For the first time in roughly three years, the Terminal app icon in the dock shows that red new message overlay.


To the right, the same happens with Thunderbird which I am used to as I do have three new emails. But what does that new message overlay in Terminal app mean?

I have no new mail in /var/mail/$USER nor does Terminal show any message when started.


That badge indicates a "beep" that happened while the terminal was not in the foreground.

To see it, you can send a beep command to your terminal. Type this command, hit return, then click to another window that is not a terminal window:

sleep 5 && tput bel

Are you saying that it went away (as it should) if you view all open Terminal windows or tabs? Or is it stuck on? Or you were just wondering where it came from?

  • I did enter your command and surely I heard a sound, the icon showed a 2 (instead of a 1) and started jumping. That explains where it came from. However, upon clicking the Terminal icon, the number went back to 1. How do I get rid of it? – Paul May 3 '16 at 6:29
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    I just restarted Terminal and the number is gone. There was only one window open before. Still don't know where the number came from but good to know what it means. – Paul May 3 '16 at 6:31

This red circle in any application isn't limited to signal a new message. It means that the application had to signal you a new event when no window was active.

For some applications this might mean:

  • an update is necessary,
  • an error occured,
  • a new message arrived,
  • an important refresh of the window content occured.

In the case of Terminal this might have been caused by a background job terminating, a shell exit on error, the use of biff, talk, wall, write...


Expanding beroe's answer..

That badge indicates a "beep" that happened while the terminal was not in the foreground.

It is a badge per tab, or per window. If you have multiple tabs/windows open you have to click each one to make the number disappear. There should a little bell icon on tabs that have notifications.

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