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
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 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.
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.
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!
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