5 Reasons to Start Using GNOME Epiphany Web Apps
Whatsapp Pinterest
Advertisement

Do you frequently use web apps? Would you prefer them to be more integrated into your desktop? The free and open source web browser called GNOME Web, aka Epiphany, can do just that.

This feature is not exclusive to GNOME Web. You’ll find web apps for Google Chrome in the Chrome Web Store, and Google once provided the option to make your own. Creating web apps in Mozilla Firefox is possible, but it requires even more effort.

In contrast, GNOME Web not only makes it easy to create custom web apps, you may find that it does a better job.

What Is GNOME Web?

GNOME Web browser displaying GNOME webpage

GNOME Web is the largest web browser designed specifically for Linux and other free desktops. The browser comes from the GNOME Project, and like many GNOME apps, the design emphasizes simplicity and minimalism. GNOME’s software, such as the GNOME Desktop Environment GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops You're interested in Linux, and you've come across "GNOME", an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. GNOME is one of the most popular open source interfaces, but what does that mean? Read More and the GTK+ toolkit, serves as the backbone of many open source desktops and apps.

GNOME Web formerly went by the name Epiphany. The name changed to GNOME Web as part of GNOME 3.4 in 2012, but developers still refer to the project as Epiphany behind the scenes.

For this reason, GNOME Web still goes by multiple names. If you search for the browser in a Linux app store, you may want to search for GNOME Web. But if you’re using a terminal-based package manager, you may want to try looking for epiphany or epiphany-browser.

Meanwhile, elementary OS refers to the browser as Epiphany, and it is perhaps the most popular Linux desktop to ship the browser by default.

What Are Web Apps?

Traditional websites are relatively static. They read like newspaper or magazine pages. Web apps function more like desktop software that you can only access via a browser. Technically, they’re programs that run on someone else’s servers and you access remotely.

When you check your email, you’re using a web app. If you open YouTube, Netflix, or Spotify in a browser, again, you’re using a web app. These days, you can replace most of your desktop apps with web apps.

Web apps can feel a bit removed from the rest of the desktop. To access them, you have to open the browser, enter the web app’s web address, and then log in to the service.

GNOME Web provides tools to better integrate web apps with the rest of your desktop, so you can open them via your app launcher and view them in your dock or taskbar. This way they feel more like apps and less like sites.

Why You Should Use GNOME Web for Web Apps

If you like web apps and use Linux, there are several reasons why GNOME Web is one of your best options.

1. GNOME Web Has Great Linux Desktop Integration

A dedicated MakeUseOf GNOME Web web app

Epiphany’s web apps fit right in on GNOME, the browser’s native desktop environment. They also feel at home on elementary OS. Both provide interfaces where apps have a single HeaderBar rather than the combination of a titlebar and various toolbars.

This approach allows windows to take up less vertical space while still providing access to a few buttons and preferences.

When you create a web app, the HeaderBar contains a back arrow, forward arrow, and refresh button. It also displays the site name and URL. Unlike a regular browser window, you can’t manually enter a different URL. Yet for better or worse, thanks to this layout, you won’t forget that the app you’re using is a contained browser window.

On desktops other than GNOME or elementary OS’s Pantheon, the web apps you create using GNOME Web will likely look out of place. That’s due to interfaces having different Human Interface Guidelines The Differences Between Linux's Human Interface Guidelines The Differences Between Linux's Human Interface Guidelines Ever encountered a Linux app that looks ugly and seems unusable? It's why desktops have human interface guidelines. Windows and macOS have these guidelines. What about Linux? Read More .

2. Sign Into Web Apps Using Multiple Accounts

GNOME Web lets you create as many web apps as you like. Not only that, you can create multiple apps for the same site. If you have multiple email, Slack, or social media accounts, you can create a different web app for each.

Plus, thanks to a feature called individual session management, GNOME Web treats each web app as its own separate instance. This means you can sign into more than one account simultaneously. It’s like opening a second (or third) window in Incognito or Private Browsing mode, only more convenient.

3. GNOME Web Has a Built-In Web App Manager

GNOME Web's built-in app manager

GNOME Web comes with a simple but great Application Manager. This section of the browser shows which web apps you have created and gives you the option to remove them. This is vital, since desktops often don’t provide an intuitive way to uninstall web apps.

In newer versions, you can open the Application Manager from GNOME Web’s menu. In older releases, there’s no indication that the manager exists, but it’s still there. You just need to type about:applications into the navigation bar.

4. GNOME Web Offers Security Benefits

When you open a web app in web browser, the site can save cookies that track the pages you visit and the links you click on other parts of the internet. In this way, cookies can erode your online privacy.

If you choose to create a dedicated web app, you isolate the cookies and other website data from the rest of your browser. This way you can log into Facebook or Gmail in a web app without giving either company’s cookies the ability to track you elsewhere on the web.

5. GNOME Web’s Web Apps Are Easy to Edit

Folder containing GNOME Web Wikipedia web app files

GNOME Web lets you assign each web app its own name, but it doesn’t give you the option to change the icons. Instead, it downloads one on its own. Fortunately, once you know where to look, the change is easy to make.

Open your file browser and navigate to /home/.config/epiphany (if you’re typing the path out directly, it’s /home/user/.config/epiphany). You may need to press Ctrl + H to show hidden folders.

Each web app will have its own folder, which reads “app-epiphany” followed by the web app’s name and a string of numbers. Inside this folder, you will find an image titled “app-icon.png.” Replace this image with one of your choice, making sure to keep the name.

How to Create Web Apps Using GNOME Web

Window asking to create a web app in GNOME Web

Now that you’ve seen why GNOME Web is a great, let’s start making some web apps. The process may be easier than you expect.

Navigate to a website or web app that you’d like to create a dedicated version for and click the menu icon on the top right of the application. In the menu that displays, choose Install Site As Web Application. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Shift + A.

A new window will appear asking you to name the web app, and automatically suggest a name to you using the current web address. After you click the Create button, you can now find the web app in your app launcher alongside your other desktop apps.

Have You Had an Epiphany?

GNOME Web isn’t a cross-platform web browser, and with popular versions of Linux choosing to pre-install Firefox instead, it’s easy not to know GNOME Web exists. But for many of us, this web browser is a hidden gem.

I value GNOME Web for its simplicity and GNOME integration, but the ability to install web apps is another reason this is one of the best web browsers available for Linux What Are The Best Linux Web Browsers? What Are The Best Linux Web Browsers? Linux desktops offer many of the same web browsers you can use Windows and Mac, with Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all available for Linux. We’ll take a look at the best browsers you can use... Read More .

Explore more about: GNOME Web, Linux Tips.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Friar Tux
    April 9, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    While I enjoyed the article, and tried out Gnome Web/Epiphany, I found the article incorrect. Most of what is stated here I found I could easily do with Firefox. I found that even though you have the option of using your own CSS file, the browser was not able to actually use it.
    As for easily setting up web adds, I found it easier and more convenient to put a second bar at the top of my screen and assign the web pages to a launcher through my desktop environment (in my case, Cinnamon, though it can be done in any DE that allows more than one taskbar). I can access any web page that way, including Google Docs, (and most other web-based office/document suites). I have on my bar, at present, besides the local launchers, Google Docs, Google Keep, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, D.D.G. Search, Youtube, Wikipedia, my bank, CBC News, and a couple more. (Sorry, no PornHub.)

  2. Steven
    April 5, 2019 at 7:25 am

    Thanks, i never knew this. This is grest, i eill try it out!

    • Mike Walsh
      April 11, 2019 at 6:22 pm

      Chrome used to let you do this. Web-apps were remarkably easy to create, and use; for years, I had a dedicated desktop 'app' purely for NetFlix. If I wanted to 'veg-out', without opening the browser, it's what I used. It was aided by the '--silent-launch' flag which allowed the browser to start up, and run 'silently' in the background.

      But around Chrome v60, Google decided to deprecate the code that permitted this. You want to watch NetFlix now, ya gotta use the browser. NO options. Chrome and FF are both the same.

      I've achieved something similar with FF-Quantum. We use a 'portable' version of Quantum in Puppy Linux, which creates the profile directory inside the browser directory, via a 'start script'. And as long as you use that start script to fire the browser up every time, it will always use that profile..... So; I duplicated the start script, editing it to create a second, separately numbered profile directory. This second 'take' on the browser is set-up differently to the main one; the home page is NetFlix, and although I normally use LastPass, for this excercise I've allowed FF's password manager to remember my password. It's started from a script in /root/my-applications/bin (Puppy runs as root, don't forget), which is referenced by a dedicated Menu entry.

      So to 'veg-out, I hit the NetFlix Menu entry, switch to full-screen.......and off we go!

  3. gazoo
    April 5, 2019 at 4:59 am

    I wonder how this differs from Peppermint's ICE Application (which they refer to as a 'Site Specific Browser'). With ICE, I can easily create local html files with Javascript and turn them into standalone, local apps. It also has a built-in mechanism for "installing" the created app onto the start menu.

    It is the second easiest way to do this. The easiest previous method was on Windows using HTA tech (html application). Microsoft built a very easy to use system that handled much of the look/feel in order to give html apps a distinctive Desktop-like feel. A shame it never really took off...

    Does Gnome Web also allow the creation of localized apps in a manner similar to either of the two examples above?

  4. Sergi
    October 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Very useful article!!! Many thanks!

    Answering to another reader asking bout how to change the low-resolution icon given by Gnome to the webpp (usually it takes the deafult favicon.ico... i supose that this is another "bug") ypu can do this:

    1. use Files app (Nautilus) to browse to this folder:

    /home/USERNAME/.config/epiphany/app-epiphany-APPNAME-9d9cec22f36fd2bb99d5fe8c4723347bec202ca5

    2. replace the file "app-icon.png" by another better quality image ;)

    Cheers!
    Sergi

  5. Anonymous
    June 22, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Is there any way to make Epiphany web app open links in Firefox?

  6. david augustin
    May 2, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Greetings! Can someone explain how may the low res icons be changed? Thanks!

    • david augustin
      May 2, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      I meant the low res icons that web apps get by using the procedure explained in the article

    • Sergi
      October 26, 2016 at 3:05 am

      Very useful article!!! Many thanks!

      Answering to another reader asking bout how to change the low-resolution icon given by Gnome to the webpp (usually it takes the deafult favicon.ico... i supose that this is another "bug") ypu can do this:

      1. use Files app (Nautilus) to browse to this folder:

      /home/USERNAME/.config/epiphany/app-epiphany-APPNAME-9d9cec22f36fd2bb99d5fe8c4723347bec202ca5

      2. replace the file "app-icon.png" by another better quality image ;)

      Cheers!
      Sergi

  7. Barz
    April 27, 2016 at 3:47 am

    I can not see cruchyroll :c, Do a I need to install a codec or something?

    • Michael Tunnell
      October 27, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      CrunchyRoll requires Flash and DRM enabled Flash. You will need to use Firefox or Google Chrome for this.

  8. mike
    December 13, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Thank you so much!
    i was desperatly looking for a way to uninstall web apps i created and didn't found a documentation.

  9. Anonymous
    December 4, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Hey Thanks for the article, I was using chrome but after trying epiphany I'm switching now.

    Also, thanks for the MenuLibre!! I was editing the .desktop files manually, but MenuLibre is much easier.

    • Michael Tunnell
      October 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      You're welcome. I'm curious, did you see MenuLibre due to my YouTube video?

      • Pablo Cabrera
        December 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

        I think I just read your comment in one of the replies...

  10. Anonymous
    October 31, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    So ... I gave it a whirl and here is what I came up with:

    Preliminary usage shows that it works really well for what it does. I would put it in front of both ICE and Chromium. Mainly because of space. To use ICE you must have either chromium or Firefox to work. Moreover, both firefox and chromium are heavy applications when compared to Epiphany (chromium around 250MB vs Epiphany at around 80MB).

    Secondly, Epiphany does remember window size something I had a major issue with using Surf.

    Thirdly, it was easy. I read someone say add the latest Peppermint PPAs, Install ICE, Install Chrome/Chromium or Firefox. Then, get started. Whereas with Epiphany, I just installed form the current repo and I was done.

    Was it perfect...I agree with you ... not really, but these nits were not deal breakers. They are as follows:

    The app manager being tucked away in about:applications was annoying.

    Speaking of the App Manager, it would be nice for it to allow the editing of the Name and Icon of the webapp after it is created. This is where ICE beats out Epiphany, but that is really it.

    This is not really an issue with Epiphany (I don't think), but it was annoying that I had to log out and back in every time I added a new webapp so they appeared correctly in my applications. Again, this may be more of an XFCE thing.

    It would be nice to be able to hide the navigation bar, but that is not a big deal.

    All in all, the nits do not out way the benefits especially since Epiphany handles the web apps much better than ICE/Chromium and is much easier on the resources. I think I will stick with it for a while.

    • Michael Tunnell
      October 31, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with Epiphany. I agree with most of what you said as Epiphany is very very good for this task but it could use some improvements.

      > "The app manager being tucked away in about:applications was annoying."

      Yea I agree but that should be fixed soon at least. https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=755076

      > "Speaking of the App Manager, it would be nice for it to allow the editing of the Name and Icon of the webapp after it is created. This is where ICE beats out Epiphany, but that is really it."

      I agree, that would be nice. I just use MenuLibre in GTK based DEs and KMenuEdit in KDE to edit the icon and name. It would be much better if Epiphany offered the functionality by default though.

      > This is not really an issue with Epiphany (I don’t think), but it was annoying that I had to log out and back in every time I added a new webapp so they appeared correctly in my applications. Again, this may be more of an XFCE thing.

      Yes, this is an XFCE issue for sure. I tested this in GNOME and KDE during writing, both of those do not require relogins.

      > "It would be nice to be able to hide the navigation bar, but that is not a big deal."

      Yes, I agree with this and I made a bug report for it. Feel free to comment on the bug report if you'd like to let them know more people think this way. https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=755015

      > "All in all, the nits do not out way the benefits especially since Epiphany handles the web apps much better than ICE/Chromium and is much easier on the resources. I think I will stick with it for a while."

      This is exactly my mindset as well, so far it is the best solution for this task and hopefully it will get even better with time.

  11. Anonymous
    October 8, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Um - I think this article should have been clearly marked "Linux".

    Well, Linux is OK, I guess, but us Windows 10 users have our equivalent for creating Web Apps on the desktop - the Chrome browser's "Add to taskbar" function.

    I have these "Web Apps" as icons on my desktop:

    gMail
    Facebook
    Google+
    Google Keep
    Google Maps
    Google Photos
    Pocket
    Youtube
    Cozi Calendar

    • Michael Tunnell
      October 9, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      I mentioned Linux in the article many times and the article is in the Linux category, I'm not sure how to it is not clearly marked.

      Chrome's Web-App solution is lackluster and I explain why in this article. (second portion of the Epiphany’s Application Mode section)

    • Anonymous
      October 31, 2015 at 6:05 am

      LOL "Linux is ok". Its more than ok.

      • Michael Tunnell
        October 31, 2015 at 6:16 pm

        @Matt indeed, I think "OK" is a new slang for "best operating system ever". :)