Mozilla Prism: Bringing Web Applications To Your Desktop

Mozilla Prism is an open source initiative from Mozilla Labs which attempts to bring web applications from the browser to run directly from your Mozilla Prism Logo 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)

If you’d like to learn more about it, check out the Mozilla Prism Wiki. Here is a screenshot of creating a web application for my favorite online task manager.

Mozilla Prism Interface

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.

  1. Open the <install-directory>/prism/xulrunner/greprefs.js in your favorite editor
  2. Find and edit this line from:
    pref(“network.proxy.type”, 5);
    pref(“network.proxy.type”, 1);
  3. Then add your proxy information in the following lines: (enter your own ip & port there)
    pref(“network.proxy.http”, “”);
    pref(“network.proxy.http_port”, 80);
    pref(“network.proxy.ssl”, “”);
    pref(“network.proxy.ssl_port”, 443);
  4. 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. πŸ˜›

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12 Responses to “Mozilla Prism: Bringing Web Applications To Your Desktop”

  1. Rakshit March 12, 2008 at 8:34 pm #

    I just can’t wait to access my google reader right from my desktop without a browser. I heard about this utility before but didn’t know its functionality. Thanks for this great information. I am really going to try it right now.



    Rakshit’s last blog post..How to Lock Files and Folders without any Software

  2. K-IntheHouse March 12, 2008 at 9:12 pm #

    Hey Rakshit, you are welcome buddy! I am really excited at the wide range of possibilities it opens for web applications too. Google reader being the most obvious one although I have been spoiled by the Greasemonkey scripts I have been using with it. Now without those GReader seems plain and boring. πŸ˜• Let me know how you liked it.

    K-IntheHouse’s last blog post..Mozilla Prism: Bringing Web Applications To Your Desktop

  3. Jake March 13, 2008 at 1:11 am #

    @K-IntheHouse: Do I ever know that feeling! I just maxed out the motherboard to 2GB in this machine (from 512MB) and doubled the RAM in my laptop to 1GB a couple of months ago. It’s great! :mrgreen:

  4. K March 13, 2008 at 1:24 am #

    Hey Jake, I know what you mean. It’s just so sweet not to hunt down programs to close because I had overloaded my Firefox with extensions. πŸ™‚ If you can’t tell, I love ’em and have more coming tomorrow.

    K’s last blog post..Mozilla Prism: Bringing Web Applications To Your Desktop

  5. Stephen Cronin March 13, 2008 at 11:56 am #


    This is the first I’ve heard of this and it sounds fantastic! I’m far more likely to use web apps if I can run them without needing the browser.

    Thanks again for yet another great heads up!

    Stephen Cronin’s last blog post..New Terminal At Beijing Airport – World’s Biggest Building

  6. K March 13, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    Hey Stephen.. great to see you back!

    I have been following this from Mozilla Labs closely since the earlier version and just started using it with this current version where they introduced some cool features. It’s just at 0.9 and I can’t wait to see where this project goes. πŸ™‚

  7. ankit sabharwal June 2, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    this will be a good alterantive to the GoogleTalk Gadget in Adobe Air…

    thanks a lot for this information…


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