It’s been half a year since the release of Chrome 8, which introduced the Chrome Web Store. Much ink, digital and otherwise, has been spilled on whether the store is a good idea. Some people like it, though. If you’re among that group, but find that you never bother to explore the web store, finding new apps can be hard.
The Chrome extension “There’s a Web App For That” lets you know when a site you’re visiting offers a web app. This lets you quickly access that site’s offering on the Chrome Web Store so you can decide whether or not it’s worth installing.
Using The Extension
You can get started by installing the extension. The tool uses Chrome’s one-click install, so you can start seeing it working right away. Sites that offer web apps now have an icon in the address bar. For example, at Google Maps you will see this:
If you click on that link, you’ll be taken, in a new tab, to the Chrome Web Store to see the details of the site’s web app. From here, you can determine whether you want to install the app or not.
Seems like in this case the “app” is just a link to Google Maps. Of course, not all web apps are created equal.
App Or Bookmark?
It was by far the most common complaint when Chrome’s Web Store was first released. These so-called “apps” are really just glorified bookmarks. For a lot of apps, it’s a legitimate criticism. But not all apps, of course. For starters, check out these 6 apps, all of which build on websites in a given way.
Is an app worth installing? It’s up to you. The screenshots offered on the Web Store page for an app should fill you in pretty quickly. If all you see is the site you know and love, the “App” is probably just a bookmark. If you really love a site though, a nice-looking bookmark isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If the screenshots look different than the site, though, and even look engaging it’s probably a full-blown web app. Check it out, you might like what you find.
So what if a site has a web app and you’ve already installed it? Should you ever visit such a site you’ll see this checkbox in Chrome’s address bar:
Of course I’ve already installed NPR’s web app; it’s among my favorites. But the above checkbox is a great way to keep track of apps you’ve already installed and perhaps forgotten about. Click this checkbox and you won’t be taken to the webstore page but instead to the web app itself.
This can be very useful if you end up on the non-apped version of a site somehow and want to get to the app without opening a new tab and finding the icon.
Web apps are confusing. They live in your browser but are pseudo-applications. It’s unlikely that the average web user will spend a lot of time searching the Chrome Web Store to find apps that they like. Such a user may however install apps for sites they visit regularly. That’s why I like this plugin – it points out apps for sites you’re already looking at so you can see if they’re worth installing.
Will you be using this plugin? Let us know in the comments below. Or if you prefer, let us know about any cool Chrome web apps we may have missed!