Having purchased my first Macintosh computer a couple of months back, it seems that hardly a day has gone by where I haven’t stumbled upon or been recommended a handy application or utility to make my Mac experience all the more enjoyable. In fact, one of the things that I’ve quickly come to love about the Macintosh atmosphere is the number of self-driven “indie” developers who work on their own (or as part of smaller startups) to create really useful software.
By steering clear of the traditional structure of large and oppressive software companies, I have personally found that many of these indie developers are able to develop unique and out-of-the box apps that simply are not seen from larger companies. This is one of the reasons that I love the Mac App Store, as it makes it that much easier for such applications to be found and distributed.
Now, being a new Mac user, I have yet to find an app that every other Mac user around me hadn’t already seen or used themselves. The gems that I find on my own are often met with responses like “You didn’t know about that?” or “Oh, I love that app!” Yesterday though I came across a very interesting application known as “Fluid”, and much to my surprise was met with virtual blank stares from people who hand’t a clue what I was talking about.
In basic, Fluid is an application that allows users to create what is more or less a mini web browser configured to display a specific webpage or web application. What sets Fluid aside from features such as Google Chrome’s “application shortcuts” is the fact that it creates an actual Mac application to wrap the website frame in. This means that it can be pinned to the OS X dock for quick and easy access any time, making it a must-have for those of us who would normally keep a tab open in our web browsers to keep up-to-the-minute with our favorite social networks and websites.
The developer behind this awesome application is Todd Ditchendorf, a former employee of a “well-known Fruit Company based in Cupertino”, previously worked on designing the Dashboard utility and Dashboard Widgets for the Mac OS X operating system. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the application in question is dead-simple to use and the mini applications in which it generates are rock-solid and equally simple.
Opening the main application simply asks for the URL of the website that you’d like to create an application for, as well as the name that you would like to give it. You’re also able to select an image file to use as the icon, however the application can also grab the “favicon” file for the website and use that as the icon. I personally tried this with the IRCCloud service yesterday evening and was impressed with how simple the process was.
And like magic, I had a new “application” on my Mac only a few seconds later. Lo and behold, said application gave me a seamless view of the site I selected and sat beautifully on my dock. Even the favicon that it downloaded had scaled wonderfully. I’m no entirely sure how this was done, as favicons are typically very small files. My personal guess was that the image was re-rendered or re-sketeched as a vector image to allow for better scalability, but I’m not entirely sure either way.
While the basic application is free, there is a paid version priced at $4.99 which allows for users to have Fluid store its cookies independently from Safari and use custom scripts and themes to manipulate some websites. Being a “coffee-cup app” (that is, an app that costs about the same as a good cup of coffee), I found that it was worth the price for me. Having said this, I often times end up doing light web design work for my office that requires me to clear my cache and cookies to test, and the functionality of scripts is a very promising feature for me in Fluid. And of course I think that the developer definitely deserves compensation for his work.
So far I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences with Fluid. It does the job and it does it well. One of the things that I’ve personally discovered is that you can use the mobile version of a given website by either using the mobile URL (e.g. “m.somesite.com”) to generate the “app”, or using Fluid’s built-in user-agent spoofer. Either way allows you to browse a handful of large websites with a more minimal (and often ad-free) interface; all from the convenience of my dock.
All in all I highly suggest that Mac users look into using Fluid. It’s an amazing program, and I think that it’s well worth the $4.99.