New Mail Notification Style in Mac OS X Mail

Personalize your notifications so you never miss an important email

You don't have to continually check the Mail app for incoming emails when you are on your Mac. You can set your computer to display a notification whenever you receive a new message. The style you choose for alerts about new (or important) emails in Mac OS X or macOS Mail brings with it several options. Do you prefer to have the notifications linger and nag until you accept them, guaranteeing you won't miss one? Do you want quick notices that let you know what is going on as you glance at them but then hide all on their own? Do you, perhaps, prefer only a comforting "ding" every once in a while to let you know mail has arrived?

The OS X and macOS Notification Center, together with the Mail application, deliver just the nudges you need—in the style you prefer.

Information is this article applies to the following operating systems: macOS Catalina (10.15), macOS Mojave (10.14), macOS High Sierra (10.13), macOS Sierra (10.12), OS X El Capitan (10.11), OS X Yosemite (10.10), OS X Mavericks (10.9), OS X Mountain Lion (10.8), and OS X Lion (10.7).

Choose a Mail Notification Style

To choose how you want OS X or macOS Mail to alert you about new messages:

  1. Open the System Preferences application by clicking its icon in the Mac Dock or by selecting System Preferences in the drop-down menu under the Apple icon at the top of the screen.

    The System Preferences command under the Apple menu
  2. Tap Notifications in the System Preferences screen.

    Notifications in System Preferences
  3. Select Mail in the list of applications in the left panel.

    Mail in the macOS Notifications settings panel
  4. Toggle the slider next to Allow Notifications from Mail to the On position in macOS Catalina. (Earlier versions of the operating system don't require this step.)

    The "Allow Notifications from Mail" switch in macOS
  5. Choose the style you want to use for new message alerts in the Mail alert style section. You have three options: None, Banners, and Alerts.

    Mail alert styles in macOS
  • None: No pop-up notifications appear on the screen. Recent messages may still show up in Notification Center. Sounds can play, and Mail can still indicate the number of unread mail messages on the Mail icon in the Dock if the feature is enabled.
  • Banners: Pop-up messages show briefly in the top right corner of the display when new emails arrive. They linger briefly and then disappear automatically.
  • Alerts: Pop-up messages appear in the top right of your desktop when new mail arrives. You must acknowledge the alert message by clicking Open to open the email or Close to dismiss the alert.

That takes care of the banner-type selection, but don't leave this screen without checking out the options at the bottom of the screen.

Options for Mail Notifications

Choose how else you want Mac Mail to treat unread or new messages. You can check all or none of the boxes at the bottom of the Notifications screen. They are:

  • Show notifications on lock screen.
  • Show notification preview: Choose Always or when unlocked, which protects your privacy when you are away from your computer display.
  • Show in Notification Center: Places the notification in the Notification Center, which is available as a pull-down feature in the top right corner of the Mac.
  • Badge app icon: Place the number of unread messages counted in a badge on the Mail applications Dock icon, if this is set up in Mail.
  • Play sound for notifications: You hear an audible alert for new mail if a sound is selected for incoming messages in Mail itself.

Related Options in the Mail Preferences

Not everything is controlled in the Notifications preferences. Some things depend on how you set up the General preferences in the Mail application, which you access by clicking Mail > Preferences in the Mail menu bar.

This is where you specify which type of emails you want to receive notifications for. You may want to specify Inbox Only, but you can make other selections. Your options include:

  • Inbox Only
  • VIPs
  • Contacts
  • All Mailboxes
  • Today
  • Today's emails
  • Today's trash

The same choices are available in the drop-down menu next to Dock unread count, which controls whether a badge for the number of unread emails is placed on the Mail icon in the Dock.

The sound alerts are also specified in the Mail preferences screen. The default is New Messages Sound, but you can choose from a collection of other sounds or no sound at all.

After you configure your mail notifications, you are much less likely to miss a message. Setting up Notifications gives you peace of mind so that you can work uninterrupted.