Prism for Firefox: desktop web apps just got easier

Mozilla Labs has released a new version of Prism, a Firefox-based application that aims to make web applications fit better in today’s computer desktops. Prism runs one web application on a single window providing some features only possible for desktop programs in the past.

Along with the update to the stand alone Prism, comes Prism for Firefox extension (code named Refractor), a Firefox extension that eases the creation of web application profiles (.webapp files): just navigate to the web app main page and select Convert Website to Application from Firefox’s Tools menu.

You will be prompted with a dialog to enter a name for the Prism app, window features like a status bar, navigation keys, location bar and whether to show (literally, it does nothing yet) in the notification area (system tray on Windows) or not.  You can also set it to add a shortcut to your desktop, the QuickLaunch bar (on Windows) or the Start Menu; and set a custom icon if you want to use other than the web site favicon.

Prism extension

The  created shortcut will launch Firefox with the settings you specified but as a separate process and its own profile you can even run along the regular Firefox and other Prism apps.

To encourage adoption and ease distribution, web developers can add a single line to their web apps to offer a Prism ready profile. For example I added:

<link href=”/mladmin.webapp” rel=”webapp” title=”Mozilla Links admin” />

to Mozilla Links header and Prism offers the available web app profile which you can add to your desktop with a single click.

Web app detected by Prism

Sparing users the download of the Prism runtime (XULRunner) and making desktop web apps a few clicks task is a huge and sensible step forward for a Mozilla-based alternative to Adobe’s proprietary AIR.

You can get Prism for Firefox extension from Mozilla Add-ons, available for Mac, Windows and Linux for Firefox 3 betas only.

5 thoughts on “Prism for Firefox: desktop web apps just got easier”

  1. I’m having a hard time figuring out why I’d want the app to load in a separate window instead of my browser. Just for organization? It will just eat up more system resources than just running it in the browser, right?

    1. No not lame. What’s lame is you criticizing something just because you don’t personally have a use for it. I’m not blind, but I don’t go out of my way to go to the JAWS screenreader forums to call JAWS lame.

      I personally like Prism. I have a web app I use for work. However, when using that, the navigation buttons, search bars, address bars, StumbleUpon bar, etc., have no value for me, and in fact can cause problems since the app can react badly when navigation buttons are used. I do like all that stuff when I’m using my browser for other stuff and not using the app. So, if I’m using it, I can pull it up in a nice, clean window. If I am in FF and just want to pull it up in a tab, nothing is stopping me from doing that.

      With regards to resources, running the app in Prism uses less than opening it alone in Firefox. This obviously comes with the loss of some FF features that would come in handy, but usually works well. Opening several Prism instances vs. several tabs in FF might be a different situation. If I were betting, I’d gamble on the tabs being faster, but I don’t know.

  2. Pingback: Prism Update Makes Creating Desktop Apps as Simple as Installing a Firefox Add-on | MeltedCube
  3. Pingback: Prism Update Makes Creating Desktop Apps as Simple as Installing a Firefox Add-on | MeltedCube

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