How to Make a Custom System Alert Sound for Mac OS X
The Mac makes an alert sound when certain dialog boxes, errors, and other user interactions are encountered in OS X. Most Mac users likely know that you can change the alert sound to one of your choice by going to the Sound preference panel in OS X, but did you know you can easily make a custom alert sound for the Mac as well? That’s what we’re going to demonstrate here, it’s a simple way to customize the Mac experience and doesn’t require any additional software downloads.
We’re going to use the ability to record sound with QuickTime to capture an audio clip recorded from the microphone (or you can record system audio with SoundFlower), trim it down to size, then save it as a compatible system audio file for use with mac OS X. It’s easier than it sounds, follow along.
- Open QuickTime Player on the Mac, found in the /Applications/ folder
- Pull down the File menu and choose “New Audio Recording”
- Click the red Record button, capture your audio (make a howl, bang a drum, say hello, get your cat to meow, your dog to bark, whatever) and then stop the recording – system audio is generally best if kept very short, so don’t record yourself defending a thesis for this purpose
- Now go to the “Edit” menu and choose “Trim” (or hit Command+T) and drag the yellow sliders to where the audio starts and ends as indicated by the wave, there is usually a second or two to trim off this way
- Now go to the File menu and choose “Save”
- Hit Command+Shift+G to bring up the “Go To Folder” screen at the save dialog, and enter the following path exactly, then click Go:
- Give the audio file an appropriate name, the file name becomes the system alert name, then choose “Save” and exit out of QuickTime
- Go pull down the Apple menu and go to “System Preferences”, then choose the “Sound” preference panel and select the “Sound Effects” tab, find the sound file you just saved in the list and click on it to set the custom audio alert sound effect as your system alert sound in Mac OS X
Now your freshly made custom alert sound will play as the system alert sound in Mac OS X, offering a fun and easy way to personalize the Mac experience a bit.
The video below walks through the process of creating a custom system alert sound in QuickTime and saving it to the proper directory in OS X:
Another neat trick is to create a silent alert sound using the QuickTime method (just record a second of silence and trim it to virtually nothing) and set the screen to flash with an alert, which instead offers a silent but obvious visual option for users who would rather not have a system alert but don’t want to go all out and mute their Mac.
If you’re not into recording your own alert sound, you can get a blast from the past and try out the retro Macintosh System 7 sound effects instead, or add any other .aiff or .aifc file to the user Sounds folder to have them accessible as well. You can access the ~/Library/Sounds/ folder from the Finder in OS X easily with Go To Folder, and it’s also how you can delete or remove the system alert sound(s) you made.
As you can see, QuickTime Player is quite versatile, and it’s really one of the unsung apps bundled in Mac OS X that is so much more than a simple video player. From recording audio clips from the microphone or a sound input as covered here, to recording the Mac screen and recording video of an iPhone screen or iPad screens, QuickTime is more powerful than you may think.