Get Notifications From the Terminal

Often I’d run a long-running process and want to know when it ends when I’m away from the computer. I found a simple way to do this using Pushover. Pushover lets you receive notifications on your iOS and Android devices using their app, or via a browser such as Chrome or Firefox. On macOS, notifications don’t require a browser to be open once set up via Safari.

To get started, create an account on their site and log in to it. Then, note down your user key that’s at the top of the homepage. After that, choose to create an application and give it a name, such as the name of your machine. On the application’s page, take note of the token key.

Finally, add this little function to your ~/.profile, replacing $user_key and $token_key with your own values:

notify() {
	curl -s -F user="$user_key" \
		-F token="$token_key" \
		-F message="$*" \ > /dev/null

After setting up one of their apps, you can then notify yourself of anything, such as when a project has finished compiling like so:

make; notify finished compiling!

The nice thing about this method is that it only requires curl, so you can use it pretty much everywhere, including on servers.

More options

There are two small problems with the above method. The first is that it requires you to use Pushover, and for that you’ll need to purchase a one-time license for each of the platforms you use (iOS, Android and Desktop) after a 7-day trial period. The second problem is that just after you run the equivalent of sleep 1000, you might notice that you forgot to add the notify command. The answer to both these problems is ntfy. ntfy lets you choose from a variety of services and has built-in shell integration for automatic notifications after long-running commands finish. First, you’ll need to install it:

pip install ntfy

You can configure Pushover with it as well if you wish. To do so, create a ~/.ntfy.yml file with the following contents, replacing $user_key and $token_key as before:

  - pushover
  user_key: $user_key
  api_token: $token_key

You can omit the api_token option to use ntfy’s key.

Then, add the following to either ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc depending on whether you use bash or zsh:

eval "$(ntfy shell-integration -f -L 60)"

This will cause ntfy to send you a notification on completion of commands that run for 60 seconds or longer. The -f option causes notifications to be sent even if the terminal is in the foreground and the -L option specifies the duration in seconds. You can also manually send a notification like so:

make; ntfy send "finished compiling!"
# or
ntfy done make


  • If you forget to add the notify command, you can still do so by suspending a running process via Ctrl-Z and then resuming it by running fg; notify done!.

  • I found adding eval "$(ntfy shell-integration)" to ~/.bashrc slows down the shell’s startup. To overcome this, you can manually copy the relevant lines from the output of echo "$(ntfy shell-integration)".

  • ntfy also supports providing a PID of a running process to get notified of its completion via ntfy done -p $pid. You’ll need to do a pip install ntfy[pid] to enable this feature.

  • I also came across noti which is an alternative to ntfy written in Go, but with fewer services and without automatic notifications.