Tip: use Firefox for web apps


A reader informed me of an experimental feature in Firefox that allows it to work just as well with PWAs as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and other Chromium-based web browsers.

What’s odd about this feature is that Mozilla initially innovated the ability to run web pages and apps as if they were native apps using a technology called Prism that has long been around for a long time. been removed from this browser. But as web apps have become more sophisticated in recent years, Chrome and other browsers have gained similar capabilities, and Google has an entire platform, called Chrome OS, dedicated to running these apps. outside of the normal browser container.

I’ve long wondered why Mozilla ditched Prism and discontinued the ability to run web apps as if they were native apps. But it turns out the company hasn’t completely given up. Mobile versions of Firefox have been able to build apps from web pages since 2017. And Mozilla started testing a similar approach to delivering this functionality to the desktop almost a year ago.

I can’t explain why I wasn’t aware of this (at least the desktop bit), but it’s called Site Specific Browser (SSB) and it’s now available for those who want to test it out.

“An SSB is an application with a built-in browser designed to work exclusively with a single web application,” Mozilla explains. “It doesn’t have the menus, toolbars, and accessories of a normal web browser. Some people have called it a “ distraction-free browser ” because no typical browser chrome is used. An SSB also has tighter integration with the operating system and the desktop than a typical web application running through a web browser. “

To use SSB with Firefox, you need to be running Firefox 73 or newer – which won’t be difficult, since the latest version is 84 – and you need to activate it first. To do this, type about: config in the Firefox address bar and click on the warning. Then type browser.ssb.enabled in the address bar to find the function. It is currently set to false. Use the toggle button on the right to change it to real, then restart Firefox.

Now you can run any web page (not just PWAs and other web apps) as if it were an app. To do this, navigate to the web page or web application you want to use, then click Page Actions (“…”) in the address bar and choose “Use this site in app mode”.

When you do, the page / app will appear as a stand-alone app window, and shortcuts will appear on the desktop and in the Start menu. You can pin this app to the taskbar or the Start menu thumbnails area just like any other app.

To manage the apps you have installed in this way, open Firefox, open the (hamburger) menu and choose “Sites in App Mode”. You can uninstall any application here by choosing its Uninstall button (“x”).

Thanks to SherlockHolmes for letting me know about this feature.

Tagged Desktop PWA, Progressive Web Apps, PWA

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