On Mountain Lion, I don't get email notifications in Notification Center when Mail.app isn't running.

This is not the expected behaviour (it is inconsistent with the Mail.app behaviour on iOS) and makes the notification feature redundant (Mail.app shows a new email badge and also has an email-snippet view).

Is there a setting or third-party solution to fix this?

When I'm interacting with email I want to be able to command+tab.
This is very handy when composing a message that consists of copy-pasted content from other applications. I also use the "drag a file to the dock icon" functionality to create a e-mail with an attachment.

But when I'm not interacting with email (98% of the time) I don't wan't Mail.app cluttering the application-switcher but do want to be notified of new email (via either a notification or a badge).

  • 6
    I find it strange that Apple has not implemented this in Mountain Lion. We can use Messages and FaceTime without the corresponding apps being open. It just makes sense to implement this for Mail as well. Back to the Mac!
    – gentmatt
    Aug 4, 2012 at 9:18
  • Indeed, @gentmatt, and I assume that the process that fetches new email during Power Nap is quite customized too: I don't think that OS X is just letting the full Mail.app run for some random time then. I guess future releases will indeed show notifications even when Mail.app is not (visibly) running. (I also expect some badge for the number of notifications in the Notification Center, but that is unrelated to the above. As it's now, Notification Center is not of much use to me.)
    – Arjan
    Aug 4, 2012 at 9:48
  • actually it's the expected behaviour: if an app it's closed, it has to be closed - it would be a bug if it continues to poll the imap server to see if there are new messages while it's closed Oct 14, 2012 at 17:58
  • 2
    @Magnetic_dud: The way Apple's push notification service works, at least in iOS, is that the service provider for the given app (say, a mail app) sends a notification through Apple which relays it to a users device. It is not the app itself that checks for new data. It would indeed be a bug if a closed app ran in the background, but think about how useless the notification center would be if you needed to have every single app you wanted notifications from cluttering your dock and cmd-tab list all the time.
    – ViggoV
    Oct 4, 2014 at 15:21
  • But, push notifications must be sent from someone. Who would send them? The email provider won't. Apple won't poll imap servers 24/7 from their servers either. (and if it does, that would be a serious privacy problem for me) Oct 10, 2014 at 18:27

5 Answers 5


I can only say that this is true. Mail.app has to be open to get notifications.

A workaround: Open Mail, and close it with the red dot (or command+w). So the blue point under the icon in the Dock is still there. So you have no window open but mail is still getting emails.

There is no app or anything there yet to fix this "problem".

  • This doesn't hide the dock badge.
    – Zr40
    Jul 27, 2012 at 18:52
  • 3
    The question was if he can get notifications of new mails when the mail.app is closed.
    – ohboy21
    Jul 27, 2012 at 18:54
  • 1
    Well that's unfortunate. I was kinda hoping there was something I was missing with this issue as well, because my problem isn't with the dock, but with Mail.app showing up in the Cmd-Tab list. Jul 27, 2012 at 21:47

Unfortunately, there's currently no way to have Mail.app check for mail if it's not running. But it is possible to hide the badge!

In System Preferences, open Notifications and select Mail. There, deselect 'Badge app icon with notification count'.

Notification settings

  • Can't you hide the badge on the Dock icon by turning that off in the Notification settings for Mail? I haven't tried, but was under the impression you could...
    – Dan J
    Jul 27, 2012 at 20:37
  • Yes, you could turn of the badge via the notification center settings.
    – ohboy21
    Jul 27, 2012 at 21:02
  • Thanks! Didn't know that. I've updated my answer.
    – Zr40
    Jul 28, 2012 at 8:01

Check this out. Seems like this is what you are looking for. http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/32744/herald/download

  • 2
    From erikhinterbichler.com/apps/herald: "Note: I'm now working at Apple which means I'll no longer be able to continue updates for Herald. The last OS that Herald works on is High Sierra.". I just tried to install on Catalina and I can confirm Herald does not work.
    – Blaise
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:29
  • That’s a pity, but then again this thread is 7 years old and my reply is 5 years old.
    – Rowan Kaag
    Nov 12, 2019 at 18:35
  • Yeah true, my comment was for the other desperate users trying all the answers on this page :)
    – Blaise
    Nov 13, 2019 at 11:05

No desktop email application can receive email if it isn't running. The iOS Mail app is a different beast to the OSX app. It is always active in the background. I don't see why the OP thinks this is a problem. Just minimise Mail, the dock icon isn't obtrusive.

  • 3
    While technically right, of course things could have been implemented in a way for which the main user interface would not need to be running. And apart from the Dock icon, Mail.app is also shown when using Command-Tab.
    – Arjan
    Aug 2, 2012 at 17:09

I don't want to test this on my system because it might break code-signing, which could prevent Mail from updating correctly, but quitting an app, adding the lines


to the inside of the top-level <dict> of the file /Applications/Mail.app/Contents/Info.plist and then relaunching the app has had the effect in the past of making an app "faceless" — no Dock icon, no tab switching.

  • I tried that, but it seems like many applications no longer open at all if the code signature is invalid. Even if that worked, it would also remove the menu bar.
    – Lri
    Aug 4, 2012 at 17:52
  • @Lri Fascinating! You're right about the menu bar. I forgot about that because I rarely use it in Mail, but it would indeed go away. As far as not opening if code signing doesn't check out, do you suppose that is a function of Gatekeeper? How do you have your Gatekeeper security settings?
    – Daniel
    Aug 4, 2012 at 18:32
  • I've disabled it. Applications just crash silently when trying to open them, which is a bit weird. I didn't find any mention of code signing changes in Apple's What's New in OS X document, so it might be something specific to my installation as well.
    – Lri
    Aug 4, 2012 at 18:39
  • Thanks for pointing this out. This merits further investigation. I'll look into it.
    – Daniel
    Aug 4, 2012 at 18:42

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