Add Your Own System Sounds – Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition

Tip 277Add Your Own System Sounds

With a little hacking you can use your own sound files for system alerts. You can find a variety of sound effect files online—just try Google. However, the files must be in AIFF format. Most sound files you might download from websites are in other formats (usually wav). However, you can convert them to AIFF format using iTunes, as described next.

Remember that alert noises need to be no more than a second or two in length. There’s no point in using a three-minute pop song as an alert because it’ll continue playing long after you’ve forgotten what the alert was for.

When you find a sound effect you like on a website, right-click the link to it, and select Downloaded Linked File. Simply clicking the link will play the sound within the browser window.


Figure 43. Adjusting iTunes settings to output AIFF files

Converting Sounds to AIFF Format

Assuming you downloaded a .wav file (which is likely), you’ll need to convert it to an .aif file. Here’s how that can be done:

  1. Open iTunes in the usual way—click Finder, select the Applications list, and then double-click iTunes. Then click the application menu, and click Preferences.

  2. In the dialog box that appears, make sure the General icon is selected, and then click the Import Settings button.

  3. In the new dialog box that appears, click the Import Using drop-down list, and select AIFF Encoder (see Figure 43, Adjusting iTunes settings to output AIFF files). Then close all the dialog boxes and return to the main iTunes interface.

  4. Click and drag your sound file to the iTunes window so that it’s imported into your playlist. Locate it in the list (hint: type its name into the Search box at the top right of iTunes), and then right-click it and select Create AIFF Version.

  5. Conversion is instant, and you’ll find you have two versions of the file. Select the second of the two, and click and drag it to the desktop. You should now have an AIFF file (the file will have an .aif file extension).

  6. Now you need to return iTunes to its original settings, so click the application menu again and select Preferences. Click the Import Settings button, and this time select AAC Encoder from the Import Settings drop-down list. You can now close all dialog boxes and quit iTunes.

Importing Sounds for Use by the System

Once the sound file has been converted to AIFF format, it must be imported for use and activated.

  1. Open a Finder window, hit Shift+Command+G, and type ~/Library/Sounds.

  2. Click and drag the AIFF file you created earlier to the directory, and then close Finder.

  3. Now open System Preferences (Apple menuSystem Preferences), and click the Sound icon. In the pane that appears, click the Sound Effects tab, and select your sound effect from the list—the sounds will be listed alphabetically.

  4. The changes will take effect immediately, but to test the new sound effect, click it once or twice.

To go back to using built-in system alert sounds, simply open System Preferences, and then open the Sound pane as described previously; next, ensuring the Sound Effects tab is selected, select one of the default entries from the list. You can then delete your sound files from the ~/Library/Sounds folder.