Never-ending notifications in macOS getting too distracting? Here’s how to silence the intrusive services.
More than half of macOS users still use the previous version of the operating system, according to Statcounter, so you’ll find steps here for both the latest version of macOS, Big Sur, whose interface design shows a clear iOS influence, and the previous one, Catalina.
- Which notifications to leave on
- Fine-tuning notifications in macOS
- Do Not Disturb mode: Let the world wait
- Other ways to take care of yourself in macOS
- Peace and quiet at last
Which notifications to leave on
Some notifications come from your security system. Others may affect your pay. For a variety of reasons, turning off all notifications probably won’t suit you. Here is a list of alerts you may want to leave on.
- Antivirus updates. If you don’t take care of your computer’s security, who will? Keep your security software up to date and you’re less likely to have to deal with the consequences of a cyberattack;
- System updates. We are not just talking about new macOS versions, here. Safari updates and other software patches are just as important; cybercriminals love devices with a swelling queue of updates. Opting out of update alerts with a Terminal command used to be an option, but that loophole was closed back in Catalina, so this recommendation applies primarily to Mojave users;
- Corporate chats and e-mail. For obvious reasons, you know best whether you need to know about work messages right away.
Fine-tuning notifications in macOS
How to turn off notifications through the Notification Center in macOS Big Sur
If you are using Big Sur, you can turn off notifications from the most annoying programs directly. Open the Notification Center and click on the date and time on the menu bar at the top right of the screen — or just swipe left with two fingers from the right edge of the trackpad.
Locate a single notification or stack of notifications. If the last one has an arrow showing to the right of the app name, click that. (If not, skip to the next section of this text.) Click the three dots and choose the best option for you. You will need three out of the four available:
- Deliver Quietly: Notifications from the application will pop up on the right side of the screen but make no sound;
- Turn Off: The application will not send notifications;
- Notification Preferences: This option opens the System Preferences menu, where you can customize the format of notifications from the application (more on that in the next section).
Bulk-disable notifications through System Preferences in macOS
If you use Catalina or an older version of macOS, open the Notification Center and press the gear icon in the bottom right corner. Alternatively, open System Preferences and find Notifications. Look for the most intrusive apps in the left column and set the notification format:
- None (turn off Allow Notifications in Big Sur): Turn off all notifications for this app;
- Banners: Notifications will pop up but disappear automatically;
- Alerts: Notifications will linger at the right of the screen until you manually close them.
In the same section, you can set up whether notifications should be displayed in the Notification Center, delivered quietly, or displayed on the lock screen, with or without preview. You can select more than one option here, and we recommend disabling lock-screen previews for privacy.
How to disable browser notifications in macOS
Notifications from browsers can be even more distracting than chats with friends. Here is how to get rid of intrusive alerts in Safari from news outlets and other sites.
Open the browser and click Safari at the top left of the screen. Select Preferences. In the window that opens, switch to the Websites tab and click Notifications. Choose the website name in the list on the right and select Deny.
In the same section, you can refuse in advance websites’ endless offers to receive notifications by unchecking Allow websites to ask for permission to send notifications.
If you do not mind getting alerts, but you would like to change the format, then open System Preferences, choose Notifications, find Safari in the app list and set up browser notifications to your liking.
If you use a different browser, see our manual for Chrome, Firefox, and more.
Do Not Disturb mode: Let the world wait
When you need maximum concentration and any notification would only interfere, Do Not Disturb mode is there to help.
While your computer is in Do Not Disturb mode, alerts will quietly accumulate in the Notification Center until you turn off DND, but you will not see or hear them.
How to activate Do Not Disturb mode in macOS
If you need to shut off the outside world right now, press and hold Alt-Option and click the Notification Center icon in the top right corner of the screen in Catalina or earlier versions, or the date and time in Big Sur. This will activate Do Not Disturb mode.
Alternatively, scroll up in the Notification Center and activate the mode with the toggle there. Either way, notifications will be suppressed until you disable quiet mode.
If you are using Big Sur, you can open the Control Center (the icon to the left of the date and time) and click on the appropriate item in the menu. Set a quiet mode duration: an hour, until this evening, until tomorrow, or until you turn it off.
Setting up a Do Not Disturb schedule in macOS
To keep instant messaging apps from distracting you while you work, or to prevent corporate mail from interrupting your after-work video game battles, configure Do Not Disturb mode to activate at the same time every day: In System Preferences, click Notifications and specify a silent interval under Do Not Disturb.
macOS can also activate DND by default while your computer sleeps or mirror the screen to a projector or TV — just make sure those boxes are checked in the same section of the menu.
Here, you can also permit Do Not Disturb to let through incoming calls; just enable the corresponding option. Alternatively, you can allow only persistent callers, by checking Allow repeated calls. That way, the system will display an incoming call if the number has called in the last three minutes.
More macOS self-care
Creating a separate desktop for an application
To make focusing on the task at hand even easier, create a separate Space for an application that needs close attention. Hover over or click and hold the green button with two arrows in the upper left corner of the window, and select Enter Full Screen from the context menu.
You can create up to 16 such workspaces. Using the Split View feature lets you combine two windows in one Space, so that you do not have to keep switching back and forth. To position two windows side by side, hover over or click and hold the green button and select a window position (left or right) from the context menu. Then click the window you want to put in the other half of the screen.
Taking care of the eyes with Night Shift
When the workday spills over into evening or even night, you may not notice the change in the time and light, but your eyes and brain experience the bright blue light of the display, which disrupts your circadian rhythm. That’s one reason getting a good night’s sleep is harder after spending night hours at the computer, although scientists are still debating this. The Night Shift feature shifts the colors of the display to the warmer end of the spectrum, protecting your eyes.
To get back your healthy sleep, go to System Preferences and click Displays. On the Night Shift tab, select one of the options from the Schedule drop-down menu:
- Sunset to Sunrise automatically activates Night Shift based on your location;
- Custom lets you customize the mode interval to suit your needs.
Peace and quiet at last
Quiet work and relaxation are not exclusive to Macs. Here’s how to turn off notifications on iPhones and iPads, as well as Android smartphones and tablets.