Run web app in dedicated window of Firefox or Chrome

As I mentioned in my first look at Google Wave browser support is kinda raw. In case of Google products this means they will ignore Opera for some months (if not years).

Keeping Firefox open just for Wave started to annoy me fast and I remembered underknown option – run web app (or any site) in slim dedicated window.

What it does

Browsers are primarily developed for browsing sites. This had fueled multiply tabs model and extensive navigation options – both for moving through the site and switching between open pages.

Web apps (such as mail clients and RSS readers) have different usability. They are mostly single and very dynamic page that has no use for most of browser’s interface.

When web apps got enough traction is spurred idea of specialized browser windows for them.

Why bother

Containing web app in separate window has several distinct advantages:

  • interface is slimmed down which improves experience overall and is even more important on netbooks and similar devices (positioned most for use with web and suffering for small screens);
  • app gets own browser process and is unaffected by crashes of regular browser plus benefits from multi-core processors (have to not that Chrome and IE8 do this for all tabs anyway);
  • app gets own place on taskbar, makes it much easier to keep an eye on data in site title (incoming messages count for example);
  • if needed, you can use secondary browser with web app for better compatibility without mess of multiply browsers open.

Google Chrome

Over year ago, when it was just released, I wrote that Chrome is not a browser, but platform for online applications. Nowadays surfacing details on upcoming Chrome OS only reinforce that assessment.

Naturally dedicated mode is native and easy to enable in Chrome:

Control current page (button) > Create applications shortcut…



Chrome has naturally slim interface so space gain isn’t that great. Still makes page look tidier and more like a desktop application.



Mozilla Prism or Firefox

Prism is Mozilla Labs project that is solely about such dedicated windows. There two ways to use it:

  • make full installation of Prism, it will be independent from Firefox (or lack of) and provide some extra options;
  • use Prism add-on for Firefox, less options but easier and faster.

I went add-on way. After installing it:

Tools > Convert Website to Application…



Unlike Chrome it allows some customizations and to keep key parts of browser interface.

Since default Firefox interface is quite bulky there are massive space savings.




Concept of dedicated mode web apps is around for a while, but unfortunately hadn’t got much traction and is not a standard browser feature. Still I only see amount of people and amount of time spent in browsers increasing so I expect usage of dedicated windows to grow as well.

Do you use some web apps constantly? Is dedicated window convenient for you everything in tabs is fine?

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  • Angelo R. #

    I first heard about prism when someone mentioned fluid on a forum I visit. I tested it out, but I soon realized that I'd rather have 20 tabs open and confined to a single instance of the web-browser than to have a few windows dedicated to only a single task. I keep my mail open all the time, but only check it ever couple hours or so, so it doesn't make sense to take up taskbar space with it.
  • Rarst #

    @Angelo Well, for me issue came up for Wave and its Opera non-compatibility. :( By the way it is strange that Opera doesn't have this feature. Aside from Wave I don't use any web apps at home except Twitter, but I do use gmail and google reader at work. Should probably try them in separate windows. By the way I think this trick increases in value as screen space decreases. On 19" it is merely tidying up, but on 9-11" netbook this really makes a difference.
  • The DataRat #

    . "they will ignore Opera for some months (if not years)" . Bro. Rat don't take it personally. How long has the Chrome browser been out and they ~still~ don't have a version for the Macintosh ! You get -in a certain sense- that Google is just geek kids playing around in their garage. They personally like open source, so Apple and Opera get ignored ! There's no real business ethic where they're out to serve the market as a whole. More like exercising their own personal predilections ...playing favorites in high school. . The DataRat .
  • Rarst #

    @DataRat I do not think it's personal. On the contrary I think Google is about logic and highly calculated and cold decisions. Reputational gain of supporting extra browser engine from day one is not covering development costs. For Google this is no-brainer. On Apple - I think Google won't ever get along with it. Google sells results, Apple sells stories. Google is ambitious, Apple simply wants to milk its niche.
  • The DataRat #

    . "Apple sells stories. ...Apple simply wants to milk its niche" . Well, at least we concur regarding Apple ! The computer version of 'designer clothing' for people with more money than brains. The haute computing of trendy elitists: Apple is an image. . The DataRat .
  • Geek Squeaks’ of the Week (#38) « What's On My PC #

    [...] Rarst.net Run web app in dedicated window of Firefox or Chrome [...]
  • Khanti #

    There is another way to get web apps in a dedicated window: http://www.mobileapps1.com/sisterb/features.html With this you can get snarl notifications too.
  • Rarst #

    @Khanti Thanks for suggestion, bookmarked. :) But since it is beta at moment I am likely to save it for later when it gets to stable release.
  • nick3499 #

    in ubuntu linux, I use the synapse app launcher, and had been using chromium browser in --app mode, which works good, but after upgrading os to ubuntu 12.10, chromium is getting very buggy, perhaps because: 1. a conflict with ubuntu's newest webapp feature, 2. amd64-bit, 3. something else. now jumping back to firefox(aurora), but then noticed how mozilla labs put prism on inactive status, and webrunner is out, so I feel as if I need to practice some patience until mozilla and ubuntu sort out this manifestation of webapp/cloud computing. apple's os seems to be the most developed stable os, but I keep buying pc's. maybe it's time for a change: pc to apple.