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Feature Request: Help us identify where audio alerts are coming from …

macOS is very flexible when it comes to alerts. System Preferences allows us to choose on an app-by-app basis whether we want alerts that stay on the screen until dismissed, banners that display for a few seconds and then auto-dismiss, or no alerts at all.

We can choose whether or not apps play sounds. We can decide whether or not we want their alerts to show up in the Notification Center. And we can tell the Mac whether or not to add a badge to the app icon, for example to show how many unread emails we have.

So you might think that with all these different options at our disposal, there isn’t anything more that we could want. But there is just one more thing I want – and I want it rather a lot …

I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve been away from my Mac, heard an audible alert and then returned to the Mac to be unable to figure out where it came from.

Some alert sounds are sufficiently distinctive that we learn to recognize them. For example, if I hear a particular kerpling sound, then I know that probably means I have Facebook open in one of my tabs and I’ve just received a private message.

But other times, I hear a sound, return to my Mac and scan the screen without luck. There are no visible app badges in the dock. Nothing in Notification Center. Nothing I can identify as the source of the alert.

Indeed, there are even times when that happens while I’m actually using the Mac. Something pings or dings or rings or sings or plings or does some other kind of ing, and I can’t for the life of me work out what it was. Sometimes I spot it later, when I bring an app window to the foreground, other times it remains a mystery destined to remain unsolved until the end of time.

I do tend to have quite a lot of apps open at the same time. I could doubtlessly reduce the instances of these mystery alerts by closing those not actively in use, but with 16GB of RAM I find that everything I need sits happily running away, so it would be a bit of a nuisance to have to close and re-open those apps I use routinely.

So I’d like some way to simply ask my Mac what the most recent alert was. That could be as simple as adding a bell badge to the icon of any app that sounds an alert – though that wouldn’t help if it was a browser and you have a million tabs open. Perhaps ensure that anything that bleeps at you also has to add that alert to the Notification Center? Or maybe a menu bar bell with a drop-down?

Am I the only one to suffer this, or is this something others would find useful too? Is there a particular app whose sounds drove you crazy until you worked out which one it was? Please let us know in the comments.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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