Create Your Own Desktop Webapps with Fluid (Mac OS X)

This is neat. How would you like the ability to create your own standalone webapps on your Mac OS X desktop? In other words, what if you could turn any website into a Mac desktop application?

Fluid can do just that.

Download Fluid – requires OS 10.5 or later

In seconds, Fluid can take a given website – such as Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, or whatever you want – and package it into its own Site Specific Browser (SSB). The SSBs can then run as complete and independent Cocoa applications, complete with their own dock icons and menu bars! Fluid SSBs are based on Safari’s WebKit rendering engine.

Creating the Application

Creating your own SSB is simple: just launch Fluid and fill in the URL and the name of the App you wish to create.

Choose a place to save your new App (defaults to Applications). If you wish to attach a picture for the Dock icon, you may do so. Otherwise, Fluid will grab the site’s favicon.

Note: two good places to hunt for Fluid App icons are here and here.

Here is my new Gmail SSB. Notice the application name and the custom icon in the Dock.

That’s all there is to it. In this example, Gmail runs as its own self-contained browser App on my desktop. Pretty slick.

Run as a Menu Item

With a few extra clicks, you can turn any Fluid App into a Menu item. Just look under the Application name in the menu and click on Convert to MenuExtra SSB.

The App will disappear from the Dock and relaunch as a Menu item.

Because Fluid Apps are based on WebKit, you can even browse sites using Cover Flow. Neat!

Fluid may seem like a novelty, but if there is a website that you tend to leave open most of the time, Fluid can come in handy. Because it’s self-contained, you don’t have to worry about a random browser crash taking down all your open sites.

Speaking of novelty, here’s a link where you can download your very own TipsFor.us desktop application! Yes, that’s right, it will undoubtedly be your least-commonly used Fluid app, perhaps used once before it’s relegated to its rightful place in the Trash!

Fluid itself requires Mac OS 10.5 or greater, but I see no reason why the Apps it creates won’t run on 10.4 or earlier. I’ve upgraded to 10.5, but if someone could verify or disprove me by testing that TipsFor.us App in the above paragraph, I would appreciate it.

2 thoughts on “Create Your Own Desktop Webapps with Fluid (Mac OS X)

  1. I’m sorta thumbs-up / thumbs-down on this one. (Maybe we should review movies?)

    Thumbs up because it limits memory usage, isolates from browser crashes, and it lets you put the app on a different desktop Space (if you’re using OS X Spaces, things can get weird if an app has multiple windows open in multiple spaces and you start apple-tabbing between apps).

    Thumbs down because it doesn’t work on 10.4 (I made the app in 10.5 then I tried it on my 10.4 computer… it won’t open). I tried making an app out of the Yahoo! site. Checking and reading mail worked, but I could not attach files. As a web site developer, I can only imagine how difficult it is to make an app like Fluid that compartmentalizes all of web site’s services and calls… looks like the attachment functionality is one that fell through the cracks when Fluid compiled the Yahoo! app. Maybe Gmail’s architecture is different, but I would be surprised if any complex site survived being “Fluid-ized” with 100% functionality.

    Summary: I agree with Brian… it’s a novelty, but it can come in handy.

  2. I just downloaded Fluid yesterday and I love it. I am using it for Gmail, and it allows me to keep Gmail always running and in its own space. I gave it a Gmail icon and it has a badge over it showing me how many new emails I have. Combined with Gmail’s work offline feature, it functions like a true email program completely separate from Safari.

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