Make app versions of Facebook, Gmail, Instagram etc

5 October 2015, 04:44

Some of the biggest-selling paid-for apps in the Mac App Store are simple hacks that turn websites like Facebook, Gmail, Instagram and Google Docs into apps that run in their own program windows on your computer, complete with Dock icon and without browser decorations such as the toolbar. Typically these apps are called “App For XX”, with XX being the particular website.

These are referred to technically as site specific browsers (SSB) and it’s so easy to create your own that it’s almost criminal that somebody would charge for them. Just download Epichrome, which walks you through the very short procedure of doing so via a setup wizard. You can create as many as you like – one for each of your favourite sites, in fact.

Epichrome uses Chrome for its backroom engine, so if you’ve not got that installed then you’ll need to install it (don’t worry – it can just sit in your Applications list and you won’t even be aware you’re using it; note that the reason we use Epichrome to make SSBs is that it creates a new user for each app it creates, rather than letting each separate app share data).

Although it’s not mandatory, it’s a good idea to provide a high-res app icon when prompted by Epichrome. Google Image search is obviously useful, but here’s a few icons for the most popular services that you can download – just click each, and then drag the image to your desktop (all are PNG files with transparent backgrounds):

Don’t forget that you can use various extensions within your new SSB app to enhance the website – perhaps you want to use the Google Docs Offline extension, for example. All you have to do is click the main menu, then Preferences, and click the Extensions tab.

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The problem with using Epichrome is, well … Chrome.

Chrome is a resource glutton, the most recent versions leak memory (rapidly filling your internal drive with swap-space), it is dependent on the Google Helper service (itself a notorious resource hog) and worst of all, you’re still having all your browser activity harvested by Google.

A better choice is ‘Fluid’ (http://fluidapp.com) which relies on WebKit, so there’s nothing extra to add (plus whenever Safari gets updated, so do all of your SSB apps). It’s free, but paying a modest one-time $4.99 adds, amongst other things, SSB-specific individual cookies (vs sharing Safari’s) and URL lockdown – the latter is useful to stop sites in the SSB tracking when you click a link to visit an external site.

If you spend any amount of time in Facebook, a Fluid license will be your best investment in a long time.

“When a service is free, the customer is the product.”

— Hyram · Aug 3, 08:41 PM · #

 
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