On Ubuntu 12.04, using Thunderbird, everything up to date.

Whenever mail arrives, I get notification in right hand top part of the screen. The notification is somewhat similar to what outlook shows in right bottom panel. If I mouse over it, it stays there, greyed out and not readable, but it's not clickable.

What purpose does this solve? The reason I am moving mouse over it so that I can read it and hope to keep it little longer to give me a chance, but it's not readable. I can not click on it as it not clickable. If mouse moves out, it becomes readable again.

Can I configure something (don't know what) so that I can click on the notification, it can open thunderbird and take me to the mail or at least make it more readable.

  • 1
    The purpose of the notifications is, well, notify you. Nothing else. Once you receive the notification you go to the corresponding indicator (in the top right) and open it. In this case you would go to the little envelope icon.
    – edwin
    Aug 22, 2013 at 23:52
  • If the purpose of notification is to notify me, why does it greys out when I move mouse over it? Its not even readable at that point, but interestingly if mouse moves out, it again becomes readable
    – user871199
    Aug 23, 2013 at 1:28
  • The "greyed out" effect is designed to allow you to see the mouse underneath the notifications to access icons, window data, etc. However, that also expands the time it takes for the notification to fade, as edwin pointed out.
    – Thomas Ward
    Aug 23, 2013 at 3:03
  • See this answer for a way to make notifications work similarly to how they work on other OSes: askubuntu.com/a/239928/180896
    – Nate
    Jan 11, 2018 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


The purpose of the notifications is, well, to notify you. Nothing else. Once you receive the notification you go to the corresponding indicator (in the top right) and open it. In this case you would go to the little envelope icon.

You don't need to put the mouse over it: just read it and make use of that information. If you put the mouse over the notification bubble, it blurs so you can easily read or interact with what's under it.

Another side effect of putting the mouse over the notification is that it will last longer to fade away. You might need this if there's a lot of text to be read, too much text could be considered bad design, though. The correct way to respond to a notification is to just open the associated application/status icon.

Read on Notifications, indicators and alerts to see Mark's thinking when the concept was considered. Also, you might find useful to read How to customize on screen notifications?

  • 8
    Honestly, this doesn't make any sense to me at all. You seem to be justifying theoretically what seems to be a very obvious missing feature for many users. OS X does it for example (or at least growl used to do it). What you're describing just seems like extra steps you would have to do: identify, find, do. All this instead of doing something.
    – Trufa
    Jul 28, 2014 at 21:20
  • @Trufa Please read the links I provide at the end, I am just echoing the officially explained purpose of Unity's notifications. Also, you can think of it as a design decision, the reason of which is to simplify the UX (user experience), instead of a "missing feature".
    – edwin
    Jul 30, 2014 at 0:18
  • 7
    UI/UX guy here. This is indeed a "broken by design" bug, as is it not what most users expect.
    – Sliq
    Feb 20, 2015 at 9:23
  • Another vote from me that is badly designed. The intuition is to click the notification and be taken to exactly where it happened, i. e. message thread in conversation app where you have dozens of threads opened. Jan 20, 2017 at 10:24
  • This stuff is still bad 7 years later. I am on the verge of giving up on Gnome/Linux/Ubuntu. Oct 3, 2020 at 18:04

No, you can't. That notification is just a notification and you cannot do anything else with it. And also, unfortunately, cannot be configured somehow. The single purpose that I can see is that it provides you a... notification.

  • 2
    That's what I was afraid of. Is there any way to disable greying out if I move mouse over it? Then at least it will be readable.
    – user871199
    Aug 23, 2013 at 1:29

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