One of the many things the KDE developers did right in 4.x (currently 4.6) is the notification system. By far, this system is the cleanest and most flexible of nearly every desktop I have used. But most users don’t realize just how flexible this system is simply because they never bother to look into the configuration options available. It’s time that oversight is corrected.

With the Notification Settings, it is possible to configure many settings, including:

  • Application notifications
  • System notifications
  • Application crashes
  • Update notifications
  • Sound player
  • Event source

As with most all configuration options in KDE, the notification settings are found by opening the System Settings. Do this by clicking the KickOff Menu (Think “Start Menu”) and then going to Computer | System Settings. Once this window is opened, click on Manage Notifications (Figure A).

Figure A

The Manage Notifications tab is the most important section in this tool.

From the Event Source you can select from any application installed that offers notifications to the system. Let’s modify the default settings for the Desktop Search notification. Say, for example, you want an audible warning that indexing has resumed by the search service. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Event Source drop-down and select Desktop Search.
  2. Select Indexing Resumed from the list (see Figure B).
  3. Check the box for Play a sound.
  4. Click on the folder icon to open Dolphin.
  5. Navigate to the sound to be used for the event.
  6. Click the Play button to test.
  7. Click Apply.

Figure B

If the Desktop Search event isn’t important enough to warrant notification, you could enable a special notification for the Unexpected Connection in the Desktop Sharing section. This will warn you if someone has, without your permission or knowledge, logged onto your machine via desktop sharing. For this I would enable a fairly annoying and loud sound as well as send out an email alert (NOTE: For the sending of email alerts the ‘mail’ command must be installed and working properly.).

It is also possible (from the same window) to:

  • Log the event to a file: Enabling this will log the event to the file of your choosing.
  • Mark taskbar entry: Enabling this will cause the taskbar to flash until the user has clicked the taskbar entry.
  • Run command: Should the event occur, it is possible to run a command (such as an email notification using the command ‘mail’).

There is another tab in this section, Player Settings. This tab allows you to:

  • Set the default notification volume.
  • Choose an external player (as opposed to the KDE built-in player).
  • Disable audio output.

Take a look around the different Event Sources and you will quite a lot of possible system notifications to work with.

Other notifications

From the Other Notifications tab, the following alerts can be enabled/disabled:

  • Application crashes.
  • Upgrade information.
  • Restricted codec availability.
  • Required reboots.

It is also possible to set the type of notification to use by default. The choices are:

  • Use both popups and tray icons.
  • Disable popup notifications.
  • Disable tray icons.

For those that still require a system bell, it is possible to enable that. The only drawback to the system bell is that it takes the place of system notifications. Should you opt for the system bell, from that tab the following can be configured:

  • Volume
  • Pitch
  • Duration.

Finally it is also possible to configure the feedback from the system notifications. What is “feedback?” Simple. When you click on an icon, to indicate “something is happening” you can configure a Bouncing Cursor, a Blinking Cursor, a Passive Busy Cursor, or no Busy Cursor. Another form of feedback is the Taskbar Notification, which will indicate feedback that something is occurring within the taskbar by displaying animated buttons in the Winlist (applet that allows you to minimize and un-minimize windows to the taskbar.)

To some, notifications on a desktop are a nuisance. To others, they are a must-have feature that helps them to know exactly what is going on in the background (and foreground) of their desktop. KDE 4 does a great job of allowing numerous configurations to make the notifications perfectly suit a user’s needs.