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Google Chrome Web Apps, What Are They?

4 Lug/10

If you follow popular tech blogs like Techcrunch or Download Squad you may have noticed teaser posts about Google Chrome Web Apps, a new feature that the Chromium and Google Chrome developers have been developing for some time.

Google’s plan is to offer Chrome Web Apps in the new Chrome Web Store launched later this year. They are free and paid apps that Chrome users can install in the web browser.

Chrome Web Apps are listed in the extension manager of the browser and there are only a few differences currently between extensions and Chrome Web Apps.

Installed Chrome Web Apps are displayed by default on the new tab page where they can be easily accessed, providing that only a handful of them are installed on the computer system.

google chrome web apps

google chrome web apps

A click on a web app will open it on the left of the tabbar. The tab icons look on first look similar to those of pinned tabs with the exception that they sport higher resolutions since they do not use favicons but local icons.

chrome web apps

chrome web apps

The screenshot above shows two Chrome web apps and one pinned tab. Both Gmail and Google Calendar are web apps. Clicking on them opens the web page of the service in the browser. That sounds awfully lot like creating a pinned tab for a service to access it in the browser. We honestly have not been able to figure out existing differences between Chrome web apps and pinned tabs at this point, with the exception of the nicer looking tab icons and the fact that the web apps are listed on new tab pages.

We assume that the first extensions are only there to exemplify the concept. The Techcrunch article for instance has shown screenshots of games, which are probably run locally and not on a website.

chrome web apps games

chrome web apps games

As you can see on the screenshot above there is no url in the address bar suggesting that it is run locally (or that the url has been removed from the screenshot).

How to enable Chrome Web Apps in Google Chrome Dev

Chrome Web Apps can be enabled in Google Chrome – and Chromium for that matter. Lee over at the Download Squad posted the instructions, here they are again for quick reference.

  • Google Chrome ships with three web apps for testing purposes. They provide Google Docs, Gmail and Google Calendar functionality.
  • The apps are located in C:UsersusernameAppDataLocalGoogleChromeApplication6.0.453.1Resources on Windows. Please note that the version changes with every Chrome release.
  • You need to add the startup parameter –enable-apps to the browser. Easiest way to do that is to create a shortcut, right-click the shortcut and select properties. The target should look similar to this in the end C:UsersusernameAppDataLocalGoogleChromeApplicationchrome.exe –enable-apps
  • Now open the extensions menu by clicking on the Wrench icon in the Chrome toolbar, then Tools and Extensions.
  • Select Load unpacked extensions and navigate to the Resources folder. Each Chrome web app has to be installed separately.
  • The web apps appear immediately on the New Tab page where they can be launched.

What’s your take on this? Let us know in the comments.


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