Growl

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Growl is a Mac OS X system extension that pipes information from various applications to pop-up bubbles or bezels on your screen. More information here.

Growl is particularly useful for avoiding pleasant distractions like email or IM. It not only provides a unified framework for popup dialogs and other message/alert systems, but it also allows the user to configure how Growl responds to each application which is configured to use it. So for instance, if you wanted to leave your email client running in the background, but you don't want your current train of thought to be interrupted by incoming mail, simply configure the client to send all notifications to Growl and configure Growl to silence all mail notifications until you are ready to deal with them.

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