Growl: System Wide Notifications

Using a computer is often all about events and communication. Changes are always occurring, data is being received, tracks are changing, and news is pushed to you. All of these events occur in a bunch of different applications, and each has a specific way of letting you know that something has happened. It could be a Dock badge, a popup window, or even an audible alert.

The problem with this setup is that, as a user, you’re constantly bombarded with notifications from different areas of your screen, grabbing your attention in different ways. Growl aims to solve this by providing a central system for managing events. It integrates with a huge range of apps to provide a single, simplified way to receive notifications.

Setting up Growl

Growl is a free download and, once installed, resides in your System Preferences pane:

Growl System Preferences

Growl System Preferences

A number of different settings are available relating to how Growl starts up, and where it resides in your system. There’s also a useful option to temporarily hide all notifications. You can select which corner of your display is the default starting position for all messages, allowing consistency between every application.

The ‘Network’ tab allows you to configure Growl to receive incoming notifications from other computers. Alternatively, you can send messages from the current computer to another – providing it is running Growl and you’re authorized to do so.

Integrating with Applications

The key reason for using Growl is the wide variety of applications with which it can integrate. A full list can be here, though a few notable apps are:, Gmail, SpamSieve, Firefox, Adium, Skype, Transmit, Dropbox, Transmission, MarsEdit, NetNewsWire, NewsFire, Twitteriffic and a huge array of System and Unix apps.

Application Integration

Application Integration

Once installed, supported applications should automatically recognize that Growl is present and appear in the preferences window. Little or no configuration is required for most apps, and you can be up and running in no time.

Certain applications require a particular Extra before notifications can be sent to Growl. These include, and also if you’d like the ability to be notified about hardware changes (adding/removing USB devices, network connections etc). These are fairly simple to install, though do create slightly more clutter on your system.

Styling Notifications

A number of different notification styles are available, customized with various transparency settings and colour options. If you use multiple monitors, it’s possible to specify which one you’d like notifications to appear on. A few style examples are Candybars, Brushed, and Smoke:


Other interesting options include the ability to automatically send an email notification or an SMS message (providing you have an account with Clickatell). A different route is to have notifications spoken audibly to you, although this didn’t work brilliantly during testing.

A number of additional styles are available to download from the developers, though they are now beginning to look a little dated. An update with a few slightly more modern and professional styles would certainly be well received.


Growl provides a fantastic tool for collecting all software and hardware notifications in one place, displaying them in a consistent and attractive style. It’s a shame that helper software is required to support certain types of message, as it would be great to have everything included within the main app. It goes a long way towards simplifying your desktop and – short of disabling any form of notification – helps to minimize the distraction caused when you’re trying to concentrate on a task.

It’s completely free and definitely worth checking out. If you don’t like it, uninstallation is as simple as running the script provided with the original download.

Do you use Growl or are you content with different application notifications?


Add Yours
  • I use growl since it came first with Adium! Very good App, especially if you use spaces and work with multiple screens.

  • Growl is a great tool. Very handy for nonintrusive information.

  • I also use growl because it comes with adium,
    I use it until now, perhaps there is a better one,
    but I stick with this for a moment…

  • growl is super awesome. I wish tweetdeck could use growl. The alerts from tweetdeck are okay but it would be nicer to have some more control over them and style them to your system.

  • The post lists as a supported application, but I don’t see it listed on the Growl site nor do I see it in the Growl applications menu. Any add-ons to make this happen?

    I love Growl, btw. :)

    • Hi Verne. Mail is supported through the add-on included with the official Growl download. Alternatively, if you use a tool such as SpamSieve, you can use that for integration.

  • Appstom needs to write about things that not all Mac users know about. Who doesn’t know about growl?

    • I didn’t

  • Just cant live without GROWL…

  • I just wish they can improve their preference pane UI. It takes too many clicks to change things. However, Growl works fine regardless, so I am not complaining.

  • You should round up all the growl themes out there.. its so hard to find a good looking one. Would be nice if you could make a post of how to make a theme also.. But thats maybe not what this blog is about..

  • Smokestack is the best style. Very well done. Kind of reminds me of this website.

  • I love Growl, i use it at the office, and i’m really wondering why it is not available within Mac OS…

  • Growl is a must install application! can’t say much!

  • Any of you guys, know how to edit Music Video Style to slide in the upper screen instead of button of it?

  • I use growl for last year, now is the part of my system

  • It is an effective tool for providing alerts

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