Create Site-Specific Browsers with Prism

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The web isn’t just about static web sites anymore. Web applications, like Google Docs, Gmail and many others, are extremely popular.

But confining an important application inside a browser window means that web applications feel like second-class citizens and can get lost amongst the browsing that you are doing.

Site-specific browsers (SSBs) are designed to solve this problem. The idea, as the name suggests, is to create a browser specifically for each of these applications. The web app then exists in its own window and has its own space on your desktop.

Prism is Mozilla’s site-specific browser offering. Prism is based on Firefox, sharing the Gecko rendering engine, meaning it should have excellent compatibility with even the fussiest of applications. Like Firefox, it runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X natively.

There is both a Firefox extension and a standalone application available which allow you to create SSBs. With the standalone application, you simply launch it, enter the URL of the application you want to use (for example, Google Calendar would be https://www.google.com/calendar), set a few other settings and click OK.

Prism standalone application

And that’s it! You now have a site-specific browser for that app. It can exist alongside every other desktop application on your machine and feel like a real application, rather than just something that has to hide away in a browser tab.

Google Calendar in Prism

The Firefox extension works in a very similar way, but makes it even easier. It adds an option to Tools > Convert Website to Application, so you can simply browse to the website in question, issue that command and create an SSB.

If you like working with applications in the cloud, but prefer to not have to live entirely in your web browser, site-specific browsers and Prism might be interesting to play with.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold - http://peter.upfold.org.uk/

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Create Site-Specific Browsers with Prism

  1. # Posted on 03 March 2009 at 04:12 PM

    I can't thank you enough for this - I've been looking for a good Prism tutorial since I got my new laptop and now I have one!

    Thanks!



  2. # Posted on 04 March 2009 at 12:12 AM

    How would SSBs work with offline access?

    I haven't really messed about with offline access so perhaps it's a school-boy mistake kind of question!



  3. # Posted on 04 March 2009 at 05:39 AM

    On the positive side, it does appear that each site you open is handled by separate processes. I like this. On the other hand, I'm unable to login to Yahoo! Mail.



  4. # Posted on 04 March 2009 at 09:08 AM

    James Marshall said:

    How would SSBs work with offline access?

    I haven't really messed about with offline access so perhaps it's a school-boy mistake kind of question!

    As far as I'm aware, Prism doesn't support offline access (although in theory I would imagine it might be possible to port Google's Gears or a similar solution to it.

    At the moment, I don't believe anyone's really got a solution to this in an SSB environment, but I'd love to be wrong. Getting rid of the connection dependence is another hurdle facing web applications if they want to replace traditional ones.



  5. # Posted on 04 March 2009 at 09:11 AM

    Matt Haley said:

    On the positive side, it does appear that each site you open is handled by separate processes. I like this. On the other hand, I'm unable to login to Yahoo! Mail.

    Unfortunately, Yahoo Mail has fussy and rather unintelligent browser detection, which doesn't like Prism.

    I haven't investigated into how this would work, but I presume if it were possible to fake Prism's user agent to be like normal Firefox, things might work just fine.



  6. Andres Monroy-Hernandez (guest)

    # Posted on 07 March 2009 at 03:24 PM

    I've been using prism for a while. I really like it. One thing I haven't figured out is how to move the prism shortcut that is created on the desktop to a different directory. Ideally I would want to put it in /usr/bin or somewhere like that. Any ideas?



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