How to set up and use Growl

2020 Update: this guide is now only relevant if you have an old Mac running OS X 10.6 or lower. The vast majority of the features available in Growl are now built into macOS (OS X Mountain Lion (version 10.8) or higher) via the Notifications. This guide remains online for those of you running 10.6 or earlier.

example Growl notification

This tutorial will guide you in downloading, installing and setting up Growl, a notification system for Mac OS X. Notifications are a way for your applications to provide you with new information (new email arrived, one of your IM buddies came online, a file finished transferring etc) without you having to switch from the application you’re already in…

  1. To get started, visit to download Growl. Save the .dmg file to your desktop and when the download is finished, open it. Inside the .dmg file, locate the file named Growl.prefPane and double-click it.
  2. Growl for OS X

  3. After Growl has installed, minimize (but don’t close) the .dmg window. There are some great ‘extras’ included with Growl that we’ll review in a few minutes.

    If the Growl preferences pane did not open automatically after the installation, launch it by opening your System Preferences and then select Growl from the Other row.

  4. Growl for OS X

  5. One of the first things you’ll want to do is place a check in the box labelled Start at Login.
  6. Growl for OS X

  7. Skip the Applications tab (for now) and select Display Options. Here you’ll decide which of the notification ‘styles’ you want to use. Try each one out by selecting it and then clicking the Preview button.
  8. Growl for OS X

  9. Each of the notification styles has its own options – typically you can (at the least) adjust the opacity and duration of the notification.
  10. Growl for OS X

    Growl for OS X

    Growl for OS X

  11. Once you’ve found a notification style that you’d like to set as the default, select the General tab again and choose that style from the Display Style: drop-down list.
  12. Growl for OS X

  13. Now lets add and customize your applications with Growl. Some of the more common programs that people typically use with Growl are: Colloquy, Adium, Cyberduck, Transmit, iTunes and Mail (more on the last two later). If you have an application installed that’s compatible with Growl, launch it (or close and re-launch it) now. Select the Applications tab and you should see that program listed.
  14. Growl for OS X

  15. Select the newly added program in the top window, and you can customize its settings in the bottom window. Each program will have different notification options, and you can enable and disable each one to your liking. You can even choose to over-write the default notification style and choose a different one on a per-program basis.
  16. Growl for OS X

  17. Now lets go back to those ‘extras’. Bring up the Growl .dmg window that you minimized in step 2. Open the Extras folder, and then the GrowlMail folder. Make sure that Mail is closed, and then double-click the GrowlMail.pkg file. Follow the setup instructions (mostly clicking Continue a bunch of times).
  18. Growl for OS X

  19. In the Applications tab of the Growl Preferences, select GrowlMail. If you want the notification to remain on your screen until you click it each time you receive a new email, place a check in the box labelled Sticky.
  20. Growl for OS X

  21. Now each time you get a new email, Growl will notify you!
  22. Growl for OS X

  23. One of the other great extras is GrowlTunes. To install it, open the GrowlTunes folder (which is in the Extras folder) and drag GrowlTunes to your Applications folder. Run GrowlTunes by double-clicking it. A small ‘headphones’ icon will appear in your menu bar. While the actual GrowlTunes application has to be running in order for notifications to work with iTunes, GrowlTunes itself does provide some neat extra features. You can explore them by selecting the headphones icon.
  24. Growl for OS X

  25. While GrowlTunes is running, you’ll get a Growl notification each time a song is played in iTunes.
  26. Growl for OS X

  27. Head over to the Growl Forums and see how other folks are using Growl.

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3 thoughts on “How to set up and use Growl”

  1. I installed Growl a long time ago, just was not getting the most out of it. Thanks for the set up info.

  2. the only way I know of to open it at startup, is to go into System Preferences, to the Accounts section, and select your account. Then click the “Login Items” tab. Next, press the “+” button, and locate GrowelTunes on your computer. Select it, and GrowlTunes should start on Login.

    Hope this helps,

  3. Is there a way to automatically launch GrowlTunes everytime you login?

    Since GrowlTunes doesn’t appear in the Mac OS Dock, I can’t set it to Open at Login.

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