Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your favorite web services turned into an application? Rather than accessing them within your Firefox browser every time, they could now instead behave as if they were a stand-alone application on your desktop? With a addon from Mozilla themselves called Prism, that idea seems to be possible, at least it brings it one step closer to reality. I’ll have to warn you before you continue reading though that you can either think of Prism as one of the most stupid thing you have ever seen or you could think of it as absolutely brilliant. I’m not kidding. When you access websites and other online services inside your Firefox browser, what do you usually see? Well, obviously, the Firefox browser itself! You have the usual back and forward buttons, the menu toolbar, the address bar, and the myriad of icons from other third party addon’s you’ve installed. When you usually run stand alone applications, it’s much more different due to how it doesn’t actually resemble a website! With Prism, it eliminates or ‘cleans up’ the interface of a website so that it looks much more like a stand alone application. It does so by removing all of the menu icons and buttons I’ve mentioned earlier when you are in Firefox. The website is very much the same except that it seems as if you’re not actually inside a browser. Now you might ask yourself, why in the world would someone need this? Well, this is the part where you get to decide whether Prism is just a gimmick or something more.
Why Use Prism?
To be honest, I haven’t found many uses for Prism. You folks however, might have a more adventurous mind then me. One of the most often asked question is why even use Prism in the first place? The website turned application functions more or less the same. So why? Well, I myself see one or two benefits of using Prism. The very first reason is due to control. Let’s say you are a very heavy Internet browsing individual. You have dozens and dozens of tabs opened every browsing session. Therefore, keeping track sometimes can be a little difficult. By turning that service or website into its own application, it will subsequently then get its own taskbar icon. Therefore, rather than searching for a particular tab in Firefox, you can quickly find the ‘application’ in your taskbar and if you are using Windows 7, it gets even more better as you can pin that icon to a certain location along that taskbar.
The second reason is just my personal opinion but I feel that sometimes, a certain website or service just doesn’t feel right being accessed in a browser. If you’ve read my previous article talking about the awesome online music service called Grooveshark, I’m sure you’ll know exactly what I mean. But the same still holds true. There really isn’t anything different when accessing Grooveshark in a Prism converted application than when I’m controlling it inside an actual Firefox browser. But to me, Grooveshark is just begging to be released from Firefox’s grips. As a stand alone app, the service feels much more like a music jukebox/player, similar to Windows Media Player.
If you have read up to this point, then I’m confident that you’re at least a bit curious as to how Prism works or at the very least, willing to try it out to see how your favorite website would sort of look like as a application. They keyboard here is ‘sort-of’.
Using PrismI’ve provided an update on how to create Prism apps without any advertisements. If you can see yourself using Prism, it would be beneficial to see how you can do so without having to look at advertisements! You can learn how by reading this article.
All Prism requires is that you install the addon from Mozilla’s official addon page here.
Once done so, you now have the ability to convert any website of your choosing to an application. Simply head over to said website, click on the Tools menu bar and select the Convert Website to Application option.
Here is a before and after of how Grooveshark looks like:
After (notice how I now have my own Grooveshark icon on my taskbar):
Don’t however, be fooled by mere appearances. Grooveshark didn’t just actually ‘became’ an application. Behind the curtains, Firefox is still up and running to support it. It just doesn’t look like it’s inside a browser, that’s all. If you close out Firefox (the actual browser) and start up your app, in Task Manager, you’ll still see the Firefox.exe process pop up.
Now, as I just mentioned earlier, there will be times (actually, more so than not) when you must enable the navigation toolbar option. This is so because you actually need to backtrack to the previous page you were on! A good example of this is turning Youtube into an app. If you do so with none of the options enabled like what I did with Grooveshark, you’ll soon find yourself not being able to access the previous Youtube page! What you want to do is enable the navigational key option. You’ll then be able to use the Alt+Left arrow key to move back a previous page, Alt+Right arrow key to move forward a page and Alt+Home key to return to your webapp’s homepage. You can choose to enable the Navigation Bar but your webapp won’t look as nice as it should. The main selling point for Prism is to make webapps and services feel more like a stand-alone program installed on your computer and seeing the URL address bar doesn’t really help at all as seen below!
When you no longer want your Prism app, simply delete the app’s icon and that’s it!
In the End…
Like I said in the beginning, you can either think of Prism as some of the most stupid things you’ve came across or something you see yourself using from time to time. I belong to the latter. Sure, it’s not hard to access are favorite websites considering that’s what bookmarks are for! In fact, some could argue that Prism is the same as simply placing a URL shortcut on your Desktop. While it’s almost the same, it’s also not quite. Sure, Firefox is still being used in the background but if you are a interface freak like me, than Prism might just be your thing as well. If any of you have excellent ideas for Prism apps, please let us know as well in the comments!