Growl: Gluing the Optimal Stack together

Apropos of recent thoughts on the optimal suite of life-management tools, Scott Jenson showed me something neat at HCI2020 last week: an OS X notification framework called Growl.

As you may have inferred from that description, Growl is neat in that it doesn’t do much of anything in and of itself, but instead provides a consistent and aesthetically refined way to notify me of system and application events (incoming Gmail and calendar events, to name just two highly useful examples).

Like Konfabulator in years past, Growl smells very much like something that’s going to dry up when Apple raids the developer community, gins up some approximation of the last stable release and bundles the resultant functionality into the next version of OS X. The thing is, I don’t want to wait that long – and, truth be told, I actually liked Konfabulator’s widgets better than the weird modal hash Apple made of them in Dashboard. I’ve had Growl running since leaving Frankfurt on…Friday, was it?, and I’m delighted. It feels like the missing link that knits my Optimal Stack into full, flexible effect.

By the way, if you’re wondering why Scott’s name sounds so familiar, it may be that you recognize it from his long history of work on things like Symbian and the Newton MessagePad; he’s currently heading up Google’s mobile UI efforts. Scott’s Simplicity Shift (available here as a free 2MB PDF) was strongly influential on me during the years I was working in Japan, although I’m ashamed to say I was never able to prevail in any of the arguments it inspired me to make. Glad to see it available as a download, since I think someone at Razorfish walked off with my copy, and it appears to have gone out of print. Thanks, Scott!

2 responses to “Growl: Gluing the Optimal Stack together”

  1. Andy Piper says :

    It works nicely with Twitter too – if you use the Twitterlex Dashboard widget, you can get twitters via Growl. Right now I have Adium, Amua, Skype, Twitterlex, Vienna and various others all hooking into Growl, and it works great :-)

  2. speedbird says :

    Ooh, that’s almost too good.

    This begins to suggest an argument I’ve had in mind for awhile: that, on the way to anything that might truly, legitimately be called an ambient informatics, we’ll be seeing the desktop interaction supporting a wider variety of vaguely ambient and peripheral cues. Almost as if the interaction-design vocabulary in the air was recolonizing the desktop.

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