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Mountain Lion 101: Notification Center


As part of our continuing coverage of Apple's newest operating system -- OS X Mountain Lion -- we're taking a look at many of the new features that made their way into the code. Notification Center finally arrives from iOS-land, where it's been giving us notification of emails, tweets, Facebook posts, and other incoming information.

DNP Mountain Lion 101 Notification CenterBy default, Notification Center in Mountain Lion appears on the right side of the display, popping in when you either click the menu bar icon (which looks like an outline list), or swiping in from right to left with two fingers from the far right side of a trackpad. Notifications from a particular app, say Mail or Twitter, are grouped together. Users can either click on a specific notification to see it in the context of the app, or dismiss all of the notifications listed by clicking an X next to the app name.

Pulling down on the Notification Center strip displays a toggle for turning alerts and banners on and off. If you can't stand being interrupted, you just slide the toggle to off and won't see notifications until the next morning. For Twitter users, there's a Click to Tweet button that appears at the top of the Notification Center if you enable that feature -- I'm guessing, but I'd be willing to bet that a Post to Facebook button will be added this fall.

At the bottom you'll find an icon that takes you to the System Preference pane for Notifications seen at the top of this post. All apps that support Notification Center appear in a scrolling list on the left side of the Notifications preference, and by clicking on each entry you can select what kind of alert you want to see (including no alert), how many items you want to see in Notification Center, whether or not to have an app icon as a badge on the list, and whether or not to play a sound when receiving a notification.

The latter is an important setting. You might want to hear your alert tone every time a tweet mentions you or upon receiving an email, but trust me -- it can get old very quickly. Being able to shut off alert tones is a very nice feature.

There are two different types of visual alerts that appear on your Mac screen; banners, which appear in the upper-right corner of your screen and fade away after a few seconds, and alerts, which stay on the screen until you dismiss them. I find the banners to work best for things like incoming tweets and email, while alerts are perfect for Calendar notifications and Reminders.

For those of us who use Growl at the present time for notification, you may remember our post from last month that talks about the plans of the developers to support Notification Center in Growl 2.0. While that version is not currently available, you should expect to see it in the near future.

The bottom line? I'm not sure that Notification Center is a big enough feature to warrant the upgrade to Mountain Lion, but it's a useful addition to OS X and one more sign that the Mac's operating system and iOS are getting more alike every year.

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