Words in Boxes

Nouns, verbs, and occasionally adjectives.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

WebRunner, Google Reader, and Google Notebook

Via O'Reilly Radar, I've just discovered WebRunner, a stripped-down, web-app centric web browser based on Firefox's Gecko engine. What does that mean? It means that instead of using Gmail through a Firefox tab, I can run it in it's own window without title bars or navigation pane. It looks almost like a native application:

The main advantages to this are that (1) I can easily access Gmail by alt-tabbing, and (2) if Firefox crashes, my Gmail is still up. Gmail is an application, not a web page, and it's nice to be able to treat it like one.

I was able to get pre-made web application bundles for Gmail and Google Calendar, but not, surprisingly, for Google Reader or Google Notebook. So I made two simple ones myself, which can be download here and here respectively. Working with Google Notebook like a native application is absolutely fantastic.

Although I haven't tried it, you can also set up Reader as an offline application using Google Gears. If WebRunner supported Lifehacker's Better Gmail extension, the experience would be complete.

Maybe the future of computing is these lightweight, remotely hosted applications, and not big, operating-specific programs. Maybe not. Web apps are best for web-centric tasks - like e-mail, rss reading, and scheduling. So while Google Docs is getting better all of the time, and Buzzword looks fantastic, but I'm not about to use them instead of OpenOffice or Word. And forget about even heavier programs, like Photoshop. But these Google apps are perfect for the treatment.

I'm James Sulak, a software developer in Houston, Texas.

You can also find me on Twitter, or if you're curious, on my old-fashioned home page. If you want to contact me directly, you can e-mail comments@wordsinboxes.com.