Get Better Windows Notifications With Growl

You’re probably familiar with the infamous Windows notification balloon. While the majority of these notifications are often important, the Windows notification system is constantly ridiculed for lack of configuration. A solid notification system should consist of a configurable interface and support for a variety of applications. If you feel as though the default notification system does not suit your needs, you may want to have a look at Growl for Windows.

Based off of the popular Mac application, Growl for Windows is an excellent solution for those who multitask and wish to make their lives a little easier. Growl allows you to receive information on what is taking place in other applications via a simple notification in the corner of your screen. This eliminates the need for constantly switching windows which can negatively impact productivity. Growl has the ability to provide you with information such as the name of a song that is playing in iTunes, when a download is finished in Firefox, or when you receive a new IM in Pidgin.

Is Growl right for you? Continue reading to find out!

Interface

Growl features an assortment of default themes for notifications. If you’re not a fan of the included themes, you can visit Growl’s website and view an entire database of third-party themes that you can download and install for free. Many of these themes can be configured by modifying the transparency, color, and location of the notification. However, all UI configuration is specific to the selected theme due to the fact that Growl does not feature a standardized set of interface preferences.

When Growl is first launched, you’ll see a small sample notification similar to the one above. The default themes in Growl, in my opinion, are not very aesthetically pleasing. I highly recommend looking for a well-designed, third-party theme due to the fact that the default themes appear to be rather archaic.

Preferences

At first glance, Growl may seem like a relatively basic application. However, once you dive in to the preferences menu, you’ll quickly discover that it’s just the opposite. Growl provides you with a plethora of configuration options that range from changing startup preferences to sending and receiving notifications over the internet.

The preferences window consists of six tabs. They are as follows:

  • General – Configure startup settings, modify or mute sounds, choose whether you wish to see notifications when an application is running fullscreen, and change idle settings
  • Applications – View and configure the applications that are registered with Growl
  • Displays – Select, modify, or preview installed themes
  • Network – Send and receive notifications to and from other devices
  • Security – Set passwords and configure which sources Growl is allowed to receive notifications from
  • History – View a log of the notifications you have received
The process of registering an application with Growl is not nearly as easy as I would prefer it to be. This is largely due to the fact that there are no applications that are natively compatible with Growl. As a result, a plugin installation is often required if the application is to properly interact with Growl. The difficulty of this process can vary depending on what program you are attempting to register. Although, once an application has been registered, configuring which notifications you wish to receive is fairly simple. You can find a list of supported applications and links to their corresponding plugins on this page.

Out of the many configuration options that are included inside of Growl, I find the contents of the Network tab to be particularly interesting. If you are a frequent traveler, it’s likely that you have a laptop and a smartphone in addition to a desktop computer. If this is the case, Growl can easily be configured to forward notifications to other devices. Forwarding notifications is ideal if you wish to be notified of events such as a completed download, severe weather alert, system activity, or any other piece of information that could be serviceable when you’re away from your desk. These notifications can be forwarded to another computer running Growl, an email account, iPhone running Prowl, or a Windows Phone running Toasty.

Competition

Many users who are not a fan of Growl often look towards another popular notification system known as Snarl. While both of these apps have very similar functionality, I really admire how Snarl has more standardized UI options that are not specific to a single theme, and has support for volume control, time, and other basic Windows services without the need for a script or plugin.

Personally, I prefer Snarl over Growl due to its user-friendly interface and seemingly lighter system footprint. However, both Snarl and Growl are immensely configurable and have support for an abundance of applications. I recommend trying both of these apps to properly determine which one is right for you.

Conclusion

Desktop notifications are considered to be standard in most modern operating systems. Growl, however, supercharges notifications to the extent that puts the default Windows notification system to shame. I consider Growl to be a must-have app for any individual who consistently finds themselves overwhelmed with windows and would rather be notified of the important events taking place on their system instead of sacrificing productivity by constantly switching tasks. While the program registration process could be simplified, I believe that the advantages that coincide with using Growl far outweigh any disadvantages.

What Windows app do you frequently use that you think we should check out next? Let us know by posting a comment below!


Summary

A free notification system for Windows that is well-designed and configurable but lacks easy program registration.

  • Growl 2.0.9.1  | 
  • Free  | 
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