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I can easily create a "Web App" on my iPhone by going to the "arrow" menu and attaching a website to the home screen.

Is it possible to do this on OS X with, say, Gmail or YouTube or anything else?

6 Answers 6

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There's no built-in OS X behaviour that exactly matches that of iOS, but you can use what's often referred to as a site-specific browser to turn sites into OS X apps.

Fluid

Fluid lets you turn sites into single apps that appear like any other OS X app — in their own windows, with separate dock icons. Pretty useful for web apps like Gmail, but you can use for on pretty much any site. It's free, but for $4.99 you get some extra features.

Mailplane

Like Fluid, but specifically for Gmail. Since it's specific to Gmail, it's a bit more finely tuned, with toolbar buttons for the usual sorts of mail app actions. $24.95, with a 30 day free trial.

Automator

If you don't want a third party app, you can make a very basic site-specific browser using Automator. There's a good article from Andy Ihnatko on the subject, but the short version is:

  1. In Automator, create a new Application.
  2. Add a Get Specified URLs action, and enter the URL of the page you want.
  3. Add a Website Popup action.
  4. Save it.

That will give you a standalone app you can run to get a browser for a specific site. But it's quite limited compared to solutions like Fluid or Mailplane — as the name suggests, it's more of a popup than a standalone app.

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  • So unfortunate. This was almost certainly a conscious decision by Apple.
    – MarkovCh1
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 19:57
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    Not really. The bookmark behaviour dates back to one of the first web browsers, Mosaic, when there was no concept of web "apps", just static sites. It's been fairly standard behaviour ever since. The iOS behaviour makes sense on the iOS platform, since a lot of web apps are specifically coded to make use of iOS features. That's not true with OS X however. Two different paradigms.
    – robmathers
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 20:06
  • Do any of these things work with Google Chrome?
    – MarkovCh1
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 16:11
  • I'm not quite sure what you're asking. They're all effectively standalone browsers (although I suspect most of them are using the system version of WebKit, not their own renderer).
    – robmathers
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 16:37
  • Yes, Fluid opens apps in a Safari window without any controls or address bar (I asked because if they opened in Chrome, I would have retained my extensions in the new app window). However, Fluid still opens links in my default browser (Chrome) so this is a non-issue! Thanks!
    – MarkovCh1
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 15:54
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Mozilla Labs Prism

This is my personal favorite and I've been using it for a while. Yes, it is an "inactive" project, but it still works well. It has a simple, easy to use interface:

I put up a blog post on how to use Mozilla Prism, in which I go into more detail about the various features.


Two successors to Prism

Mozilla Labs Chromeless

Mozilla Labs: Prism

This project is considered inactive.

Chromeless | Mozilla Labs comprises two 2011 blog posts: - Prism is now Chromeless - Webian Shell: A full screen web browser built on Chromeless

– and whilst Webian Shell may be of interest to readers, it's not an answer to the question.

To a 2012 question, Chromeless “inactive”?, Michael replied:

… The ideas and code for Chromeless have grown into the HTML5 Applications project. You can read all about it at https://wiki.mozilla.org/Apps

WebRunner

Prism – MozillaWiki refers to Chromeless and WebRunner.

From Salsitistas - Salsita Software:

Matthew Gertner CEO and Founder

… Before Salsita, Matthew led the development of a Mozilla Labs project called Prism (later WebRunner), a "single-site browser" that enabled users to turn web apps into desktop apps …

http://www.salsitasoft.com/webrunner/ no longer presents the WebRunner page. There's a February 2011 copy in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

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Natifier does precisely this, for any app, for free, open source.

https://github.com/jiahaog/nativefier

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In Safari, add the website you're viewing as a bookmark, either to your bookmark bar, or the bookmark menu.

  • Click Bookmarks -> Show All Bookmarks
  • Select the option you chose (bookmark bar or menu)
  • Drag the bookmark to your desktop
  • You'll see a file with the name of your bookmark. Double-click that, and you're set.
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  • This works, don't believe you get the custom icon though, although you can change that via various other means.
    – stuffe
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 17:16
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    You do not need to go to the bookmarks menu, you can drag the icon directly from the address bar to the desktop. This is the behavior described in the question with the exception that the web browser does not open in a special mode the way it does on the iPhone or iPad. Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 18:55
  • @DaveNelson, you're correct. For some reason, that didn't seem to work for me when I was answering the question (but can do it successfully now).
    – Jonathan
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 19:05
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    This only creates a link to the website, it doesn't really open the site in its own window without the navigation bars, address bar, and so on.
    – MarkovCh1
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 19:56
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You can create a browser chrome-free version of a page by turning it into a dashboard widget. ( full instructions here: http://www.iclarified.com/entry/index.php?enid=273).

Creating a Browser Widget on OSX

  • Open the desired page in Safari. Go to file, then "Open in Dashboard"
  • Select the portion of the page that you'd like to be visible in the
  • widget, then press "Add". This will now appear as an interactive
  • widget, free of browser chrome, on your dashboard.

This maybe isn't exactly what you want but it's similar behavior.

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Google Chrome Apps, and Chrome App Launcher

I think Chrome is able to do something like this (Fluid) natively on Windows -- I wonder if feature parity for the mac version is on its way.

Maybe this:

Google Chrome Blog: A new breed of Chrome Apps, now available for Mac (2013-12-11)

Highlights:

A few months ago … Chrome Apps … today, you can access these apps on any computer with Chrome …

… offline … update automatically … sync to any computer where you're signed into Chrome … behave and feel just like native software … by name in the Spotlight search …

Chrome App Launcher

From an Internet Archive Wayback Machine copy of the page:

screenshot of Chrome App Launcher on OS X

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