As you might know, Google Chrome OS (with Chromium, its Open Source Cousin) is scheduled to be released some time later this year. The interface to the OS is more or less like the Chrome web browser you use these days. Creators tout advantages like sandbox runs, always updated OS and hassle free usage.
However, people have been wondering how in the world would you be able to use such an OS for all the tasks that you might need to do on your computer? Well if Google had its way, you would see Google services for everything. With Docs and Spreadsheets being constantly improved, PDF support and viewing being added, Gmail getting better by the day and photo editing support within Picasa, they have many of the common uses covered.
Now, add to that the fact that the Chrome web browser lets you install apps a lot like you do on your mobile phones. Yes, you read that right, there are plans for a Chrome Web Store, that will be housing web apps, games and utilities you will be able to add to your browser and do all kinds of things.
While we have showed you how you can try out the Chrome OS , you don’t have to go that far to try out Chrome Web Apps. All you need is the Dev Channel of Google Chrome. Google Chrome web browser, if you don’t know, has a number of channels. The Dev channel gets updates faster than the BETA channel, but is believed to be less thoroughly tested.
However, I always run the Dev channel and from my experience I can say that if you are not running a production critical task, you can perhaps run the Dev channel safely (there might be an odd crash or two).
Get The Dev Channel
If you are starting anew with Google Chrome, subscribing to a particular channel is easy. All you need to do is download and run the appropriate installer and it will install the Google Chrome version corresponding to that particular channel.
Here are the links to various installers:
- Stable channel: https://www.google.com/chrome?platform=win
- Beta channel: https://www.google.com/chrome/eula.html?extra=betachannel
- Dev channel: https://www.google.com/chrome/eula.html?extra=devchannel
If however you already have Google Chrome installed on your computer and you decide to switch channels, you should back up your profile data and then install Google Chrome from the required channel.
Enable Web Apps Support
Once you have the Dev channel running on your computer, you still need to enable support for Web Apps. Remember that this is an experimental feature for now so keep it in mind if you see stability issues (it has been working like a charm for me).
Here is what you need to do:
- Add the “–enable-apps” and “–apps-panel” switch to the Chrome executable. You can either run chrome.exe from the command line with this switch or create a batch file for the same. An even better solution is to modify the Chrome shortcut to include the switch, within the target box, just like this:
- Fire up Chrome and it should start with web apps support enabled. To verify, just hit “Ctrl + T” and you should see a floating panel instead of the new tab’s page!
How To Use Web Apps
After you have switched to the Dev Channel and enabled support for Web Apps, you will want to play with some web apps and see how they feel and behave.
Head over to the extensions manager inside Google Chrome. Enter chrome://extensions in the address bar.
- Expand the Developer Mode link towards the top right corner.
- Click on “Load Unpacked Extensions”. Browse to Users/<your username>/AppData/Local/Google/Chrome/Application/<Chrome version>/Resources folder (for Windows users, Mac Users look inside ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/, Linux users – ~/.config/google-chrome/). There you will find 3 default apps provided by Google for Gmail, Docs and Calendar. Click on any of these folders and choose OK. This will install the web app.
- Now hit Ctrl + T and you should see something like this :
- Click on Gmail and it will load as a separate Application tab towards the left of your tab bar.
Go on, give it a try and let us know how you like it. Would it be possible to create web apps that will replace desktop apps and let you use and work only from your browser? It is also easy to create your own Chrome web apps but that is however best left for another day!