App of the Week: Growly Notes

If you have used Microsoft Office on Mac and Windows, you know that the number of apps on the Mac side has been noticeably less than that of its Windows counterpart, probably the most notable exception besides Outlook (which was added back in 2011) has been OneNote, Microsoft’s note-taking client. Certainly there are many note taking apps, but Growly Notes come with the idea of filling the hole that Microsoft has left.

Growly Notes is a note taking app specifically designed for the Mac. The setup is pretty straight forward, with an easy way to organize all of your notes. You have your notes organized in Notebooks, with different sections in each notebook, and then Pages in each section. To give you an idea how this works for me, each college semester for me is a notebook, each class I take is a section, and each page is another topic or chapter in the class. Each time you make a new notebook, it gives

Fun mode of Growly Notes, courtesy of GrowlyBird

you 5 pre-made notebooks for you to customize, a schedule section, a to-do list, 2 school projects, and after-school activities calendar. You can also pick between a fun style of organization or a serious style. I personally prefer the serious style, but you can judge for yourself.

The search feature is really quick and powerful, as you can search all of your notebooks for a term, or just down to the page you’re in. It is really nice that it pops open a drawer and show you in a list all of the places its found that term. By clicking on one of them, it immediately takes you to that section.

Every time you create a new page, it gives you a completely blank page, though you can customize the background with one of their pre-made themes. From there you can drag in pictures, create texts boxes, or put in pdf’s and other links. You can see the pictures, but you can’t read pdfs in you notes, though it does provide a link to them. You can also drag files to Growly Notes’ menubar icon or dock icon, and it will instantly make a note out of that file. And if you just want to make a note now and organize it later, you can do that in the Scratchpad section.

The page layout is pretty freeform, so you can have your main lecture notes in the center, but other pictures, links, etc. on top of the text box, or off to the side. The downside of this is that if you have 2 different text boxes, one above the other on the page, making one longer can quickly cover over the other text box. One other annoying thing about this is that while you have the option to make the text box in list form, it automatically creates a new textbox rather than making the text box you’re in into a list format. Some people may like this, but I find it annoying.

One other cool feature is sharing: You can easily email from the app pages of notes that you’ve taken. You also have what are called “Shared Notebooks”, which are notebooks you can share with friends and coworkers who use Growly Notes (say like a school project, preparing for a special event, etc.). You can do something similar by put your notebooks into a Dropbox folder. But if you have some private notes you’d like to protect, you can easily password protect notes and notebooks from within the file menu. Plus this password can be save in Mac’s keychain if you so wish.

The software does have some bugs to it though. I notice on occasion that when using the “undo” keyboard command (Command-Z), it will undo whatever I just did, and move me to another note in the notebook at the same time. I also notice that if Notes is maximized to full-screen (not Lion style full screen though), activating the drawer will cause it the window to shrink in size, but not return to its previous size after turning off the drawer. I notice also that the app hangs when typing in another language, compared to doing the same in another text app. One last thing is that though Growly Notes calls itself (yes, even on their website) the OneNote for Macintosh, it can’t actually read Microsoft OneNote files. I realize this compatibility is easier said than done, but I think it would be only fitting the title for it to gain that ability. And although Growly Notes has a spell-checker and grammar checker, they’re pretty weak (I got one letter wrong in Connecticut and it said it had no alternatives for the word).

Overall, for someone looking for OneNote for Mac, or just an alternative Mac note-taking app, Growly Notes deserves a bit of your time. The app is available for free on OS 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7 (Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion respectively) from GrowlyBird. You can download it at

If you have something to add to the topic, leave a comment below. If you want to suggest an app to review, leave me a comment too or send me an email at If you want to check out more of my stuff, hit the YouTube, Twitter and Facebook buttons on the top of this page. If hungry, go get something to eat. If tired, please go to bed.

But really, thanks for reading!


    • No, according to Growly themselves, Notes will only work on Macs running 10.5 (Leopard) or higher. However, Notes can run on PowerPC Macs (which Tiger uses), so if you upgraded to Leopard you could run Notes. Sorry.

  1. Even a spell checker won’t catch it if you say “week” when you mean to say “weak”! That’s my wise guy remark of the day. Good article.

    • Probably the biggest one is the lack of Microsoft Integration and file saving. As I mentioned, Growly Notes cannot save or import OneNote files. As for more advance features, I couldn’t say. I’ll update this comment or post should I find other major differences.

  2. does growly notes automatically save your work like onenote does? Also, when you paste a sentence into onenote from a website, it automatically puts the link beneath the paste. Does growly notes do this as well?

  3. How can I save emails to growly note? If I click the PDF box I have the option to save it to growly notes but it does not go to the correct notebook, only scratchpad. If I can’t get it to the correct notebook directly, can I drag it from scratch pad to the desired notebook?

    • Hey Ron,

      Yeah it seems that’s just the default location the “Print to Growly Notes” moves stuff to. You can’t drag and drop it, but you can cut and paste it. Just select the email in the Scratchpad, then hit “Command” and “X” on the keyboard to cut it. Then go to the Notebook/Note you want to paste the email into that.

      Another alternative is you can just print the email to PDF using the standard “Print to PDF” function in Mac OS, save it some place like your Desktop, and then you can drag that PDF File into the note you want.

      Hope that helps!

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