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Remember Growl? It’s weird to say this about an app so famous many assumed it was part of OS X, but Growl notifications are slowly fading from the corners of most Mac computers. Why?

Well, the 2011 switch from being a freely available open source app to a paid, Mac App Store exclusive Growl 1.3 Now On Sale In The Mac App Store [News] Growl 1.3 Now On Sale In The Mac App Store [News] Growl 1.3, a classic formerly free third-party notification application, is now on sale in the Mac App store for $1.99. With Growl on your Mac you can always know what's going on with other applications... Read More turned off some users – especially when that update briefly broke compatibility with older apps. Then, in fall 2012, Apple released Mountain Lion with its own notifications system. Developers have been switching to Apple’s system ever since, giving users less need for Growl over time (an early rumor, that only applications from the Mac App Store would be able to use Notification Center, turned out not to be true).

Still, there are reasons you should buy Growl ($4). Doing so supports the developers of a app we’ve all been using for a long time. Growl also works with services like Prowl to send your Mac’s notifications to your iPhone – something the notification center cannot do. Finally some apps, such as VLC and Dropbox, still only show notifications using the software.

These reasons aside, many users don’t see a need to pay for a seldom-used, third party notification system – but still want notifications from it to show up in the Notification Center. The paid version of Growl offers such integration in one click, but there’s also a free way to do this that’s easy to set up. Here’s how.

Step 1: Install Growl Fork

The last easy-to-find free version of Growl was 1.2.2, but that version doesn’t really work on Lion or later. Growl Fork isn’t official: its a version of the app with fixes for Lion, put together by Perry Metzger. It also works on Mountain Lion and Mavericks.

Download Growl Fork and install – it only takes a couple of clicks.

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growl-fork-install

Note that the install bundle comes with a version of Hardware Growler that works fine on newer version of OS X – the official 1.2.2 download does not.

Is this illegal? No. Growl is completely open source, so anyone who feels so inclined is completely free to compile and distribute their own version of the software. The creatively named Growl Fork hasn’t seen updates since fall 2011, but works perfectly fine (albeit without support for the new Growl API).

If all you want is a simple (if outdated) way to install the old version of Growl, you’re done. If you want to send notifications to Apple’s system, keep reading.

Step 2: Install Hiss

So now you’ve got an old version of Growl, you can use Hiss. This free program directs Growl notifications to the Notification center.

hiss-mac

Note that installing this on a computer without Growl installed will accomplish nothing – you can’t use Hiss without Growl. Once you’ve installed and turned on Hiss, assuming Growl is installed, you should be good to go.

A Potential Problem

There’s one bit of weirdness with this approach. Messages don’t show up in Notification Center as coming from their respective apps – instead, they look like they came from Growl.

growl-notifications

It’s worth nothing that the Mac App Store version of Growl does the exact same thing. There’s nothing official that can be done about this, though Bark is worth looking into if you’re really bothered by it. This free theme for Growl (does not work with Growl Fork) will re-direct Growl notifications properly, so you can tell them apart at a glance.

Bark is a workaround very much not approved by Apple, and does not as of this writing, work with Mavericks. The team is working on it.

Free As In Freedom

Growl represents a fascinating story of an open source project attempting to monetize. There’s nothing stopping you from using a free version of the software if you want. You can follow Grow’s official interactions for compiling from source and get the latest version of the program for free – it only costs you your time. There won’t be any difference between that version and the version in the Mac App store, but you’ll need to re-compile every update for new features.

growl-notification-center

I’s also perfectly possible, and legal, for you to compile Growl yourself and distribute it to others. I’m convinced that, on any other platform, users would have done this ages ago. It says something about Mac users willingness to pay for software that this is yet to happen on anything resembling a large scale (the never-updated Growl Fork aside).

As I said before: if you like Growl, pay for it. It’s only $4. But I enjoyed figuring out a free and legal workaround for simply getting notifications, and I hope it helps someone. Do you have any other Growl tricks earth should know about? Here’s your chance to share them: just head to the comments below.

Image credit: Lion (tgraham)

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