Thoughts, stories and ideas.

11th September 2016 · 6 minutes · macos

User Notifications notify the user that something has changed in the application. Best known examples are the upcoming events in Calendar or the build status in Xcode.

Notification Center provides an overview of notifications from applications. As we will see, it’s very easy to integrate and display basic notifications in it.

Three display styles are available: None, Banner and Alert.
Three display styles are available: None, Banner and Alert.

By default, User Notifications are displayed using the Banner style.

Basic notification: banner

Banners are simple notification view, dismissed after a few seconds.

We use two class NSUserNotification and NSUserNotificationCenter. The first to create and manage the notification and the second to “display” it.

import Cocoa

// Create the notification and setup information

let notification = NSUserNotification()
notification.identifier = "unique-id"
notification.title = "Hello"
notification.subtitle = "How are you?"
notification.informativeText = "This is a test"
notification.soundName = NSUserNotificationDefaultSoundName
notification.contentImage = NSImage(contentsOfURL: NSURL(string: "https://placehold.it/300")!)

// Manually display the notification

let notificationCenter = NSUserNotificationCenter.defaultUserNotificationCenter()

A simple banner notification
A simple banner notification


Now, let’s say we want to schedule the display to be 10 seconds later. We just need to add a property:

notification.deliveryDate = NSDate(timeIntervalSinceNow: 10)

And we need to modify the display method:


However scheduleNotification does not really display the notification, the Notification Center decides if it should be displayed or not. Usually, the notification it’s not display if the app is already in focus. We’ll see later how to override that behavior.

To repeat a notification, like Reminders, it is also very easy. Let’s say I want to repeat every day:

let repeatInt = NSDateComponents()
repeatInt.day = 1
notification.deliveryRepeatInterval = repeatInt

Note: the minimum time interval allowed is *one minute*, else you’ll have a runtime error.


You can add a reply field with a custom placeholder:

notification.hasReplyButton = true
notification.responsePlaceholder = "Type you reply here"
A banner notification with reply — hover and focus
With reply — hover and focus

Handle response

To be able to retrieve the content of the reply field, we need to implement NSUserNotificationCenterDelegate protocol.

AppDelegate’s applicationDidFinishLaunching method is a good candidate for of delegate.

NSUserNotificationCenter.defaultUserNotificationCenter().delegate = self

After the user validated his response, the Notification Center will call userNotificationCenter:didActivateNotification, we just need to check the activation type:

func userNotificationCenter(center: NSUserNotificationCenter, didActivateNotification notification: NSUserNotification) {
    switch (notification.activationType) {
        case .Replied:
            guard let res = notification.response else { return }
            print("User replied: \(res.string)")

That’s all!

See ActivationType reference for further value.

Like I said, it’s possible to override scheduleNotification behavior. You can force a notification to be displayed, thanks to userNotificationCenter:shouldPresentNotification.

func userNotificationCenter(center: NSUserNotificationCenter, shouldPresentNotification notification: NSUserNotification) -> Bool {
    return true


On the contrary of banners, alerts aren’t dismissed automatically.

To modify the notification style we need to add a property into Info.plist. Set NSUserNotificationAlertStyle as key with alert string value.


Same as banners, you need to configure hasReplyButton and responsePlaceholder properties, to enable reply, else you’ll have default buttons. You can configure them to display what you want instead of Show/Close:

notification.hasActionButton = true
notification.otherButtonTitle = "Marco"
notification.actionButtonTitle = "Polo"
A notification with custom buttons title
Custom buttons title

Additional actions

It’s sometimes useful to offer multiple actions to users, directly from the notification, as a non-breaking workflow.

It’s not possible to have both reply field and additional actions. Reply will be shown if hasActionButton and hasReplyButton are both true.

Additional actions are an array of NSUserNotificationAction:

var actions = [NSUserNotificationAction]()

let action1 = NSUserNotificationAction(identifier: "action1", title: "Action 1")
let action2 = NSUserNotificationAction(identifier: "action2", title: "Action 2")
let action3 = NSUserNotificationAction(identifier: "action3", title: "Action 3")

notification.additionalActions = actions
A notification with additional actions displayed
Additional actions displayed

Currently, you need to hold-click the action button to display the additional actions and there is no little arrow on hover.

There is a workaround, to display like the Reminders app. But it’s ugly. It uses the private API so I highly recommend using with precautions especially in production application:

// WARNING, private API
notification.setValue(true, forKey: "_alwaysShowAlternateActionMenu")
Arrow on hover
Workaround: arrow on hover

You don’t longer have access to the action button with this workaround.

Handle actions

Go back to userNotificationCenter:didActivateNotification and add these switch cases:

case .AdditionalActionClicked:
    guard let choosen = notification.additionalActivationAction, let title = choosen.title else { return }
    print("Action: \(title)")
case .ActionButtonClicked:
    print("Action button (Polo)")
case .ContentsClicked:
    print("Contents clicked")






Last updated on 01st May 2019