A Guide to the KDE Notification System

KDE offers one of the most comprehensive and flexible notification systems (KNotify). In addition to system notifications, nearly every program has notification settings that are integrated into the larger desktop environment. Moreover, KDE’s notification system is configurable for just about any type of user, including those who need specific accessibility features.

By default KDE’s notifications pop up from the “Notifications” widget, which is found in the panel next to the system tray. Whenever a system or application event occurs, the notification will briefly appear in a Plasma popup over this area. Once the popup disappears, you can click the icon at any time to see past notifications.

KDE power notification

The notification widget has a few settings that can change the way it displays notifications for you. To reach the settings, right click on the widget icon and click “Notification Settings”. The first section labeled “Pop Up Notices” allows you to select some basic notification categories: “Application notifications” and “File transfers and other jobs”. The last setting labeled “Automatically hide” determines if notifications disappear after a short time.

KDE notifications settings

More extensive KDE notifications are available in System Settings in the “Application and System Notifications” section. The first pane called “Manage Notifications” allows you to configure system and application notifications.

“Event source” refers to the system or application that will send the notification. The “State” column tells you which types of notifications are enabled for a particular event. KDE gives you five options for this:

  1. Play a sound – Choose any supported audio file you want.
  2. Show a message in a popup – the standard method
  3. Log to a file – useful if you want to keep track of how often an event occurs
  4. Mark taskbar entry – The taskbar will change colors to alert you of the event
  5. Run command – With this you can enable more advanced responses to notifications. When a certain event finishes, it can spawn a program that starts another.

kde notification management

As an example, suppose you want to change the way KTorrent notifies you when a torrent has finished downloading to automatically start your video player. By default, it will only show a popup and possibly play a sound if the KDE sound system is enabled. To change this, do the following:

  1. Click the dropdown menu next to “event source” and choose KTorrent
  2. Choose the last event in the list “Torrent has finished downloading”
  3. Check the “Run command” box
  4. Type in the command /usr/bin/dragon (or whichever video player you use).

To change the way KDE plays system sounds, click the next tab labeled “Player Settings”. This allows you to adjust the volume, use an external player (such as “play” or “mplayer”), or disable audio output completely.

One of the more annoying features that I have always disabled in KDE is the bouncing “busy cursor”. If you share my disdain for it, you can disable it by clicking the “Launch Feedback” button and choosing “No Busy Cursor” from the dropdown menu. In order to still get some type of notification when a program is launched or demands attention, leave “enable taskbar notification” enabled. The “startup indication timeout” option determines how long the notification stays in the taskbar even after a program fails to start.

KDE busy cursor settings

KDE’s notification system can make use of the accessibility system bell to provide better notification for people who are not easily alerted by the standard notifications. Click the “System Bell” button and check “use system bell instead of system notification” to enable this feature.

KDE now has the ability to interpret GTK notifications, resulting in better integration of KDE and non-KDE apps. The KDE nofitication system can be as active or as passive as you want. You can even detach a notification popup and move it to a different location. It provides the ultimate flexibility for all types of users.

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