It seems that everybody in the tech world thinks the future is in the cloud. Using faraway cloud servers, computer users can open applications anywhere via any browser no matter what the operating system is and what the computer/device specifications are.
The problem is, we are not completely living in that future yet. Most people are still not ready to leave their desktop to go to the cloud. Opening cloud applications inside a browser doesn’t feel like opening an application at all. Those web applications may easily be ‘lost’ among many other open tabs, and continuously looking for them may be a bit annoying.
That’s why some people would love the ability to turn web apps into desktop programs, which you can open independently. One of the tools that you can use to do that is called WebRunner. We mentioned this extension a few years ago, back when it was called Prism.
From The Webtop To The Desktop
The first thing you have to do is open the WebRunner page with Firefox. Then download the extension that matches your operating system. As far as I know, a Firefox extension should work fine under Windows, Mac, and Linux, so I don’t know why they created three different versions for these three OS’s.
Please bear in mind that I took screenshots for this article using Firefox for Mac. There might be some slight differences if you are using another OS.
Confirm the installation by clicking the “Install Now” button. You will need to restart Firefox before you can use the extension.
You can enable (and disable) the extension by going to the “Add-ons” menu under “Tools“.
Armed with WebRunner, converting web apps or any other kind of webpage into desktop apps is as easy as clicking a few buttons.
There are lots of web apps out there, and the number seems to multiply every day. At the time of writing, one of the hottest web apps in the virtual world is Google Plus. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on the invite, why don’t you try to convert Google Plus into a desktop app using WebRunner?
- First, visit Google Plus using Firefox.
- Then click “Create WebRunner App” under the “Tools” menu.
- The “Web Application” window will open. There are several things you can customize in this window, such as the URL, the name, and which browser elements you want to show in the desktop application.
- You can add a shortcut on the Desktop and/or Applications Folder (or Program Files in Windows) for easier access if you want to. But I think you should at least put a shortcut in one of those locations. You can uninstall the application simply by deleting the shortcut.
- As for the application’s icon, you can use the default icon that comes with the web app by choosing “Use image from web” from the drop down menu. The “Choose image” option will allow you to browse your hard drive for your preferred image. Click “OK” to finish the process.
In case you are wondering, the Google Plus icon that I use came from David Walsh’s site
Then the desktop application will be ready inside your application folder. You can do every action that you normally do with your desktop applications with this new app. You can start the application with your OS, assign shortcut keys to quickly summon it, and the most important one – launch it without having to launch your browser.
This is what the Google Plus desktop app looks like. The first time you open it, you will be asked to log into your Google account. You don’t have to repeat the login process as long as you don’t wipe the cookies.
Other Web Apps
You can repeat the process to convert other web apps or your favorite websites/blogs into desktop apps. The first web app that came to my mind is Angry Birds Chrome. I converted it out of curiosity to see whether the game would be saved if I quit the app and restarted it later. It turns out that I could continue from where I left off!
There’s a similar tool for Mac called Fluid which uses Safari to power the converted desktop app.
Have you used WebRunner? What web apps would you turn into desktop programs? Share your list using the comments below.