How to fire MacOS notifications with AppleScript and Scala

Summary: This tutorial demonstrates how to fire macOS system notifications with AppleScript and Scala (or Java).

In this article it helps if you already know a little bit about AppleScript, though that’s not completely necessary. Near the end of the tutorial I show how to invoke the AppleScript code using Scala, so feel free to skip down to there if you just want to see that — you can always read the stuff at the top for reference later.

A “Hello, world” MacOS AppleScript notification

To get started, here’s the code for a basic “Hello, world” AppleScript notification:

display notification "Hello, world"

The code looks like this in the AppleScript Editor:

Running this code creates a notification in the MacOS Notification Center that looks like this:

If you’re comfortable writing AppleScript, this part is straightforward.

AppleScript: Mac notification with a sound

You can add sounds to your notifications by adding the sound name command, like this:

display notification "Hello, world" sound name "default"

With this code, the notification window looks the same as before, and you’ll also hear a sound when it’s displayed. I don’t like the default sound, so I dug around and found that you can use the names of sounds in the /System/Library/Sounds folder. I have these sounds on my current OS X 10.9 system:

Basso.aiff     -- good, but error-like (low keys on keyboard)
Blow.aiff      -- good
Bottle.aiff    -- too short
Frog.aiff      -- chirp
Funk.aiff      -- thud
Glass.aiff     -- good (like the end of a timer)
Hero.aiff      -- good
Morse.aiff     -- 'pop'
Ping.aiff      -- good
Pop.aiff       -- shorter 'pop'
Purr.aiff      -- good
Sosumi.aiff    -- good
Submarine.aiff -- good
Tink.aiff      -- too quiet

Just use the first part of each file name to trigger the desired sound. For instance, the “Purr” sound is good, so my notification code looks like this:

display notification "Hello, world" sound name "Purr"

You can see the sounds available on your system with this ls command (using the Terminal):

ls /System/Library/Sounds

How to add a title and subtitle to your notification

You can also add a title and subtitle to your notifications. For example, this AppleScript code:

display notification "Hello, world" with title "Hello" subtitle "world"

yields this notification:

You can add sound name to that command as well.

Running from Scala (or Java)

A great thing is that you can run AppleScript scripts from Scala and Java as well. The process looks like this:

// define your applescript command
val command = """display notification "Hello, world" with title "Scala" sound name "Purr" """

// run the command
val runtime = Runtime.getRuntime
val code = Array("osascript", "-e", command)
val process = runtime.exec(code)

With MacOS 10.14.5 and Scala 2.12.8 the notification looks like this:

A Scala MacOS notification

Those lines of code are simple, so you can easily test them from the Scala REPL:

Sending MacOS notifications from the Scala REPL

There are other ways to do this, but I’ve had problems getting those approaches to run without errors on different MacOS versions, so at the moment, I use this approach in my AppleScriptUtils project.

I originally tested this technique on Mac OS X 10.10 using Scala 2.11, and it still works in 2019 with MacOS 10.14.5 and Scala 2.12.8. (No import statements are required.)

See also

This link on Apple’s website is a good place to start looking for more information. Just search for “notification” on that page, and follow the links.


If you’re comfortable with Mac OS X programming, you may also know that you can run commands like this from the Unix shell. I show how to run AppleScript from the Unix command line and Unix scripts in these two articles:

In summary, if you were looking for an example of how to trigger a notification in the Mac OS X notification center using AppleScript, I hope this has been helpful.