The Growl notification system is something that will be familiar to Mac users, but it is something that is also available for Windows. It is an incredibly versatile tool that can be used to monitor system and program notifications in a variety of ways, including remotely.

Growl can be used in conjunction with various add-ons to field notifications for web sites, applications and events. There is a range of plugins available that can be used to add support for a number of different applications and utilities.

The notifications that are generated by the programs you use are useful – you can disable any that are not – but Growl gives a way to manage them all from the same place and also establishes a more uniform look for messages.

Growl For Windows

Download a free copy of Growl for Windows, and install the program. Launch the application and allow it through the Windows firewall. Double click the icon in the notification area of the system tray and tick the box labelled ‘Automatically start Growl at login’ so that it will start automatically with Windows.

There are some applications that are supported by Growl straight from the box, but there are other for which a plugin is required. Pay a visit to the application compatibility page to see just which of your programs can make use of Growl.

There are plenty of applications for which Growl can be a great help, and one interesting plugin makes it possible to monitor for new messages in your Gmail inbox. If you have more than one account, different notifications can be configured for each.

Download the Gmail Growl plugin, run through the installation and select the option to launch it when this is done.  A notification will appear to the lower right of the desktop when Growl detects the installation.

Double click the system tray icon and enter the login credentials for your Gmail account. Use the Drop down menu to choose which type of mail you’d like to monitor for – you may only want to be notified of important emails, for instance — and then enter a label that should be used as identification in popups.

If you want to check more than one account, or you would like to receive separate notifications for other types of email, click the green  button and add another (or the same) account and choose the settings you would like to use.

Moving to the Options tab, you can opt to have the plugin star automatically with Windows and specify how often email should be checked.

The appearance of notifications can be configured in the main Growl for Windows program. Head to the Applications section and select Gmail Growl to the left. Select one of your accounts from the central column, and then to the right use the Display drop down menu to choose how notifications should look.

You can preview how the different styles of notifications look by moving to the Displays tab. There are a few built in options, but more styles can be downloaded by clicking the ‘Find & install additional displays’ link at the bottom of the dialog.

Gmail Growl is just one of the many monitors available for Growl and there are plenty of others that you might want to test out – take a look at System Monitor for instance.

Remote Monitoring

Depending on the monitors you have installed, you may want to view notifications remotely rather than locally. When you are using a computer on the same network as one you have configured with Growl monitoring, you can opt to have the notifications pushed to the second machine.

Make sure you have the app installed and running on both computers and head to the Network section of program. You can enable the option to transfer notifications to another machine, and select which one, here.

But there is also scope for using Growl in conjunction with mobile devices – which is useful if you want to be notified when a lengthy task has completed. When you click the + button to choose a device to forward notifications to, you can select to use Prowl for iOS or Toasty for Windows Phone.

Android users need not feel left out as there are also a couple more options for phones and tablets. Perhaps the most versatile is NMA (Notify My Android).

You’ll also need to download the Windows plugin for NMA but you can then use the Android app to configure which notifications you are interested in receiving.

Experiment with Growl and its plugins and see what you can come up with. There’s great potential in this hugely flexible tool, so share your ideas below.

Profile Photo for Mark Wyciślik-Wilson Mark Wyciślik-Wilson
Mark Wyciślik-Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny, and intriguing. His work has appeared everywhere from TechRadar and BetaNews to Lifehacker UK.
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