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Gtk3/Python (PyGI) notification daemon with flexible (scriptable) filtering, rate-limiting and misc other cool features, not tied to any particular DE.

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  • Implements Desktop Notification spec.

    Should be compatible with any dbus clients (e.g. libnotify, Gtk3, etc). Supports icons and resizing of these (to a fixed/min/max box).

  • Tries hard to never drop any notifications silently by itself, even in case of any unexpected errors.

  • Pango markup support in notification summary and body, option to enable/disable that for individual messages via notification parameters, broken-markup-safe. Start the thing with --test-message option to see how it works.

  • Configurable appearance via Gtk3 styles (simple css files) and themes.

  • Rate-limiting using "leaky" token-bucket algorithm, with all the knobs configurable.

    When/if several messages get delayed, they will be displayed batched into one "digest" message, up to a limit (number of last ones), and dropped with a warning line (and a count of these) beyond that.

  • D-Bus interface allows calls to pause passing notifications, but still buffering these to "digest", force-flushing such buffer, displaying previous (cleaned-up) notifications, changing/pausing default cleanup timeout, etc.

  • Can send/receive json-serialized notifications via ZeroMQ pub-sub queues.

    This allows to e.g. tie up several machines to see all notifications which are from any of them or send desktop notifications from a remote machine (doesn't have to be a desktop one either, see included "notify-net" script).

  • Filtering using simple but very powerful scheme scripting (based on Peter Norvig's lispy2).

  • Can play any sounds from anywhere in the filtering scripts (via libcanberra).

    I.e. only on specific occasions, like some regexp-match, not for every message (though that is certainly possible as well), different sounds based on notification message, or even multiple samples for the same one.

  • Optional logging for notifications with built-in file rotation.

  • All options/features are configurable and can be disabled entirely, either from command-line or a YAML configuration file.

  • Easy to change and debug - it's just a python script.

See below for a detailed description of each particular feature.

Actual notification rendering is inspired (and based in part on) notipy project.

Wrote a few notes on the project a while ago when making it (link1, link2, link3), but these should be mostly summarized in this README anyway.

It's a somewhat old thing dating back to 2010 and python2, but I still use it myself.


It's a regular package for Python 3.X, but not in pypi, so can be installed from a checkout with something like this:

% python install

pip can be used to install it from a repo URL:

% python -m pip install --user 'git+'

This will install module to ~/.local/lib/, use venv module for a more isolated/portable installation into some custom path.

Alternatively, ./notification-thing can be run right from the checkout tree, without any installation.


  • Python 3.X.

  • GObject-Introspection-enabled Gtk+ 3.X (including Glib, Pango) and PyGObject.

  • libdbus / dbus-python.

    Leftover dep from old python2 days, GDBus GI wrappers should probably provide all necessary daemon interfaces as well these days.

  • (optional) PyYAML - to configure daemon via YAML file, not CLI (--conf option).

  • (optional) pyzmq - to broadcast/receive notification messages over zeromq pub/sub sockets.

  • (optional) libcanberra - to play sounds (from XDG themes or files).

Note that libnotify is not needed here - it is usually used to send the messages, not receive and display these (that's the job of notification-daemon, which generally come with DEs).


Make sure nothing else is already listening on the same dbus path/interface and start the daemon by hand - should work.

Run the script with -h/--help option to get the (rather long) list of all possible configuration options and tunables.

Alternatively, dbus service file can be installed, so daemon can be started whenever notifications arrive (and exiting during silence timeouts):

cp org.freedesktop.Notifications.service /usr/share/dbus-1/services/

Another way would be to start the thing from systemd user session or something like that, e.g. ~/.xinitrc for older systems.

To enable startup with systemd user session for particular user, run following from that user's shell:

mkdir -p ~/.config/systemd/user/
cp notification-thing.service ~/.config/systemd/user/
systemctl --user enable notification-thing

Can also start it manually then by systemctl --user start notification-thing command.

"notification-thing.service" systemd unit from the repository makes daemon read ~/.notification.yaml configuration file by default, if it exists, so any extra options to the auto-started daemon instance can be specified there (see below).

Note that both files are just an examples from dev setup, so feel free to tweak them (e.g. add whatever options, change paths, dependencies, etc) to suit your setup/distro (and ship adjusted file with the package, no need to pull these from repository).


Lots of tunable options are available (run the thing with "--help" option to see the full list), but all-defaults should be the norm (naturally use defaults myself).

Use --debug option to get a verbose log of all that's happening there, which decisions are made and based on what data.

YAML configuration file can be used to specify a lot of options in a more convenient and brief format, see --conf option and "notification_thing.example.yaml" config in the repo.


File ~/.notification_filter (configurable via "--filter-file" option) can be used to control filtering mechanism at runtime and play sounds where necessary (see below).

It's the simple scheme script, see scheme submodule or original Peter Norvig's "lispy2" implementation for details.

Global definitions:

  • All the basic scheme stuff from lispy2: notification_thing/

  • (~ re msg) - regexp search.

  • (debug val-1 ...) - print all arguments to --debug log.

  • (sound-play name), (sound-play-sync name), etc - play sounds via libcanberra, if available - see note on sounds below.

Evaluation of the filter script should return the function which will be called for each notification and should return either #t or #f verdict value for whether to display it or not.


(define-macro define-matcher (lambda
  (name op comp last rev-args)
  `(define ,name (lambda args
    (if (= (length args) 1) ,last
      (let ((atom (car args)) (args (cdr args)))
          (,op ,@(if rev-args '((car args) atom) '(atom (car args))))
          (apply ,name (cons atom (cdr args))))))))))

(define-matcher ~all ~ and #t #f) ; (~all re msg-1 ...)
(define-matcher all~ ~ and #t #t) ; (all~ msg re-1 ...)
(define-matcher ~any ~ or #f #f)  ; (~any re msg-1 ...)
(define-matcher any~ ~ or #f #t)  ; (any~ msg re-1 ...)

(define-macro log-kern~ (lambda (level pat)
  `(~ ,(+ "^kern\." level " kernel\[-\]:\s+\[[\d.]+] " pat) body)))

(lambda (summary body)
  (not (or
    ;; first section that returns #t suppresses notification

    ;; --- irc
    (and (~ "^erc:" summary) (or
      ;; hl-only high-traffic channels
        (any~ summary
          "^erc: #(python|linux|bookz)$"
          "^erc: (root|\*status)")
        (not (~ "mk-fg" body)))
      ;; irrelevant service messages
      (~ "Undefined CTCP query received. Silently ignored" body)
        (~ "^erc: #\S+" summary)
          (~ "^\*\*\* #\S+ (was created on|modes:) " body)
          (~ "^\s*\*\*\*\s+\S+\s+\(\S+\) is now known as \S+$" body)))
      ;; make a sound
      (sound-play (or
        (and (~ "mk-fg" body) "bell") ;; nick highlight
        (and (~ "^erc: [^#]" summary) "phone-incoming-call") ;; query

    ;; --- mail
    (and (~ "^New Mail:" summary) (sound-play "message"))

    ;; --- sounds for log monitoring events
      (and (= summary "log:") (or
        (and (log-kern~ "info" "input: ") "device-added")
        (and (log-kern~ "info" "usb [-\d.]+: USB disconnect") "device-removed")))))))

~/.notification_filter is reloaded on-the-fly if updated, any errors will create additional notification windows (with backtraces), as well as logged.

"--filter-test" option can be used to test message summary + body (supplied after option) against filter file - will just print filtering verdict for supplied summary/body and exit.


Special "sound-play" function (see filtering example above) can plays specified sound sample (and always returns #f) via libcanberra from the filtering scripts. If libcanberra is not available or failed to init, message will be logged to stderr on daemon start and sound-related stuff will simply be ignored.

"sound-play-sync" function works same as "sound-play" but delays filtering until sound ends, and is intended for rare cases when e.g. one might want to play several different samples in sequence.

There's also "sound-cache" function to use libcanberra's "cache" function (to efficiently cache and reuse sample in audio daemon, e.g. pulseaudio).

Sounds are played only when and where these functions get invoked from the filtering scripts, i.e. not played anywhere at all by default.

This allows to play sound samples selectively, using different samples based on notification and possibly play multiple samples (in sequence or at the same time).

"--no-filter-sound" cli/config option can be used to force-disable these, don't init/touch libcanberra at all and make sound-* into a no-op functions.

"gtk-sound-theme-name" setting is used to select sound theme in libcanberra, "gtk-enable-event-sounds" is NOT used though (not implemented, as it's more dynamic and must be monitored for changes).

Extra dbus commands

D-Bus interface can be inspected via usual introspection methods (add "--xml" to get more canonical form):

gdbus introspect --session \
  --dest org.freedesktop.Notifications \
  --object-path /org/freedesktop/Notifications

Extra non-spec methods:

  • "Flush" - no args, no returns - display all queued (due to rate-limiting) notifications.

  • "Cleanup" - args: timeout (double), max_count (uint32), no returns - close currently-displayed notifications older than passed timeout (seconds). Notification bubbles are closed in oldest-first order up to "max_count" value (0 - all), so to close one oldest note, one might pass timeout=0, max_count=1.

  • "List" - no args, returns array of int32 - return list of currently-displayed notification ids.

  • "Redisplay" - no args, returns uint32 id of notification - re-displays last message again, then the one before it and so on (see --history-len option).

Daemon also implements "org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties" interface. Supported properties (full list can be acquired via usual "GetAll" method) are:

  • "plug" (bool or "toggle") - block notification bubbles from displaying, queueing them up to display when it will be disabled.

  • "urgent" (bool or "toggle") - display notifications with urgency=critical immediately, regardless of rate-limiting or fullscreen-app check.

  • "cleanup" (bool or "toggle") - enable/disable cleanup timeout for notification bubbles. Disabled timeout will mean that they will hang around forever, until manually dismissed (either by clicking or via "Flush" method).

For example, to temporarily block/unblock all but the urgent notifications:

dbus-send --type=method_call \
  --dest=org.freedesktop.Notifications \
  /org/freedesktop/Notifications \
  org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties.Set \
  org.freedesktop.Notifications \
  string:plug variant:string:toggle
Appearance / styles

Appearance (and some behavior) of the popup windows is subject to gtk3 styles (css files), with default being the light one (see the actual code for up-to-date stylesheet though):

#notification { background: transparent; }
#notification #frame { background-color: #d4ded8; padding: 3px; }
#notification #hs { background-color: black; }

#notification #critical { background-color: #ffaeae; }
#notification #normal { background-color: #f0ffec; }
#notification #low { background-color: #bee3c6; }

#notification #summary {
	padding-left: 5px;
	font-size: 1.2em;
	text-shadow: 1px 1px 0px gray;
#notification #body { font-size: 1em; }
#notification #body * { background-color: #d4ded8; }

Full hierarchy of gtk3 widgets used (all have "Gtk" prefix in C code), how they're placed and named (used as #<name> in gtk3 css):

Window #notification
 Box #frame
  HBox (only if icon is used)
   Image (icon)  VBox
                  EventBox #<urgency-level-name>
                   Label #summary
                  HSeparator #hs
                  TextView #body

(to see tree of these for running app, find all style nodes, tweak stuff on the fly and such, use Gtk-Inspector)

For example, if you have compositing wm that supports transparency, to make notification popups have slightly rounded corners, one can put this to ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css:

#notification #frame { border-radius: 7px; }

Or, to use ~20% larger font size (wrt default size) in both notification summary and body text:

#notification #summary { font-size: 1.4em; }
#notification #body { font-size: 1.2em; }
Text markup

Pango markup both in message body and summary is supported and processing of it is enabled by default (can be disabled with --markup-disable).

Whether it should be parsed can also be controlled on per-message basis by passing boolean "x-nt-markup" hint (true - enabled, false - disabled).

Other --markup-* options are available to control what happens when pango fails to parse the tags in text - whether it should be stripped (--markup-strip-on-err option) and/or warning should be issued.

Technically GtkTextView widget used for message body doesn't allow pango markup (though GtkLabel holding summary does, see also gnome bug 59390) and uses it's own GtkTextTag-based markup, which is very similar to pango, so pango stuff gets ad-hoc converted to GtkTextTags (see display.pango_markup_to_gtk), and potentially (but unlikely) can get something wrong.

Starting daemon with --test-message option will have display pango-markup-heavy notification on startup, which can be used to test this stuff.

Network broadcasting

Needs pyzmq module, if used.

Allows to serialize notifications received from dbus interface and publish them on zmq_pub socket.

Any instances connected to that will receive notification, and any transient network issues should be handled by zeromq - pub socket should keep messages queued for subscribers it has seen (connected) at least once.

Furthermore, it's not required that subscribers should connect to publishers or vice versa - any zeromq sockets can initiate connection to any other ones, so that e.g. "notify-net" tool (included) can create "pub" sucket and connect to a running daemon's "sub" socket on another machine - or any number of machines, just specify -d option many times - then publish messages there.

See --net-* options for all that.

Only limitation here is sanity - not much point linking e.g. subscriber sockets to each other.

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