Growl is different from almost all of the other apps I’ve reviewed; whereas most of these apps tend to run alone, Growl is an app that runs because of other programs. Some of you may even have Growl already installed on your Mac and not even realize it.
Growl is a notification system for Mac, and almost every major app supports it in some way, from browsers, to media apps, Twitter apps, and more. Growl support is so ubiquitous in Mac apps, that it’s almost hard to find an app that doesn’t support it (if you exclude apps meant to run in the background). So, let’s say you have a Twitter app open, but you’re writing a paper in another app. When you get a new tweet, a small little window will pop up with the tweet and either the app name or the name of the person tweeting. If I have Rockmelt running, Rockmelt will notify me that it just updated in the background and needs to be restarted.
Growl installs a Preference pane under System Preferences, as well as an optional menubar icon. From there, you can customize the style of Growl’s notifications,
(e.g. change it from a small window in the corner, to a large news-ticker style bar at the bottom of the screen, etc.) as well as what apps Growl can run with, and how long each notification stays on-screen. Growl doesn’t use up your system resources, though occasionally I notice hang-ups when certain apps are about to post to Growl. This might be the fault of the apps’ implementation of Growl rather than Growl itself.
While Growl runs on almost any app you can download, you have to get separate plugins if you want it to work with Apple Mail, Safari, or iTunes since Apple doesn’t make its apps support Growl by default. You can also download a plugin for Growl to run when you plug in or have any hardware changes made to your Mac. It is important to note, however, that GrowlMail and GrowlTunes development (Growl for Apple Mail and iTunes respectively) have been given to another developer to work on.
Growl is a
free download though from growl.info, while instructions for installing GrowlSafari and HardwareGrowler can be found at growl.info/extras.php. As for GrowlMail and GrowlTunes, check them out at http://groups.google.com/group/growldiscuss/browse_thread/thread/5d0dce48867417d0?pli=1.
UPDATE: As of Growl 1.3, you can buy it from the Mac App Store for $1.99. While I’m sad it’s no longer free, I think it’s worth the price.
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