Mozilla Prism is an open source initiative from Mozilla Labs which attempts to bring web applications from the browser to run directly from your desktop. In Mozilla’s words,
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.
Web applications like Gmail, Google Reader, etc. are more and more mimicking the functionality we have gotten used to in desktop applications such as right click contxt menu, drag and drop interface, etc. But, you still need to fire up a browser, go to the website and login to use the web application. It does give you the flexibility to access from anywhere with a browser but takes a bit of time if you are using a desktop day in and day out to go through all these steps to get to your favorite web applications.
Mozilla Prism attempts to bridge that gap and splits the web application from the browser and lets you run a web application like Gmail straight from your desktop. It helps web applications act like desktop applications with the benefit of being on the web without the web application developer having to do anything to offer that to an user, you.
Prism is cross-platform and is availble for Windows, Linux and Mac. You will have the option of having a location bar, status bar or the location bar in the web application window. I just include the status bar alone to see the links when I am hovering and hide the other 2 to maximize my screen real estate.
New Features in Prism 0.9
Prism 0.9 was just released last week with some major updates and new features. A few of those are:
- Simpler installation and desktop integration capabilities
- Browser integration with Firefox 3 through an extension Prism for Firefox 3. This extension lets you split a web application you are on directly out of Firefox without installing and maintaining Prism as a separate application. You will get a ‘Convert Website to Application’ option in the Tools menu with this extension.
- Ability to pick an icon to represent the desktop application (or pick it from the web by default)
- Run each webapp in its own profile – in other words, you can have 2 desktop Gmail webapps for 2 accounts simultaneously (link to old post)
Running Prism from behind a Proxy
At work, I was first unable to run it from behind our proxy and found a helpful tip in Ubuntu forums on how to do this. Here is what I did to get Prism working from behind the proxy. This involves editing a all.js file in the Prism installation.
- Open the <install-directory>/prism/xulrunner/greprefs.js in your favorite editor
- Find and edit this line from:
- Then add your proxy information in the following lines: (enter your own ip & port there)
- That’s it!
I am already running my favorite web apps like Gmail, Google Reader, Remember the Milk via Prism from my desktop. One downside right now is that I am missing my Greasemonkey scripts for Gmail & Google Reader. But, with Prism being built on Mozilla’s platform, I wonder if there will support for Firefox extensions. If I find out how or if it’s even possible, I will write another post soon.
Also, I am yet to see how it affects cpu & memory usage by running multiple Prism applications. Although I am getting rather spoiled with our new addition of 2GB memory to our Windows XP desktop making it a 3GB RAM! Firefox can consume a gig of ram as fas as I am concerned and I can test even more extensions to share with you without affecting it’s performance.