Quick Tip: Growl vs. Notification Center


So you've upgraded to Mountain Lion. Do you stick with Growl for your notifications or do you switch to Apple's new Notification Center? Today we'll take a quick look at each and discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and how they can work together.

What Is The Difference?

So how do Growl and Notification Center compare to each other?

Growl is a Open Source application made by Growl Team. It costs $3.99 from the Mac App Store, is customizable with themes and has support for a lot of third party apps such as Skype, Dropbox, Alfred, and lots more.

However, it does not have any support for built-in Apple applications, such as Mail, iMessages, or Calendar.

Note: As this article was being written, an update for Growl released which added the ability to send growl notifications to Apple's Notification Center, more on that later.

Notification Center is the built-in notification system in Mountian Lion, its main home can be found by clicking its icon in the menu bar. While it does not have much support yet for third party apps, it will automatically give you updates for built-in apps, unlike Growl. It also supports Twitter directly, meaning you don't need a Twitter app, such as TweetDeck or the official Twitter app, installed to get updates.

Notification Center's Interface

This is the main part of Notification Center's interface. If you're familiar with iOS, then you will be right at home here. If you have connected your Twitter account, then you will see a "Click To Tweet" button that you can use to tweet directly from Notification Center.

Notification Center

Below that you will see reminders that will be showing up through the day, it also organizes them by app, so Calendar will all be under one heading, iMessages will be under another, and so on. This is useful if you have a ton of reminders set, or if you have a lot of apps that use Notification Center.

Then there is the pop-up part of Notification Center, which includes alerts and banners. An alert pop-up would be from an app like Calendar telling you it's time to feed the cats, a banner pop-up would be more often from a Game-Center-enabled game saying you just got a new high score.

A Notification Center Reminder from Calendar

Growl's Interface

One of the best things about Growl is how customizable it is. It comes with some pre-installed themes and has the ability to have more installed, you can even design your own!

Once you set up Growl, it stays out of your way until a notification pops up. There isn't a preference pane in System Preferences anymore in Lion and Mountian Lion, now it has its own dedicated preference window you can get to by clicking on its icon in the menu bar and selecting "Open Growl Preferences".

In the Preferences window, you can change where the pop-up notifications are displayed, how long they stay, and a lot more, including all the theme settings.

The Preferences Window In Growl

A Growl Popup

If you choose to send your Growl notifications to Notification Center however, your themes won't have any effect. Pop-ups will show up with the default Notification Center window.

Growl also features what they call a "Rollup" window, It's similar to Notification Center's sidebar, but it also shows you any notifications you may have missed while away from your Mac.

How to Send Growl Notifications to OS X

In Growl's latest update, (2.0.1) they have added the ability to send any notification that would pop up on growl directly to Notification Center, this is a great feature for obvious reasons, you get to keep all your Notifications in one place instead of having to use multiple apps.

To get Growl to send its pop-ups to Notification Center, just open up your Growl preferences window, and click on "General" if it is not already there. Then click the switch that says "OS X Notifications". This disables the Growl notifications and will forward all notifications to Notification Center.

To forward Growl notifications to Apple Notification Center click this switch in the Growl's Preferences


Both Growl and Notification Center are great applications. For a long time, Growl has been the best option for getting notifications on your Mac, Apple's own Notification Center doesn't make Growl obsolete, and it is a great way to get notifications from built in apps. You can use both of them at the same time, and with Growl's new ability to forward pop-ups to Notification Center, you can run them both together to get the best of both apps!

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