Your iPhone and/or iPad has several different ways of notifying you about a new text message, calendar event, a friend’s Facebook update … well, the list goes on.

Sometimes, you’ll get a little iPhone alert and a banner appears briefly at the top of the screen, while in other cases you may get a pop-up window that won’t go away without a tap. Then there are those little red badges that dot the home screen.

And here’s another wrinkle: depending on their individual settings, your alerts may appear on your iPhone’s “lock” screen (that is, the screen with the clock, your wallpaper, and the “slide to unlock” control) and/or in the “Notification Center,” a summary of various notifications that you can pull down from the top of the screen like a window shade.

Confused yet? I don’t blame you.

Read on for a quick tour of the different types of notifications on your iPhone (or iPad), plus how to change when and where they appear.

Let’s start with …

The alert

iOS 7 alert pop-up. iOS alerts, pop-ups, and badges.

There’s no way you’ll miss an iPhone alert, but it’s also a bit of a showstopper, particularly when it comes to games.

What it is: A pop-up window that stops whatever you’re doing on your iPhone/iPad and displays the details of the notification.

Why it’s handy: The thing about alerts pop-ups in iOS 7 is that they can’t be ignored; indeed, not only do they stop you in your tracks, they also demand a tap before you can proceed. iPhone alerts are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to miss a message or an event.

Why it’s annoying: See above. As well as being quite jarring, alerts will make anything you’re doing on your iPhone or iPad—from surfing the web to playing a game—come to a grinding halt.

The banner

iOS 7 banner. iOS alerts, pop-ups, and badges.

The slim notification banner appears unobtrusively at the top of the screen, and disappears within a few seconds.

What it is: A slim notification pane that slides into view along the top of the screen before disappearing a few seconds later. You can ignore a banner if you wish, pull down the banner to reveal the full Notification Center (more on that in a moment), or tap it to jump to the message, calendar event, or app that wants your attention.

Why it’s handy: Unlike alerts, iPhone banners won’t interrupt whatever you’re doing on your phone or iPad; for example, you can keep playing “Candy Crush” without skipping a beat even as banners slide into view.

Why they’re annoying: While banners won’t get in the way of your iPhone or iPad activity, they can certainly be distracting, especially if you’re watching a video or curled up with a good Kindle book. And since they disappear after a few seconds, there’s always the chance you might miss something.

The badge

iOS 7 app badge. iOS alerts, pop-ups, and badges.

Notification badges light up on your app icons whenever you have alerts waiting.

What it is: A little red dot with a number (signifying the number of waiting alerts) that sits on the corner of app icons on your various iOS 7 home pages. If you see a red badge with a “4” on it sitting on the Facebook app icon, for example, you’ll know you have four new Facebook events to review.

Why it’s handy: An iPhone badge makes for a great reminder of a message, voicemail, or some other event that you haven’t quite gotten around to yet.

Why they’re annoying: No one likes a nag, and badges can feel, well … pretty naggy, particularly when you see that you’ve got dozens or even hundreds of events stacked up. I also get pretty annoyed when certain apps (I’m looking at you, “Words with Friends”) put up badges that merely remind me I haven’t launched them in awhile.

Lock-screen notifications

iOS 7 lock-screen notification. iOS alerts, pop-ups, and badges.

You can set notifications to appear on your iPhone’s “lock screen,” and you can swipe an alert to jump to the relevant app.

What they are: Banners that appear on your iPhone’s or iPad’s “lock screen” in a scrollable list; swipe one, and you’ll instantly be taken to the message, event, or app that’s begging for your attention.

Why they’re handy: Because you can check for messages and alerts on your iPhone/iPad without having to unlock it; just press the Home key or sleep/wake button to take a quick gander. It’s also nice to be able to jump to, say, a specific new text message as you unlock your iOS 7 device.

Why they’re annoying: Your iPhone’s/iPad’s screen will briefly—and, perhaps, distractingly—light up every time a new lock-screen notification arrives. And if you get a lot of lock-screen alerts, the constantly flashing display will put added strain on your device’s battery.

iOS 7 Notification Center. iOS alerts, pop-ups, and badges.

The Notification Center gathers some or all of your most recent iPhone alerts into a pull-down, three-tabbed screen.

The Notification Center

What it is: A summary of some or all of your iOS notifications, all gathered on a three-tabbed screen. You can access the Notification Center at any time by flicking down from the top of the display.

Why it’s handy: The Notification Center makes for a nice one-stop shop for your most important alerts. Just swipe to the “Today” tab for a weather report and your daily agenda. or flick to “Missed” for any earlier notifications that escaped your attention.

Why it’s annoying: Well, the Notification Center isn’t really that annoying, given that you could ignore it completely if you wanted it to.

So … how do you customize all these iPhone alerts, badges, and notifications, then?

iOS 7 Notification settings. iOS alerts, pop-ups, and badges.

You can tweak the “styles” for your various alerts in your Notification settings.

Here’s how:

  • Tap the Settings icon, then tap Notifications.
  • Scroll down a bit, and you’ll find two big lists of iPhone/iPad apps: those that appear in the Notification Center, and those that don’t. Let’s tap Calendar for the sake of example.
  • Want to see Calendar events listed in Notification Center? If so, make sure the big green “Notification Center” switch is set to “On.” If you don’t want calendar events cluttering the list of Notification Center alerts, switch the setting to “Off.” Oh, and one more thing: you can still get banner or alerts for an app that doesn’t appear in the Notification Center.
  • Next, let’s go back up to the Alert Style section. Here, you’ll find three choices: “None,” “Banners,” and “Alerts.” Tap to take your pick.
  • Your next option is for notification badges on your app icons: yes or no? Personally, I like my email accounts to have the “Badge App Icon” setting switched on; for Facebook, though, I switched it to “Off.” That’s just me, though.
  • What about sound? Most apps have the option for a beep, a buzz, or a ringtone to herald your latest notifications. Usually, the setting for notification sounds is labeled, simply, “Sound”; for the Calendar app, the setting is called “Calendar Alerts.” Tap to pick an alert tone or ringtone, or choose “None” to keep notifications for that particular app silent.
  • Last but not least, you can decide whether you want an app’s notifications to appear on the iPhone’s lock screen by tapping the “Show on Lock Screen” on/off switch.

You’ll have to rinse and repeat these steps for each of your iOS 7 apps—and no, unfortunately, there’s no way to change the notification settings for all your apps at once.

Bonus tip

Want to pause your iOS alerts and notifications? Just flick up from the bottom of your iPhone’s or iPad’s screen, then tap the Do Not Disturb button (the one with a half-moon icon).

You can also set Do Not Disturb on turn itself on and off by tapping Settings, Do Not Disturb. Switch “Scheduled” to “on” and then set your preferred “From” and “To” times.