has a list of your apps. Each of those apps has its own settings, giving you quite a bit of control over how (and if) you want to receive notifications. To make these changes:

  • Click on the app you want to manipulate. Some common apps you might want to check out are Messages or Mail or a business communication app like Slack or Teams.
  • Enable at the top of the page Allow notifications to fully enable or disable notifications for the app. If this option is disabled, you will not hear anything from the app and the other options will be grayed out.

If you choose to enable notifications for the app, you can select the type of alert you want to see in the top right corner of the screen. You have three choices:

  • No: You won’t see a banner, but you can be alerted in other ways. This works well for the Mail app, as long as you’re okay with a potentially terrifying number badge on the dock icon. (Mine says 30,000, which is fine by me.)
  • banners: This is the default choice. It waves the notification in from the side and disappears after five seconds. It’s great for things like the Messages app when you want to glance at an acquaintance’s text but don’t want it to hang around like an unwanted guest.
  • warnings: The banner won’t go away. Use this if, for example, you’d rather have your Slack messages stay on screen until you confirm them by clicking them open or closing them to the right with a click and drag or a two-finger trackpad swipe.

After choosing the type of banner you want (or no banner), you have additional options that you can change per app. For example, there is an option to keep notifications more discreet by setting Show previews until Never within specific app settings.

You can also prevent app popups from being automatically grouped in the Notification Center. This is the sidebar that you reach by clicking in the top right corner of your screen or by swiping two fingers from the Right.

a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin [&>a]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-white md:text-30">Choose how long a banner will hang

Wait, come back!  I don't feel like clicking the clock to open Notification Center to see you again.

Wait, come back! I don’t feel like clicking the clock to open Notification Center to see you again.
Screenshot: Umar Shakir / The Verge

If you want the banner to hang for shorter or longer periods of time, guess what? Frustratingly, Apple won’t let you do that. However, if you’re using a Mac running macOS Catalina (10.15) or earlier, there’s a Terminal command you can use to change how long a notification banner hangs. Follow along if you want to try this option:

  • Open Terminal from you Applications > Utilities folder or search for it with Spotlight (using the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of the screen). You can also use the Command + spacebar shortcut combo.
  • In Terminal, type the following command (but do not press return again):

default write bannerTime 12

  • The “12” at the end represents 12 seconds — the amount of time you want your banners to stay. By default, the system is set to five seconds. Replace the number with the desired number of seconds.
  • Touch Yield. The change has now been made, but your system must be rebooted for it to work.

Now your banners will stay for the number of seconds you typed in. Again, it’s important to note that this doesn’t work on newer versions of macOS, starting with macOS Big Sur. This tweak is also global, so you can’t change how long the notifications stay on for specific apps.

So take the time to look at all your apps in the notification settings and decide which apps you really want to hear from and how you want to see notifications.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be pleased if all your notifications remain on your screen until you dismiss them. “Yeah, that’s not what I want,” one Forget editor-in-chief told me. “Now my screen is full.”


Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.