Use Fluid To Tidy Your Browser Mess

Fluid is a Mac OS X application that lets you package your web applications (GMail, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Digg etc) as native Mac OS X desktop applications, complete with own window, standard menu bar, Dock icon and .app program file.

Fluid creates native Mac OS X application that wraps around Apple Safari’s WebKit web rendering engine. The created OS X application is normally referred to as a Site Specific Browser (SSB), which is basically an instance of the browser engine running a specific website URL. This SSB instance runs the web application separately and not from within the web browser. So crashing your browser such as Safari won’t take down your SSB instance.

This idea is similar to Mozilla’s Prism project, which aims to integrate web application to the desktop experience. Prism is available for Windows, Linux and Mac, and uses the Firefox’s Gecko rendering engine. Fluid is for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard only, and Fluid created web applications have the Mac look and feel due to the Safari Webkit rendering engine.

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Fluid is a small 3.5MB Mac OS X 10.5 application, it is a free download but is not open source. Fluid software displays a dialog window that prompts you for:

  • URL: the URL of the web application you would like Fluid to create as Site Specific Browser.
  • Name: the name of the Fluid application.
  • Location: the folder location to put the generated .app file.
  • Icon: the icon file for the Fluid application. You can let Fluid retrieve the favicon.ico file provided by most web applications, or you can choose your own icon file. Visit Fluid icons group at Flickr and Fluid icons from Chris Ivarsonfor high resolution and quality icons that fit an Mac OS X desktop.

Click the ‘Create’ button to let Fluid creates the Mac OS X .app file in the specified location. You will have the option to launch the new native Mac application after it is successfully created.

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You can choose to run your Fluid created app in a so called “MenuExtra SSB” mode. Under this mode, your Fluid created app will appear only as icon in your OS X system status bar next to the clock and Spotlight. You can not Command-Tab to switch to it, just like other applications on the status bar. When you click the icon, the web application will appear as a drop down window. Your web application is non-obstructive running this way and is great for sites that you access multiple times per day such as GMail and Twitter. You can easily toggle between the “MenuExtra SSB” and “Normal Application/Embedded SSB” mode via options in the application menu.

Fluid is developed by Todd Ditchendorf who used to work for Apple developing Dashboard and Dashboard Widgets for Leopard. Fluid is scriptable, customizable and has a user community developing scripts, tutorials and screencasts for it.

If you have too many tabs running in your browser that makes searching for your opened web application a chore, use Fluid to your rescue, and run your web application as an OS X app for easier access and a more OS X like experience. Beside, you do not have to worry if any random site crashing your browser will bring down your web applications.