I converted to Chrome as my main browser several years ago, primarily because it ran so much faster and seemed to have a lighter footprint than Firefox, the browser of choice if you do any kind of technical work at all.
When I switched to Mac (and there’s no going back), I tinkered with Safari a little bit, but frankly, tend to use Safari just to check what a website or blog might look like when I’m not logged in.
So yes, my love affair with Chrome continues, especially given the bazillion productivity extensions available for it.
A big chunk of my time on MacMillan (yes, I realize naming my Mac makes me sound way weirder than I am) is spent in a browser window.
As a Gmail user, blogger, and heavy user of web-based productivity apps, such as Trello, Any.do and Hootsuite, I installed Fluid.
The free version of Fluid turns any web app into a Mac app, running inside its own Safari container.
The paid version allows you to manage cookies and session variables storage separately from Safari. This is obviously useful for web apps on which you use multiple accounts, e.g, Gmail. Totally worth the US$ 5 investment.
For the longest time, I was very happy with Fluid, and still am for the most part.
The thing is, I want to use Gmail extensions. Some favourites include Any.do (task management), Rapportive (contacts with automated enriched profiles), Boomerang (scheduled email), and more recently, Streak, a CRM solution that lives in Gmail.
As the list of clients and projects I’m working on grows, a solution that tracks conversations and their place in the project pipeline has become important and a massive timesaver.
The only problem is Streak only works as a Chrome extension, and Fluid uses Safari to make Gmail into a standalone app.
But wait – perhaps I can Google a solution …?
Enter Chrome Packaged Apps, Google’s frontrunner in its invade and conquer strategy.
A CPA (Chrome Packaged App) is web app that runs as a desktop application. It has all the goodness of a web app, including updating in the background, but the ease of management of a desktop app.
For me, there are two key features I’m after:
- The ability to toggle to it with the familiar Cmd-Tab (Windows: Alt-Tab). When it runs as a browser app, I have to first toggle to the browser app, then find the right window (if multiple windows are open), and then the right tab. Annoying.
- The ability to fully leverage Chrome extensions, keyboard shortcuts, and the Gmail UI experience – busy, but oh so productive, especially when you take the time to figure out the keyboard shortcuts.
Unfortunately, as of today, while CPAs exist for things like Google Keep and Hangouts, the GMail one doesn’t actually live separately – it simply launches another GMail tab.
Back to the drawing board, I found a script, which later got updated to this app that sort of mimics Fluid, but not quite as smooth.
Once installed, it does the trick, which is basically creating a standalone ‘app’ out of a site-specific browser window. So far, it’s just like Fluid, except it runs on top of Chrome, and not Safari.
More importantly, I get to augment my newly created GmailNaima app with just the extension I want.
I say it’s not quite as smooth as Fluid for a couple of reasons.
- For starters, unlike Fluid, it will let me open any other URL other than the web app in question. Once I do that, the icon reverts back to standard Chrome, and I can’t tell the difference between the main browser and my SSB app.
- To add to the confusion, when my GmailNaima app is active, the menu bar still says Chrome. With Fluid, it would have the name of the app as I designated it.
Yes, I know I’m nitpicking. Perhaps it will bother me enough to go back into the script and, gasp, change it.
Meanwhile though, I’m happy to start using Streak with GMail right in my dedicated Gmail desktop app – best of both worlds or what?
Anyone else interested in using a web app as a desktop app?