Quickly activate Do Not Disturb
The Do Not Disturb mode can be activated and configured in the System Preferences app (just click the Notifications icon), but you can ultra-quickly activate it in two ways.
The first is to hold down Alt (Option on some keyboards) and click the notification icon at the top right of the screen. The icon will go grey to indicate what you’ve done.
The second way is to open the Notification Center, ensure Today is selected, and scroll down. A switch will appear at the top, which you can click. Using either of these methods will activate Do Not Disturb until the end of the day.
Activate Do Not Disturb even more quickly
An even quicker way of activating Do Not Disturb is to use a keyboard shortcut.
Unfortunately this isn’t setup by default but it’s easy to configure. Open System Preferences and then click the Keyboard icon. Select the Shortcuts tab and ensure Mission Control is selected at the left.
Then put a tick alongside Turn Do Not Disturb On/Off, and type the keyboard shortcut you wish to use – something like Shift+Alt+Cmd+D works great and isn’t already in use.
Quickly open Notification Center
If moving the mouse cursor to the top right of the screen and clicking the Notification Center icon is just too much work, you can make it so that simply bashing the cursor into the top right of the screen automatically opens Notification Center.
To do so, open System Preferences and click the Mission Control icon. Then click the Hot Corners button. Choose the dropdown at the top right in the dialog box that appears, and select Notification Center.
Pro tip: By holding down any (or a combo) of the Cmd, Alt, Ctrl and Shift keys while clicking the menu option, you can configure it so Notification Center will only appear if those keys are held down while you bash the cursor.
See what apps are compatible
Lots of built-in apps feature Notification Center widgets and there are a handful of other widgets built-into OS X too, but several third-party apps come with their own add-ons.
To see a list, open Notification Center, ensure Today is selected, and click the Edit button at the bottom. Then click the App Store button.
This will open the App Store to show a specially curated list of available apps. Also see our round-up of Yosemite extensions.
Change individual settings
Although global notification settings can be configured in System Preferences as described earlier (just click the Notifications icon), several apps have their own specific settings that you can access by opening the Preferences dialog box in each of them (tap Cmd+comma while the app’s up and running).
For example, you can configure which of your inboxes you see notifications for in Mail, or whether you get notifications of messages from unknown contacts in the Messages app.
Avoid the mouse
If you decide to use a keyboard shortcut to open Notification Center then you can continue to avoid the need to use the mouse or trackpad by tapping the cursor keys to move the highlight up or down, and hitting Enter to select an item.
Alas, this only works if Notification Center is already switched to the Notifications heading when it opens, and it appears there isn’t a keyboard shortcut that lets you switch between the Today and the Notifications heading – and nor does such a thing appear to be possible via the Shortcuts tab of System Preferences.
Select notifications by day
By tapping the number keys when the Notification Center is opened to the Notifications view you can instantly switch to notifications of a certain age.
For example, tapping 2 will switch to you the first notification in the list from two days ago. Tapping 3 will do the same for the first notification from three days ago, and so on.
Note that sometimes you have to press the number keys a few times for this to work, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all – we guess this is one feature Apple’s still working on.
How to turn off Notification Center
If you just don’t use Notification Center, you can turn it off completely, which will also stop notification pop-ups appearing. To do so, open a Terminal window (it’s in the Utilities folder of the Applications listing) and paste-in the following, which is all one line:
launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.notificationcenterui.plist
Then log out and back in again to see the change. Alas, the desktop icon sticks around but it now does nothing when clicked.
To bring back Notification Center in future, again open Terminal and paste-in the following, which is again a single line:
launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.notificationcenterui.plist
Make notifications stick around for longer
Notifications that pop-out at the top right of the screen disappear after just a few seconds but you can change this time period via a secret setting. You can even make it so notifications essentially never disappear unless you click on them or otherwise dismiss them. To change this setting, open a Terminal window (it’s in the Utilities folder of the Applications listing) and paste-in the following, which is all one line – this will set it so notifications stay on screen for half a minute (the number at the end is the number of seconds):
defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui bannerTime 30
To have notifications stick around essentially forever, paste-in the following instead
defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui bannerTime 86400
Then log out and back in again for the changes to take effect. To restore the default time period, again open a Terminal window and type the following:
defaults delete com.apple.notificationcenterui bannerTime