How to give calendar events real alarms?

Here’s a question for something that I might write about in TidBITS.

I’m finding that I’ve started to tune out notifications, even alerts that stick around. Partly that’s because I use them for Reminders to ensure that I complete certain tasks, so I often have an alert or two that’s hanging around while I get to doing it. But there are just so many notifications now that I don’t pay close attention to them.

That’s a problem when I have a Zoom meeting or something that’s very tightly timed. I can set a calendar alert for 15 minutes before, and then for 1 minute before, but if I’m concentrating hard on something I’m writing, I might not notice the 1-minute warning right away, by which time I’m late.

What I really want is an option to make my Apple Watch vibrate until I stop it, much like a timer or alarm. A notification in the corner doesn’t require me to take an action like my wrist buzzing does. But as far as I can tell, that’s not possible, certainly in Fantastical, and not obviously in Calendar. (Don’t know about BusyCal.)

I’ve actually taken to setting a timer on my watch when I get the 15-minute warning to make sure I don’t get distracted.

The only workaround I can think of is to use Calendar’s alert type of opening a file. It’s easy enough to have it open an MP3 audio file, which plays in Music. Make it long enough and it will be the sort of thing I’ll have to go turn off. I could also imagine creating a little app in Automator that would do something similar—as far as I can tell, there’s no way to trigger a Shortcut in this way. Of course, the problem then is that I’d have to schedule such events in Calendar rather than Fantastical, which I vastly prefer.

Other thoughts or solutions?

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Searching the Shortcuts app on the iPhone for “watch” displays several actions for control of the watch but none to give a haptic alert.
Maybe you could use the Workout action to start a workout on the watch - if there are any that can give a haptic alert?
I have dabbled with the Shortcuts app for other purposes - it is a very frustrating way to do programming but there are surprising abiliities:

There is a related discussion here (without referring to Shortcuts):

Haptic is good, but what I want are essentially modal notifications—the sort of thing that you have to stop what you’re doing to dismiss.

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Sounds to me like you’re essentially asking Apple to introduce a new kind of notification aside from persistent/temp banner (or banner/alert) — perhaps something that occupies pretty much the entire screen and won’t go away until acknowledged. Sounds like something to suggest to them for a future update. I don’t see any compelling reason why that shouldn’t be an additional option offered to users. You make a good case for when that would be desirable.


On the Mac you can set a custom alert that will open a file (like an AppleScript).


Due is the best for this I have found.

A new feature ‘critical alerts’ ensures what you require. I have this on my iPhone/watch but not implemented on my Mac, a separate subscription.


Got me. As far as I can figure out, notifications must work exactly the opposite of what I understand.

Which is to say, I’ve gotten better, but need to get more better at just looking at Calendars, checking messages, email, etc. for myself. Because counting on notifications is a crapshoot.

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Nice! I use Due but had not run into this feature yet. I will investigate. :blush: