In between for something completely different.
Why is it that web apps are still not as “likeable” as native apps?
A few weeks ago mozilla thunderbird, the friendly companion of many years, finally became unusably slow for me. As MS Outlook is no option for me I started looking for an alternative that would be fast at startup and while flipping and searching through mail, would run on Linux, AND has a well-working calendar integration. There are numerous promising candidates for the first two requirements. But, strangely enough, it seems that calendar support is a tough problem.
But then, my e-mail as well as my calendar is perfectly accessible via a Web interface. It is just that I do not use it that much – although it is fast, responsive, usable the same on all machines, and obviously OS-independent (and was made by Google). Duh!
So why not use that instead of a dedicated native client?
Turns out what really turns me off is that the Web client exposes you to a through and through fleeting user experience:
- As your desktop gets cluttered with open browser tabs, usually the sensible way out is to close them all. Your important stuff got closed as well.
- You are using multiple users but your browser only manages one session at a time
- You want to have the right stuff opened at startup – not nothing, not what happened to be open last time – and you want to have multiple such configurations.
None of this seems unreasonable. And yet I have not found anything that does just that for me.
As a conclusion I looked into “how to wrap my favorite web apps into a native application”. Not for the first time – but this time with the necessary frustration to see it through. Such a “wrapper” should fix the problems above and other do absolutely nothing beyond the absolutely required. Here is the result:
How does it work?
It is based on electron – that is: It is essentially a scripted chrome browser. And it is very basic and does very little beyond showing a few site-buttons, preloading some of them (always the same) and can be loaded several times for different “partitions” – which implements the multi-session capability.
I have been using it with two different configurations (shared on all machines) and two partitions (private/work), for a few weeks now and finally feel like the five to ten Web apps I use all the time, every day, feel completely integrated with the overall desktop experience – just like any other native application.
Feel free to use, enhance, copy whatever.