Take Your Web App Relationship to the Next Level

Gmail, Springpad, and 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.


Dump Your Bookmarks for Read it Later

Search doesn’t solve everything; even Google instant can’t ensure you’ll always be able to find that skateboarding dog, and when you visit that genius mac blog 15 times a day the act of dragging your finger away from the trackpad to type the letter ‘t’ is a time suck. ‘Cmd-D’ has always been the solution, but that just adds to the mess of bookmarks lost and forgotten in folders on my toolbar.

Read It Later has been around for a while, but I never realized its abilities beyond storing interesting blog posts for reading on your next trip to the loo. I finally gave it a try (once my Google reader badge was an intimidating 1000+) and installed the 3rd party browser extension Postponer. It enables you to name, tag, and store pages from a popup window within the address bar. The toolbar icon displays another popup window listing your recent articles where you can search, filter, and ‘mark as read’ your bookmarked sites — you can even read a plain text version of the site from right within the window.

Being able to add and name a bookmark without any right clicks, dragging and dropping, or keyboard shortcuts is good enough for me, but Read it Later provides much more. The tagging and instant search provide a perfect setup for creating shopping lists, managing project research, or grouping sites you visit consistently but not frequently enough to warrant a bookmark in your toolbar. When you stumble upon those new headphones you need to have, tag the URL ‘buy’, and then when you have time to do your online shopping, just search ‘buy’ and there’s your list. There’s a pro version with interesting analytics and auto-organizing features, and the mobile apps provide some sexy-interfaced reading functionality. If you want to get to your sites without digging through years of bookmarks, or if you want some more room in your browser window give it a try. Grab a browser extension here, if you have Chrome go for Postponer.

Similar tools like Instapaper exist; does anyone know how they measure up?