Fluid - Create standalone apps from web pages

Oct 13, '08 07:17:00AM

Contributed by: robg

One of the rumored features of OS X 10.6 (actually of Safari 4, which I think will be part of 10.6) is the ability to turn any web page into a standalone application. This can be useful for sites you access all the time, or if you're tired of, for instance, your entire browser crashing because of a problem with one particular Flash-heavy tab you had open. Whether or not this feature is coming to 10.6 remains to be seen, of course, but it's here today in the form of Fluid.

Fluid is amazingly easy-to-use program that converts any web site into a standalone, Cocoa native, OS X application (called a site-specific browser, or SSB for short). Just enter the site's URL, name your new program, pick a save location, and then choose an icon (you can use the site's fave icon, create your own, or download pre-made icons). Click Create, and you're done--you'll find a new standalone program in the location you specified, ready to launch (you can optionally launch it as it's created, if you wish).

Each standalone application gets its own preferences, which include unique things such as window type (choose from standard, none, and a couple of dark variants), window level (anything from 'above Dashboard' to 'floating' to 'embedded in Desktop'), opacity, enable a 'drag window from anywhere' setting, set how the window behaves with Spaces, and you can even create a global shortcut key to bring the application to the foreground, regardless of what app you're in. I wish more programs offered this degree of flexibility in their settings!

SSBs can even be converted into icons in your main menu bar; when used in this mode, they won't appear in the dock when used in this mode, nor in the application switcher. If you have a headlines-only site you check often during the day, this is a great spot to put them. (You can easily convert them back to a normal SSB via a menu item.) Fluid supports browser plug-ins, and includes a couple with its distribution. The first is a Cover Flow view of links on a page that works out of the box for many sites (and can be enabled on others via some CSS tweaks). The screenshot at right (click for a larger version) shows how it looks for a Google search. If you don't like the Cover Flow look, you can see small thumbnails instead, just by clicking the button at the lower left of the screen. The other plug-in lets you split your standalone app, so you can load websites side-by-side.

While I really don't want 30 standalone applications, I've found Fluid to be nice for those sites whose headlines I check regularly, as well as for sites (like Google Finance, given today's volatile markets) that I want to keep running even if I happen to quit Firefox. Given it's free, there's no reason not to check it out if it sounds at all interesting to you.

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