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Change or silence the default alarm sound for iCal events

Change or silence the default alarm sound for iCal events

Do you ever get tired of manually changing the default alarm sound in iCal from “Basso” to something of your choice? Do you hate having an alarm sound at all? Take care of this annoyance once and for all.

So you’ve configured iCal to add a default alarm to all of your new events by going to iCal > Preferences > General and checking the appropriate box. Then you put in your desired warning time in minutes before the event’s start time. [Quick tip: Try putting something like 1440 minutes (24 hours x 60 minutes) to give yourself a full day or more before the alarm goes off]. Perfect, your default alarm is all set up! Except every alarm has the “Basso” sound effect attached to it.

Change iCal default alarm sound

If you prefer to use another sound effect, you have to manually change it every time you create an event. And if you just want “Message” instead of “Message with Sound” as your alarm, you have to do that manually too. At that point, why even bother with an automated alarm in the first place? Don’t give up quite yet – there are ways of getting what you want, even if iCal makes it difficult.

Step 1: Alarm Setup

Before diving in, make sure you have a default alarm configured in iCal’s preferences, as described above. If you would like to use one of Mac OS X’s system sounds (other than “Basso”) for your alarm, make note of its name and skip to Step 3.

Step 2: Custom Sounds

For those looking to use a custom sound effect, find one you like from your own collection or somewhere online. It can come from any source but should be short – no more than a few seconds at most. It also needs to be in AIFF format, which can be accomplished with a free converter like iTunes or Switch. When you have your AIFF audio file, use Finder to copy it to ~/Library/Sounds in your home folder. If there isn’t a Sounds folder already there, you can create one yourself.

If you’re like me and don’t like any sound at all when iCal throws up a notification, I’m sorry to say there doesn’t appear to be an official way of setting a silent default alarm. What we can do, though, is use a blank sound file to trick iCal into thinking it’s making noise when it’s really not. Feel free to download the silent audio file I use myself (“Blank.aiff“) and save it to ~/Library/Sounds in your home folder.

Step 3: Editing iCal’s Preferences File

There are dedicated tools for editing Mac OS X preference files, but most people won’t be doing something like this very often and therefore don’t need to install an application for one-time use. So we’re going to use just the tools built in to every Mac.

Launch Terminal (Applications > Utilities) and run the following command:

plutil -convert xml1 ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iCal.plist

Now launch TextEdit and open the “com.apple.iCal.plist” file from ~/Library/Preferences in your home folder. The document might look complicated, but you just need to look for the <dict> tag towards the top. Create a new line right below it and paste these two lines:

<key>Default alarm sound</key>
<string>Blank</string>

Change iCal default alarm sound

The second line refers to “Blank.aiff” – the silent audio file I created. Replace it with the name of whatever sound effect you’re using, whether it is a pre-existing Mac OS X system sound or your own custom file. Make sure it’s just the name, though, not the file extension or path.

Change iCal default alarm sound

Save the .plist file in TextEdit and restart iCal. When you create a new event, your chosen alarm sound should be selected there instead of the standard “Basso”.

20 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

Does not work for me. When I restart iCal, it just re-converts the plist or creates a new file. In any case, my custom setting is gone. Maybe I should convert the file back to plist before I restart iCal?

Paul,
You shouldn’t have to do any converting of files other than running the Terminal command before you open it in TextEdit. Make sure you just save the .plist file (overwriting the old one) when you’re done, rather than saving as a new file. It might also help to have iCal closed while you’re working with the preference file.

Awesome! I can’t tell you how annoying it was to have my iMac wake me up at night with an iCal alarm for something the next day. Now I can sleep in peace and just see the alarm message after I wake up.

thanks sooo much for this! i recorded myself making a noise and now it’s my ical alarm. way cooler than the ones apple gives you!

Sorry. Spent an hour doing this over and over. Keeps reverting back to original default settings. Followed all instructions; saved the file replacing the old one, etc. Still no luck!

Thaaaannnnkkkkk yyyyyyooouuuuuuuu!!!

KD just delete iCal prefs and start over…

hello,

thanks a lot for such a cool tip!!! love it – just off trying now :-)

monja

Thanks for a great tip. It took only a few minutes to do and it works fine!

Thanks again!

@David
same issue of KD! How can i delete iCal prefs?
thanks

The script worked perfectly. Thank you, thank you.

If you want to have the default alarm ring AFTER 11PM, use a negative number in the “minutes before the start time” box in the iCal Preferences Panel. For example, 8AM on the day OF the event is -480 minutes.

So, which insomniac at Apple thought that the whole world would want to receive an alarm at 11PM the night before whole-day events?

Does anyone know how I would change default alarm from message with sound to just message. I know you can add the blank file to not have a sound, but I want it to be message so it will sync with my gmail account.

Cheers!

Did anyone have an answer for Matt? I want to change the default alarm to sending me an email message instead. How to do it? Thx!

I’ve tried to use the command but the plist file does not appear. I’m on the latest version of Lion, and I’ve tried over and over. Permissions issue maybe?

Nevermind.. you have to first reveal your user Library folder (not the system folder ‘Library’) in Terminal. Google the command, then try this tutorial. Totally works!

Has anyone tried this in Mountain Lion? The behaviour of alerts in Mountain=Lion Calendars seems to have changed somewhat.

Before I, as an amateur, have a go at this, I wonder if any others can share their Mountain Lion experience.

…everything seemed to be working out; I put in “Submarine” which was the default I wanted, and then saved etc and went to iCal, where I found “Tink” as the default sound instead of “Basso”. Since Tink is the last sound on the list, just after Submarine, I tried putting in “Sosumi”, taking along shot…- still got Tink as the default. Help (please). Cheers, L

switching to different alarm sounds in ical for notifications

Dear Reader,

Can someone help me with this! I use ical in iphone for al sorts of things, and like to have a choice in selecting a alarm-sound for different occasions ( wake-up, lunch, birthday, appointments, etc. )

Greetings Charlie

see the updated page at https://discussions.apple.com/message/23617164?ac_cid=tw123456#23617164

This was the solution I had, which you find in the thread in a couple of places:

….it’s been years since I had this problem…I wanted to change from “Basso” to “Submarine”, which I liked much better. I was able to do it, but I don’t remember much about it, however, here are my notes: one of these two methods apparently worked, I wish I could tell you which one it was: (this was all stuff I took from the thread at the time)

1)
quit iCal
> app/utilities/terminal app
type in: defaults write com.apple.iCal ‘Default alarm sound’ ‘Submarine’
check syntax
press enter/return

Check (open) iCal, alarms should now use that sound…

2)
Launch Terminal (Applications > Utilities) and run the following command:

plutil -convert xm/1~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iCal.plist

Now launch TextEdit and open the “com.apple.iCal.plist” file from ~/Library/Preferences in your home folder.
just look for the tag towards the top. Create a new line right below it and paste these two lines:

>key>Default alarm sound
>string>Blank

the second line refers to “Blank.aiff” – the silent audio file I created. Replace it with the name of whatever sound effect you’re using, whether it is a pre-existing Mac OS X system sound or your own custom file. Make sure it’s just the name, though, not the file extension or path.

Save the .plist file in TextEdit and restart iCal. When you create a new event, your chosen alarm sound should be selected there instead of the standard “Basso”.”

I remember that I was nervous doing this stuff (be sure and check the syntax before you enter/save etc.), but
that it worked, and I’ve not had a problem since – must have been a year or two ago.

Best of luck, let me know it worked for you. – I haven’t read through all the replies, hope I’m not just repeating something you’ve already tried. What I can tell you, is that one of these two ways works. I’m running 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) so I hope that doesn’t make any difference. Cheers, L

So…hope that helps. Best, L

Unfortunately, every aspect of this post has been broken since the release of ‘Mavericks’. iCal no longer allows one to set a default alert AT ALL, iit now appear to simply _ignore_ the default alert-sound in the .plist file, and one’s only options on default alerts are now (which yields “message”) and (which yields “no alert”). “Message with sound” is simply no longer an option unless one multiple-clicks down through the “Custom” list for each and every single event that one creates. :-(

I _SWEAR_ that the Apple Developers are under orders to DELIBERATELY make iCal and Mail more and more crippled with each and every release of OS/X in order to force people to switch over to Micro$haft office, because of the deal that Apple made with Micro$haft. >:-(

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