Gmail, Springpad, and Last.fm always occupy a tab on my browser, and I think we all know we’re doing more than just ‘browsing’.  These sites fall under the category of web apps, which is the trend on the net these days, as web developers take the attractiveness and usability they’ve unleashed in their iPad apps and adapt them to their desktop domains. Treating these as websites rather than standalone apps is a pain. This is where Fluid comes in to make the transformation from site to app.

A standard browser is not optimal for these apps when you’re constantly using them. They take up browser space, don’t stay loaded when closed, and don’t appear in your dock. Fluid is not the first site specific browser (SSB), (Mozilla’s Prism has been around for a while) but it is the only one designed specifically for OS X.

Simply launch the app and give it the URL and a name for each app you want. The web page is saved in your Applications folder, and treated like any standard app- ready to bounce in your dock, open at login, and take your relationship beyond the ‘browsing’ level.

Fluid has the standard browser features with tabs and the like, but options to change the theme to ‘chromeless’ (hiding the browser bars all together) turns your web app into a true application. You can lock an app to the desktop, change transparency, and there are tons of plug-in options as well.

Fluid uses the sites Favicon by default, which is pretty worthless as its insanely blown-up and pixilated, but you can choose a custom option, and their library of icons online even enables notification badges for sites like Facebook and Gmail.

The ability to set default window sizes and automatically find high-res default icons would be nice touches, and I’m not positive exactly what value plug-ins could add, but it’s really hard to find complaints for Fluid. The simple SSB provides easy and uncluttered access to your constantly used websites (apps).

Check Fluid out here — and as always, if you have any alternatives, share the knowledge in the comments.

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