I frequently find desktop applications a lot more convenient than their web-based alternatives. Even when web alternative offers superior feature set there is still something about desktop version that makes it more attractive. So what is the solution ? A web-based application that looks and feels any other desktop program. Below you’ll find four different tools that can be used to run web services like desktop programs.
If you’re going after looks then Adobe AIR is for you. Most of the Adobe AIR apps come with a stylish interface and work both on Mac and Windows PCs. There are plenty of AIR applications out there, and new ones coming out on a daily basis. You can check some of the better ones at recently posted 8 Adobe AIR Apps that Don’t Suck. For instance, that’s how eBay Deskop Adobe AIR application looks like:
Prism (aka Webrunner) is a really neat tool from Mozilla Labs. Similar to the above, it allows users to run their favorite web services and websites directly from their desktop, without using any web browser.
While you can use it for pretty much any web application (Gmail, Digg, Facebook etc.) you won’t see much difference in visual interface. Basically, it’s the same thing as accessing the website using Firefox but with a look and feel of a desktop program. But most importantly it runs independently from your web browser. So it remains online even if your browser crashes. For more details go to our previous Prism review here.
At the moment Prism available ony to Windows users (update: my bad, apparently it works on Linux and Mac PCs as well). If you are a Mac user you can try Fluid, it offers pretty much the same feature set. Our Mac guy Jackson already covered it in detail in Site Specific Browsing with Fluid.
Bubbles is a lot like Prism, at least from the user perspective. The only difference is that it already comes with a number of preconfigured web services. These are Gmail, Google Calendar, Flickr, Yahoo Mail, 30 Boxes and SlimTimer. Just enter your login details and you’re good to go. You can read more about Bubbles here.
With Google Gears users can run certain web-based services without being connected to the internet. At the moment Google Gears supports Google Reader and Google Calendar. Which means you can use both of these services in offline mode. Everything you have done in offline mode will be automatically synchronized with the web account next time you go online.
Support for Gmail and Google Docs coming soon. There are also a number of thrid party services that work with Google Gears. One of the more popular ones is Zoho. Once you install Gears you will be able to view and edit your Zoho documents (word, spreadsheet and presentation) in offline mode.
More articles about: