Make Gmail a (better) standalone app without Fluid or Safari

Post by Ben Edwards

If you are like me you use Gmail and love it. You also use a Mac and have found Firefox has started to become too bloated and slow to use for accessing your Gmail. For a while now I have been using Gmail as it’s own “stand-alone” application using Fluid.

This has been nice for a couple of reasons:

  1. It gives me browser independence. If I want to use Firefox for development, say, I can. If I want to browse the web with Safari, because the experience is better, I can. But I don’t need to have either up and running to check mail.
  2. I can fire up Gmail from spotlight (which I use like Quicksilver). I hit Cmd + Space hundreds of time a day to search my computer and launch programs. I need just hit Cmd + Space and then “G” and Return and Gmail is open.
  3. The Gmail logo sits there looking pretty in the dock.

But then Safari 3.0 was released. Despite numerous improvements, the change that effected me the most was one that didn’t allow my Gmail Fluid app (which used Safari) to add contacts by tabbing (only return works). I have enough muscle memory built up that this was actually a major problem for me every time I would search for and add contacts.

Then, when looking for info on Firefox 3 I saw Camino sitting there and remember using it before. Well I downloaded and installed it and for a speed test, openened Gmail. To my surprise it was fast – faster than it has been in years I would say. This got me wondering (aside from contemplating using this as my primary browser) if I could replicate my Gmail.app Fluid file using Camino somehow. Well, it turns out not to be that hard. Here’s how I made my Gmail faster and more usable:

  1. In Camino > Preferences > General Tab – make sure to check the box next to “Load the pages that were open before quiting” (and choose the default browser in which you would like links to open)
  2. Adjust any Tab preferences while you are in here.
  3. In Camino > View – choose to hide the toolbars, if you wish to make it seem more application like. You can always turn them back on by clicking the lozenge in the upper right corner of the browser window.
  4. Now that the boring stuff is done, find Camino in the Finder and choose “More Info”. Change the application name to Gmail.app.
  5. For this last step it helps to have had a Fluid app already installed that uses the Gmail logo. As this is the only way I know how to easily do this, just open the Fluid app and click on the icon in the upper left and hit Cmd + C to copy it.
  6. In the new Camino/Gmail app click to select the Camino icon in the upper left and hit Cmd + V to past the Gmail icon. Viola’, a fast Gmail app that is readily accessible via the OS.

About Ben Edwards

Designer of information and interactions; contributes as much with enthusiasm and drive as anything else; generalist; can migrate easily between discussions of databases, use cases, and Photoshop techniques; avid blogger (from the days when it didn't have a name); critic of bad design; organized and presented at the minnebar (un)conference in Minneapolis; married, no children, dog; loves travel. alttext.com, minnestar.org, @alttext
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