Prism is an open source cross-platform prototype of functionality that lets users split web applications out of the browser and run them directly on the desktop.
Today we’re releasing a major update to Prism that includes the first prototype of browser integration along with new desktop integration capabilities and simpler installation.
As previously announced, Prism is part of a series of Mozilla Labs experiments into bridging the divide in the user experience between web and desktop apps and exploring new usability models as the line between those kinds of apps continues to blur.
We believe that the Web is a powerful platform for innovation, and our goal with Prism is to drive the development of enhancements to that platform that bring the advantages of desktop apps to the Web. To that end, Prism is not a new platform or product but rather a vehicle for Mozilla Labs to experiment with new technologies to extend the capabilities of the Open Web. Web developers shouldn’t have to lift a finger to desktop-enable their web applications (although they can specify settings to enhance the experience), while users have the choice to use their favorite web apps in their browser, on their desktop of choice, or in both places.
Major New Features and Updates
Today we’re releasing a major update to Prism that includes new desktop integration capabilities and simpler installation. With this update, you can now get Prism simply by installing a small extension to Firefox 3. With the new Prism extension for Firefox 3, users can now split web applications directly out of Firefox without needing to install and manage a separate Prism application. Just install the extension, browse to a web app, then select Tools > Convert Website to Application.
Other new or improved features include:
- Pick an icon to represent a web app on the desktop: Prism can use the web app favicon or the user can pick a custom image to represent the web app.
- Run each web app in its own profile: Prism now places each web app into its own process/profile so they don’t interfere with each other, which also makes it possible to install a web app twice and use it simultaneously with two different user accounts.
- Badge the dock icon: Initial support for adding a badge to the desktop icon has been added. Currently, this can be done through a custom webapp.js file. We’re working on creating and reusing web standards to expose this to content without requiring custom scripts.
While Prism still supports .webapp and site-specific webapp.js files as a way to install, customize and launch Prism, we’re working towards removing the need for those files in favor of leveraging and extending existing web conventions for exposing site configuration, like <link> and <meta> tags.
See bug 420878 and bug 420661 for some of those discussions.
Mark Finkle also has a post with more information.
Get Prism for Firefox
Install Prism for Firefox v0.2 for Firefox 3.0b3pre or greater, Windows/Mac/Linux.
The standalone version of Prism v0.9 is also available for Windows (installer, archive), Mac and Linux.
Warning: This is an early prototype. Use at your own risk.
Prism is just the first of many experiments we plan to conduct around improving the usability of web applications. It’s open source, like everything we do, and we’re interested in hearing from and working with anyone interested in developing these concepts further.
- Discuss, debate, and add to the design in the forum.
- Learn more about it on the wiki.
- Report bugs in Bugzilla.
- Get the source code and extend it or fix bugs.
The project lead for Prism is Mark Finkle. Contributors include Cesar Oliveira, Matt Gertner, Fredrik Larsson, Wladimir Palant, Sylvain Pasche, Alex Faaborg, and Myk Melez.
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