Creating Desktop Apps With Fluid


My best and most recent tech find for Mac is Fluid. Fluid is an application that allows you to create standalone desktop versions of your favourite web apps such as Gmail or Twitter. Neither of these appealed to me as I have Gmail synced with Mail on my Mac, and on my iPod Touch (I also sync Google Contacts, Google Calendar and my school Outlook account) and I use TweetDeck to keep up with my PLN.

However, there were some web based apps that I felt would be great to have on my desktop due to the fact that it would be good to be able to view them within a separate interface. What’s more after doing a little more research I found that if I used Fluid to create apps I would be able to make use of user scripts to tweak them – that sounded great, so I decided to begin with Google Tasks as I am always looking for ways to improve my organisation and productivity.

Google Tasks

And here it is. It looks clean, signs in automatically and everything works: Adding tasks, adding info, marking when complete, syncing with Google Calendar and therefore Ipod touch.


If you would like to do this you need to download Fluid. Once installed, open Fluid. You will see a dialog box (see below) into which you need to type or copy/paste the following URL: Name the app Google Tasks. Keep the location as Applications. Download an icon to use, I chose one created by Max Headwound on Flickr (image below), found on the Flickr: Fluid Icons Pool. Then click “Create”.  You will see a new dialog box asking you to launch the app. Voilà, you are done!  You can then drag the app from the Applications folder to the dock.

fluid new app creation

tasks icon

For ease of use I also added my newly created Google Tasks app to my login items so that it would load automatically when I boot up my Mac. To do this go to System Preferences / Accounts / Login items / Click the + symbol and select the Google Tasks app from the Applications folder.

login items

There are also some nice icons available at IconsPedia, choose the icon that suits you! As a Mac user image is important to me so selecting the right icon was as important as choosing which web apps I would turn into desktop apps. My next web based app that I use every day was Instapaper.


The process is the same as before using the following url: If you have not used Instapaper before, I highly recommend it. It makes up an integral part of my web workflow, something I plan to write more about in a future post.

Instapaper allows you to store web pages and articles that you find to read later. It makes use of a bookmarklet to do this but if you are using the beta build of Google Chrome you can use the Instachrome extension. I have been using this extension for almost a month now and it makes adding pages to Instapaper a breeze.

Instapaper comes into its own if you have an iPod touch as the articles can be synced for offline browsing. As a serious user of Instapaper I recommend the pro version, I use folders and it helps to have them synced, saves having to repeat actions later as everything can be done from the iPod.

Here are the results of setting up Instapaper with Fluid:


I didn’t stop with this one in simply creating the app I also installed a user script called Instapaper Beyond. It’s a script for Fluid created by Brett Terpstra which adds keyboard navigation and some special features. For example: (alt+g) brings up the “Go to folder” menu – just one of the very useful functions offered in this script.

instapaper beyond go menu

There are many more functions that make browsing Instapaper very enjoyable all of which can be controlled by the keyboard. Pressing (h) will bring up a full list of them.

instapaper keyboard navigation

And that’s it. Two apps that help improve my productivity and workflow when surfing the web. I think that I am going to create a stand alone Google Reader app as this makes up another integral part of my web workflow.

If you have any questions or want some advice about this process please e-mail me or tweet me @jamesmichie. Comments are always welcome.

I’ve Been Chromed!


As Google Chrome comes of age (in beta at least) I have kicked Firefox to the kerb, an act that I thought may never happen, for 95% of my web experience. The only thing that is keeping the Fox in my life at all is the poor integration Chrome offers with Moodle which is my schools VLE of choice. More info on Chrome’s shortcomings with Moodle and how to get past them (unless you only run Apple products like me) can be found on “Changing The Game” a Moodle-oriented blog written by @iusher.

I’m not going to dwell on Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari for very long. It’s a simple matter of security + usability + reputation that turned me into a Firefox user in the first place. IE as has been widely written about is simply not secure enough. On top of this it is a Microsoft product so is automatically put in the do not use pile for me. While I consider myself to be something of a geek, Opera is one step too far as Browser’s go; in much the same way as Linux is in terms of operating systems. What did surprise me was the fact that I didn’t turn to Safari as my browser of choice. Having started life as a Windows user Firefox came more naturally into my web based experience – or in other words the Fox did a better job of marketing itself.

When I started using Firefox, its reputation was already well established as a stable and secure browser. Then “add-ons” were introduced there was no turning back. Firefox was simply awesome contributed significantly to my “geek” development. As I sought ways to make my web browsing experience better the Fox taught me about user scripts via Grease Monkey and how to edit its’ functionality itself. See this guide on how to speed up Firefox. What I ended up with and used for the past couple of years never considering alternatives was a very fast, very user friendly (due to add-ons), very consistent web browser.

However the Fox had its limits. There were so many add-ons that I would want to try them all out. But Firefox was not always up to the task. Install more than 10 add-ons and even with the tweaks that I had made to speed it up it became more like “Smokeyfox” than Firefox – the metaphorical smoke pouring out when it fired up or tried to load a page with a lot of info. The experience that many of the add-ons were supposed to offer became limited when they were all packed in together. I ended up stripping Firefox back in the end to just a few add-ons and scripts. This made the browsing faster but the experience less rich.

Chrome on the other hand is faster than Firefox even with “extensions” and scripts installed. I was sceptical at first but I (like a good geek) did several tests to see if the claims were true. And yes, they were! My take up of the browser was stalled though as functionality was limited in its initial release for Mac. Bookmark integration was not fully sorted and there were no extensions available. I bided my time and waited for the first stable release to really get to grips with it. I fell in love immediately because Chrome embraces the true aesthetics of Mac – clean simple design. Use Chrome for a few minutes and I fail to see how anyone could not like the simplicity of the interface, it is beautiful.

chrome in use

Look closely at the picture above. What you see is what I want to see. I have a variety of scripts and extensions installed but many remain invisible working from within the browser itself. There is no need for clunky menus and the tab positioning and functionality is great. Chromed Bird, Instachrome and Delicious all use pop-out windows that float in front of the browser when you click on them. Finally, the Omni-bar is truly great – search, history and my delicious bookmarks are all integrated into one space. This makes the use of the browser so much smoother and cleaner.

chromed bird

I am currently using the development channel, this enables me to not only use extensions but also to install scripts from sites such as Chrome extensions make the experience as rich as Firefox but they have almost no impact on operating speed. User scripts load directly in to Chrome without the need for an extension such as Grease Monkey. The installation process of all extra Chrome features is very smooth and there never a need to restart the browser. Below is a screen grab of just a few of the extensions/scripts that I have installed.

chrome extensions

Sites that I frequent load as fast with the extensions enabled as they do disabled, making the Chrome experience truly worthwhile. Whether a solution arrives through Chrome first or when Moodle 2.0 (Check out this brief tour here) is finally released I will kick Firefox to the kerb permanently. Until that day, the Fox will still play a small part in my life.

It will not be long though and the time will have come to say “goodbye old friend”.

Browser button image courtesy of Dekuwa on Flickr