The Notification Center and Spotlight in Mountain Lion

Let’s discuss two very important parts of Mac OS X Mountain Lion: the Notification Center and the Spotlight.

Notification Center

Very often, applications on your Mac need to inform you of things. Perhaps there is a software update waiting for you to download. Maybe you have a calendar appointment that you have asked the Calendar application to remind you about. Or you might even have a new message from a friend waiting to be read in the Messages app. These alerts are known as notifications, and OS X Mountain Lion has a central place for you to see them.

Notifications pop up in the top right corner of your screen, and then slide off screen to the right after a few seconds. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch what it said, because it’s still waiting for you to read in an area called Notification Center. You can access Notification Center by clicking on the rightmost icon in the menu bar at the top of your screen. If you have a trackpad, you can also invoke Notification Center by swiping left from the right edge of the trackpad with two fingers.

Notification Center will side onto the right edge of the screen. It lists any notifications that you have not yet responded to from many apps on your Mac. Examples of possible notifications include upcoming Calendar appointments, messages from the Mail and Messages apps, to-dos from the Reminders app, and so on.

The Notification Center and Spotlight
Notification Center

If you have a Twitter or Facebook account associated with your Mac, buttons are also shown at the top of Notification Center to Click to Tweet and Click to Post. Simply click these buttons to start a new tweet or Facebook post directly from Notification Center.

If you’d like finer control over what appears in Notification Center, click the gear in the bottom right of the screen while Notification Center is open, or open System Preferences and click Notifications.

Spotlight

OS X Mountain Lion includes a powerful, efficient and lightning-fast search tool, called Spotlight. Spotlight catalogues your computer, and any connected storage such as USB memory cards, allowing you to find any of your files in no time at all.

The Notification Center and Spotlight
Spotlight Icon

You can find Spotlight in many places, but the easiest place to get to it is from the menu bar at the top of your screen. On the far right of the menu bar you should see a magnifying glass icon. Clicking it opens a small drop-down text box. All you have to do is type what you want to search for.

But what if you can’t remember what the file was called? Or even what type of file it was? Here is the magic part — you’re not limited to searching by the name of the file. Spotlight is capable of searching inside almost every file on your computer, so that letter you wrote where you spoke about your trip to Scotland…just search for Scotland!

As soon as you start typing, you’ll see results begin to appear. A dropdown list appears, divided into categories such as Applications, System Preferences, Documents, Folders, Mail Messages, Contacts, Calendar Events, Images, Website Bookmarks, Music and Movies. Right at the top of the list is a Top Hit — the file Spotlight thinks is most likely what you’re looking for. Also, if the word you looked for is in the dictionary, you’ll see a definition for it, or if you typed a math calculation the answer to it will appear. Simply click the file you want, and it opens in the appropriate application.

Spotlight can also be found inside all Finder windows, and other programs such as iPhoto for searching within those applications’ databases.

About

Steve Horton has been working with computers for over 20 years. He's dedicated to helping people get the most out of their PCs, and likes playing cards and writing comics.

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