What Are All Those Stacks of Notifications in iOS 12?

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by iOS notifications, particularly if you have chatty friends or apps. In iOS 12, Apple corralled notifications by grouping them into stacks so you no longer see an endless screen of alerts. To expand a stack of notifications on either the Lock screen or in Notification Center (swipe down from the top of the screen), tap the stack. Once you’ve expanded a stack, you can tap Show Less to restack it, tap the X button to remove the entire stack, or tap any individual notification to open it. By default, iOS 12 groups notifications intelligently, which might entail separate stacks for different Messages conversations, for instance. If that’s still too much, you can go to Settings > Notifications > App Name > Notification Grouping and tap By App to collect every notification from the app into the same stack.

Make It Stop! How You Can Control Notifications on Your iPhone

Is every app on your iPhone or iPad constantly nagging you with notifications? It’s like a three-year-old saying “Look at me!” every few minutes, but on the plus side, a little work in the Settings app can quiet your device. And it won’t whine about being sent to time-out.

To get started, go to Settings > Notifications and check out the list of apps. Every app that can provide notifications appears here, so it might be a long list. Under the app’s name is a summary of what notifications it can present. That isn’t to say it will abuse that right to show you notifications—every app is different in how chatty it is. Tap an app in the list to see its notification settings.

There are six notification settings available to apps, but not every app will avail itself of all of them. Here’s what these settings do:

Allow Notifications: This is the master switch. Turn it off if you never, ever, under any circumstances, want to get a notification from the app.

Show in Notification Center: If you swipe down from the top of the screen on an iOS device, you’ll reveal Notification Center, which collects notifications from all apps in one place. It’s a handy spot to review banner notifications you couldn’t read in time, or notifications that you never saw originally. Turn this switch off if you don’t want the app’s notifications to appear in Notification Center. In general, it’s best to leave it on.

Sounds: Those who dislike being interrupted by inscrutable noises from their pockets or purses should disable sounds. If you really don’t like sounds coming from your iPhone, turn off the ringer switch on the side.

Badge App Icon: Many apps, including Mail, Reminders, and Calendar, can tell you how many unread messages, overdue events, or other waiting items they contain. They do this by putting a red number badge on the app’s icon. If you don’t find that number useful—knowing that you have 13,862 unread email messages isn’t exactly calming—you can turn off the badge for the app.

Show on Lock Screen: Only important notifications should appear on your Lock screen, so you can see what’s happening at a glance. If you have a recipe app that likes to tell you about every new recipe, you might want to disable this option to prevent it from cluttering your Lock screen with trivialities.

Alert Style When Unlocked: The last option is the notification style the app will use when you’re actively using the device. You have three choices here: None, Banners, and Alerts. Select None if you don’t want to be bothered while you’re working on the device. Banners and alerts are similar, but banners slide down from the top of the screen, pause briefly, and then slide back up, whereas alerts stick around until you dismiss them. In general, use banners for most things, and restrict alerts to only the most important apps.

You don’t need to sit down and go through every app in the Notifications screen. Instead, just let apps do what they want by default, and take side trips to Settings > Notifications whenever an app starts to annoy you with the frequency, location, or type of notifications.

Stop Unwanted Notifications with Do Not Disturb

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There’s nothing worse than being woken from a sound sleep by a notification from your iPhone, particularly when it’s something annoying like a robocall. On the Mac, notifications won’t generally wake you up, but they can be distracting when you’re trying to focus. Or, imagine the embarrassment if you get a text message from a snarky buddy while you’re giving a Keynote presentation. Do Not Disturb to the rescue!

In both iOS and macOS, you can engage Do Not Disturb manually at any time. That’s perfect if you want to make sure your iPhone doesn’t make noise in the theater or prevent your Mac from showing notifications while showing your latest work to your boss.

  • In iOS, either go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and toggle the Manual switch, or swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Center and tap the Do Not Disturb button. You can also ask Siri to “Turn on Do Not Disturb.” A crescent moon moon-inline  icon appears in the status bar at the top of the screen when Do Not Disturb is on.do-not-disturb-iphone do-not-disturb-control-center
  • On the Mac, click the Notification Center icon in the top-right corner of the screen, scroll up to reveal the Do Not Disturb controls, and toggle the switch. For a quicker way, Option-click the Notification Center icon. In Sierra, Siri can control Do Not Disturb as well. The Notification Center icon is light gray instead of black when Do No Disturb is on.do-not-disturb-nc-manual

You can turn Do Not Disturb off manually (which is a good idea if you’ve disabled it on your iPhone during a doctor’s appointment, for instance). On the Mac, it turns off automatically at midnight.

No one wants to enable Do Not Disturb manually every night. Happily, both iOS and macOS can turn it on automatically on a schedule.

  • In iOS, go to Settings > Do Not Disturb, turn on the Scheduled switch, and tap the From/To times to adjust when it should turn on and off automatically.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > Notifications > Do Not Disturb, select the checkbox next to the time fields, and enter from From and To times.

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The Mac offers a few welcome options that automatically engage Do Not Disturb when the display is sleeping (usually a no-brainer) and when mirroring the display to a TV or projector (which should prevent notifications during presentations).

In iOS, you can choose which calls can break through Do Not Disturb’s cone of silence. On both platforms, you can allow repeated calls through — if someone wants to get in touch badly enough to try twice in quick succession, it’s probably important.

Nearly everyone should be using Do Not Disturb, so if you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, check it out now, before an errant phone call or iOS notification wakes you in the middle of the night.

Reach Out and 3D Touch Something

Apple first unveiled 3D Touch in iOS 9 with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, giving users of those iPhones a new way of interacting with apps, but 3D Touch never really caught on. Now, with the release of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and broader support in iOS 10, 3D Touch is worth learning if you have one of the supported iPhones.

3D Touch works in two ways: “peek and pop” and “quick actions.” Apps use peek and pop to let you glance (peek) at an item by pressing down on it (not just a touch, but a press into the screen), and then jump to that item (pop) by pressing harder still. In Safari, for instance, you can preview a link by pressing it, and then either release to dismiss the preview or continue to load it in its own tab by pressing harder. Or move your finger up on the screen without letting go or pressing harder to get controls for opening the link, adding to your reading list, or copying the URL. This trick applies to links in other apps like Mail, Messages, and Notes, too.

You can also use peek and pop with email message summaries in Mail, headlines in News, thumbnails in Photos, people in Find My Friends, dates and events in Calendar, and even the previously taken photo box in Camera. Support for peek and pop in third-party apps isn’t as widespread as it is in Apple’s apps, but it’s still worth trying whenever you want to preview something.

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More interesting are quick actions, which present a menu of common actions when you press down on an app’s icon on the Home screen, or on various controls and other items throughout iOS. Home screen quick actions are great, since they let you kickstart an app into doing something with just a hard press on its icon. If the app has a widget, a 3D Touch press shows that as well.

For instance, using 3D Touch on the Phone app shows its widget, which gives you buttons to call people in your Favorites list, along with actions to view the most recent call, search for a contact, create a new contact, or view the most recent voicemail. The Clock app lets you start a timer or the stopwatch, or create an alarm. Messages quick actions can create a new message or open a recent conversation. Use 3D Touch on Safari’s icon and you can create a new tab or see your bookmarks or reading list. You can even press on a folder to rename it quickly.

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Quick actions and widgets are much more commonplace among third-party apps than peek and pop support, so be sure to try 3D Touch on all your favorite apps. If all you see is a Share item, the app has no quick actions or widget, but many apps provide both static actions that are always the same and dynamic actions that reflect your past usage.

iOS 10 brings 3D Touch to Control Center too. Press the Flashlight button to adjust the brightness of the light, the Timer button for some pre-canned times, the Calculator button to copy the last calculation result, or the Camera button to take a photo, slo-mo, video, or selfie.

On the Lock screen, press a Messages notification to expand it and reply directly from the notification. More notifications will become interactive in the future too. And in Notification Center, you can press a notification to expand it, or use 3D Touch on the X button for any day to reveal a Clear All Notifications option.

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It’s too bad that there’s no way to know in advance if an app supports quick actions or peek and pop, but as the number of iPhone users who can use 3D Touch increases, developers will incorporate 3D Touch capabilities into their apps more and more. So give it a try!