Meet The New Growl: Improved Functionality, But at a Price

If you’ve owned a Mac for more than a couple months, then chances are you’ve been encouraged to install an app called Growl, perhaps by another user or by an app that you are installing. Growl is the most popular notifications system available for Mac, and it has recently gotten a big revision that the developers claim to be the biggest one yet.

Want to see what it’s all about? Let’s take a look at all the changes Growl has had.

Getting Started with the New Growl

Growl

Growl

You might be happy with the way the old Growl runs on your computer, and that’s fine. There’s not much room for improvement when your app is based on a simple task like displaying notifications. Still, the good people at the Growl team have found a few ways to make their app even more kick-ass. Here are some of them:

  • Growl now completely runs in your menu bar.
  • It now feels more like an app instead of a background process.
  • “Rollup”, a feature which displays the notifications that came in while you were away.
  • Notifications history
  • Growl is now available on the Mac App Store
  • No longer a Preference Pane

These also come with their downsides. For example, Growl is no longer free, it now costs $1.99. Sure, that’s not much, but it’s never cool when you are charged for something that used to be free; although sometimes it is necessary to continue development of certain apps, as the Growl team point out.

Also, the installation can be tricky if you have the older version. There are some instructions on the Growl page, which are using an uninstaller that you can download from their site, or deleting the old Growl PrefPane manually. These must be done before installing the new version, as there have been reportedly some issues with users that don’t do so.

The Rollup

Rollup

Rollup

The Rollup is probably the feature that the Growl team is pushing the most in this new version. The old version used to do something similar, but it wasn’t as organized, and it honestly was a pain to use. The new version revamped this idea and it’s now much more organized.

In the settings, you can set an inactivity time, that will be used to set off the rollup. If you have the inactivity time set to 30 seconds, after 30 seconds of inactivity every notification that comes through will be sent to the rollup, which will be shown in the center of your screen once you come back.

Inside the rollup, you’ll see a list of all the notifications, and information from each one of them like the title, icon, description and time of each notification.

Other Features

History

History

The second most important feature is also one that’s been there for a while, but is now better than ever. It’s the menu bar component, and it now plays a much bigger role in Growl than it did in the past as it’s the controller for the whole application. Inside the menu bar icon you’ll find settings like showing the rollup, pausing and quitting Growl, opening the preferences, and at the bottom, it will display your 5 most recent notifications, which will be opened inside the “History” tab in the settings if clicked.

The “History” settings is where all of your old notifications are now kept, for as long as you tell the app to store them. It can be disabled too, and it will show all of the usual information from each notification. The customization is still there, and you can use the same themes that have always been there or download some from Growl’s Style site. In the settings you can also disable the rollup, change the default position for the notifications, connect with other computers that use the new Growl, and choose which applications you want Growl to work with.

Is It Worth It?

If you take a look at the reviews on the Mac App Store, most of the complaints are price-related. Two dollars isn’t much, but it might be hard to pay them when you are basically getting the same thing that you used to get for free.

You can keep using your old free Growl, but soon it might not be compatible with newer apps, especially apps that come from the App Store. The Growl team justifies the new price saying that they need it to keep people working entirely on developing Growl, which is understandable if they continue putting out great features for the app.

Also on the downside is the fact that many people are experiencing problems with the new Growl, especially getting it to work with older apps that aren’t updated. When I first installed it, it didn’t work with any of the apps I had until I rebooted my system, but since then it has been working great. Still, the reviews on the Mac App Store aren’t doing Growl any favors, so you might want to wait until it gets updated to switch to the new one, if you haven’t done so already.

Conclusion

Honestly, I think I’m over using notification apps. Lately I’ve found that I work much better without things distracting me. Ever since Notify (my email app that used Growl to announce new emails) broke, I’ve found that not having notifications can be good, and you can get things done more quickly if you aren’t distracted or interrupted every second of the day.

Twitter and Bowtie are pretty much the only apps that I use with Growl, and I’m seriously considering stopping using Growl with them and just keeping it for maintenance apps and other types of apps that aren’t as intrusive.

Still, I know a lot of people appreciate notifications in every one of their apps, and for them, Growl will continue being the leader of this market. The developers have done a good job at updating this app, for the most part. They have truly taken Mac notifications to another level.

What is your opinion? Do you still use notifications? What do you think of Growl becoming a paid app? What about the new features? Discuss!


Summary

A long overdue update to Growl that makes some major changes. It's now a menu bar app with a few fresh features and can be found in the Mac App Store for $1.99. It shows promise but early adopters are experiencing some issues with the update, you might want to hold back until the bugs are ironed out.

7
  • JJ

    The fact it now (only) runs in the menu bar is the fact I started to have bad feelings about 1.3.x (it’s a service and I want it in system preferences) do not clutter the menu bar with useless features. The integration with mainline applications (firefox and thunderbird) still is in the works (and whispers go that it will take another 11 weeks) and that is the reason I revered back to 1.2

    my 2 cents

  • Tony

    Anyway, it’s open-sourced so if you want, you can compile it yourself and use it for free.
    I paid to support, it’s totally worthy

  • MT36000

    I am proud to say that I have put my 2$ on Growl with a great pleasure ! It has been for me a reward sent back for the wonderful app that they have put in my hands !

    Of course, there are problems with apps but mainly with apps that don’t follow the guidelines planned by the Growl Team. I think that ,if the developers have followed them, all apps compatible with Growl 1.2.2 would have been compatible with Growl 1.3 and following out-of the box !

    Cheers from one very happy buyer and user of Growl 1.3.x

  • http://beaugil.es Beau Giles

    I was happy to pay (not even) a cup of coffee for Growl – one of my must haves for any Mac ever since I got one all those years ago.
    Now I can hide Growl from my menu bar and dock, I’m happy. It’s a quick trip to Launchpad to change any settings, easy.
    I love the rollup – much less cluttered and annoying than the ‘sticky’ notifications of old.
    History is a nice touch too.
    Overall, I was happy to pay $2 to support Growl, hoping they add more features soon (now they’re getting at least some income!) such as maybe tweeting my notifications.

    However, I’d still love native notifications like iOS, without an additional app. 10.8 maybe?

  • Christian

    Complaining about 2 bucks? Seriously?

    Not only can you use the old free version but developers can still support Growl Notifications without you having Growl installed.
    http://growl.posterous.com/growl-13-a-summary-of-the-major-changes

    What about the apps not working? Well, their devs are just too lazy to implement recent frameworks. Its not that hard and you don’t even need the most recent version. We implemented Growl in our app several month before 1.3 and its still working just fine.

  • Christian

    BTW: If you are looking for themes check our goodies at http://quickcalapp.com

  • Massive Stapler

    I’m with JJ. Growl should be a background service. It doesn’t need to be an app. It fills a void that OS X leaves wide open – dock badges just don’t really cut it for letting you know that something happened – and as an extension of the OS, it should be a service, not an app.

    I don’t have any problem paying for Growl and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised to see that it was still free after re/installing OS X and going after the dmg…if every time it goes off is a time I use it, I use it like every few seconds. It’s worth two bucks. The issue I take with it is that they bent what the app is, and in a way that makes very little sense from a program design standpoint, to have it in the App Store, which is such an un-open source move that I’m pretty shocked that they did this, and that I feel pretty certain that they broke backwards compatibility on purpose to goad people into upgrading.

    It also makes me pretty irritated at Apple for imposing all of these rules on what programs can and can not be to be eligible for inclusion in the App Store, especially where it relates to things like price. How is it fair to say that the lowest price for an app has to be in the App Store, while also taking 30% of the sale price from the devs? That’s just lame. They’re iOSing OS X and iOS’s restrictive nature is the entire reason that I do not have an iPhone. OS X is UNIX and you should be able to do any @#$%ing thing you want to a UNIX box, even if it might be a crappy idea, and having a program like this function as a service isn’t. OS X’s extensibility is a huge selling point for me…I don’t really understand why Apple would want to attempt putting a stop to that.

    For those thinking that Growl still works fine as a full-on application and that this obviously doesn’t impede devs wishing to extend the OS’s capabilities, please keep in mind that the App Store and it’s rules are only a first step toward the possibility of killing that extensibility altogether. Sure, it works now, but it might not later.

  • Piotr

    I haven’t used Growl for over 3 or 4 years. To much unwanted infos displaing all the time.

  • http://iamnatalia.com Natalia Ventre

    I disabled almost all Growl notifications, so I’m not interested in buying it. It’s not a price issue, I don’t like that the new version is a menu bar app and I’m not excited about the new functionalities.

  • ric_anto

    Note that the last version (available on the MAS) has the option to disable the menu bar icon (leaving Growl running in the background without a menu bar nor a dock icon).

  • James Cocker

    I think you’ve missed one of the biggest changes in the update: You no longer need to have the Growl app to see Growl notifications.

    Once developers have updated their apps to support v1.3, users do NOT need to download/buy the Growl app in order to get notifications. The Growl app simply adds the extra features such as customisation etc.

    See here: http://growl.posterous.com/growl-13-a-summary-of-the-major-changes

  • http://modernisten.co.vu/ Robin Lundgren

    Menu bar item & cluttering my applications folder.
    – Horrible..

    Rollup & history
    – Well thanks for the option but no thanks..

  • http://www.stanzilieri.com/ Steffen M. Boelaars

    The LAST thing I need is another menu-bar app. This is their worst mistake. Growl’s functionality is not an app-thing, but a third-party system function. It should be hidden, out of the way, and only show its capability when it is needed: during an actual notification, or that one-off time when you choose to configure it (usually only that one time you install it).

    So basically, the original way is perfect, and the new way is so bad they should give ME money to install it.

    Mind you, I pay for a lot of software that I don’t even use just because I support the developers. But in this case, I’m not going to pay for people who take something great and ruin it by clearly not having a proper User Experience vision.

  • haddock

    i love Growl!
    you can disable the applications you don’t want, you can disable the menu-bar icon and if i doesn’t work in the next operating system from apple, 2 dollars doesn’t seem wasted now. if you don’t like or need what Growl gives you, don’t by it. can’t understand why so many complains about this little gem? the best in what i does.

  • http://mactua.net MathiasB

    I compiled the source code myself, and din’t like growl…
    As pointed out already it’s not the price, but just the changes they made.

  • Soyek

    It should be written in BOLD in this review, that You can actually set this new Growl from MAS not to display any icons at all, neither menubar nor dock one, so it feels like a background process. And it’s in General tab (!) – the first tab visible when launching this great app.

    I hate whining on things You don’t even know well enough. Utter ignorance.

    Growl rocks and 2 bucks for it’s support should be no-brainer for every Mac user on the planet.

  • John Grishin

    When developers updates their apps, we will DON’T need growl app installed on our Macs to receive notifications. Today Growl App is just like Growl Pro with rollout and themes. Still use growl 1.2 and be happy.

    p.s. Sorry for my english. :)

  • http://appcrunch.co.uk Josh

    Personally prefer the way Growl is in 1.2 and would much prefer to just donate $2+ directly rather than pay for it via the MAS to continue receiving updates.

  • Sheryl

    The only reason I didn’t buy it is because I don’t want it in my menubar, but supposedly you don’t need growl installed anymore to get notifications.

  • Sebastian

    I don’t like that Growl doesn’t like Skype anymore.

  • http://iynque.com iynque

    A short while after reading this, I installed Google Chrome on my Mac. Moments after I ran Chrome for the first time, Hardware Growler notified me of a “Google Earth” volume being mounted without showing up on my desktop, and then suddenly disappearing: http://cl.ly/CIwq

    Growl is a valuable tool, if only for hardware growler.

    …..not sure about the new version though….. Sticking with the older, better version for now.

  • Passerby

    I don’t understand all the complaints here. The latest version of Growl allows you to run in “faceless app” mode withOUT menubar icon or Dock icon.

    I’m astonished that $1.99 is a huge problem.

    Growl is useful for me, especially with GrowlMail and HardwareGrowler.

  • Taylor

    I don’t think the $2.00 price tag is an issue at all, especially for an app that is so integral to my system I almost forget it’s not default. Growl is a wonderful app, and I am willing to support it, and the new rollup feature is interesting, it could be improved though. Still, great app from the Growl Team!

  • Adrian

    For me, Growl stopped working after upgrading to Lion. I’ve updated/re-installed to no avail. $2 is an easy purchase for an “app” I’ve used for years – but it needs to function.

  • Expert

    The update is the worst EVER! Are you blind, dude?

    Didn’t you notice that Growl does not support many of the programs that want to notify you.

    People are now leaving Growl behind, because they have been tricked into buying a product that does not work as advertised.

    All the important apps, especially Mail, are not part of the so-called update. That means you lose functionality by “updating”. And you even pay for losing a great function on your desktop. Scam of the year!

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  • Tony

    I object to paying for something I never asked for in the first place.

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