Every OSX user eventually comes across Growl as either it gets downloaded along with some app or stumbles upon documentation which talks about Growl. In fact, some OSX users tend to believe that it ships with OSX itself. I have been using Growl since my MacMini days and when I got my 17” MacBook Pro, it was one of the first apps that I downloaded on my OSX partition.
What is Growl?
In very simple terms, Growl is centralized notification system which receives notifications from apps and displays them in a consistent, configurable manner so that every app does not have to build its own notification mechanism. You can use Growl to decide which notifications to show, how to show them and what action to take if the user interact with these notifications.
Growl for Windows
I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon Growl for Windows which neatly mimics the functionality and features of Growl for Mac. While OS X version has support of many applications, Windows apps do not come with built-in support for Growl yet.
Apps and Displays
Most applications build their own notification systems from scratch. Think of Live Messenger popup toaster, Outlook’s new mail alert, System alert for low battery and so on. Then there are web based apps like Gmail, Facebook etc. which have their own notifications which are either delivered when you go online on the site or via email. Some may even have custom built alert apps just to notify you. Growl can unify all these and provide a consistent user experience.
Apps can be applications which have built in support for Growl or a helper app in from of a plugin, extension or add-on which detects changes and relays the notification to Growl. The list of such apps is increasing steadily and cover a range from web based apps like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook to desktop apps like Outlook, Skype, Visual Studio to even hardware automation like ECS & ZWave automation systems.
Displays are notification UI and notification styles which can be configured and customized. Display is a misnomer because apart from the typical notification toaster window and sound, you can even configure it to send SMS, email, post to twitter account or run an application.
Forwarding and Subscriptions
Imagine that you are an administrator managing a dozen of systems in an office. Instead of checking and verifying every system periodically for regular maintenance issue, you install Growl on each one of them and forward their notifications to your administrative system. So if someone has low disk issue, you can remotely run disk cleaner.
In addition to forwarding, you can subscribe to notification from other system including web site to be informed of events occurring on those systems.
Phones, SMS and Email
Growl supports forwarding notifications to iPhone thru plugins in Prowl, Howl and you can also forward notifications to an email which makes it ideal for being able to keep track of events while on the move. If you can also send notifications to your system thru email and other means, coupled with triggers, you can launch commands and control your system remotely.
Growl is a nice move in the direction of unifying notifications on Windows on the lines of Growl of Mac and we should soon see a lot more native support built into applications in future. Meanwhile try and get a helper application for the popular applications and website and enjoy!