Flotato is a very smart way to get web apps on your Mac

I've been playing with a new Mac app Flotato, and it's so nice and so smart in the way it works that I wanted to share it. Flotato is a way to create small (or large) app windows for apps that you normally use on a browser tab. It is lightweight and easy to use once you rock around it, although it takes a minute to understand because it works differently than you are used to.


Chances are that a significant portion of the computer combinations that you run on your Mac take place within web apps, probably on tabs. Tabs are great, but they are also the worst. Operating systems have created user interfaces for 30 years that make it easier to start between apps and switch apps, but many of those efforts have been wasted. Apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Asana, Twitter, Feedly and a whole host of others can get lost in small pinned tabs.

The trick is to take these web apps and break them down into independent windows, a kind of customized web browser for just one app. There have been many solutions over the years, including Liquid if you want to roll your own or electron as a developer who wants to package it all. But there are problems with those solutions. In particular, Electron has become the source of malice because it can add a lot of extra overhead to what a simple browser tab would do.

Now there is a new solution called Flotato. It does almost the same as those other apps, giving you a separate app window for each web app that you want to use. But Flotato & # 39; s approach is so new and ingenious, I think it's worth it, even though it's early in development.

When you start Flotato, it shows you a whole range of possible web apps with a small button that says "get it." If you click on that button, Flotato creates an app for that thing in your Applications folder. You open it, it opens the web app that you have chosen and you log in. It's simple enough, but what it actually does is pretty amazing.

To create a new Flotato app, literally duplicate the Flotato app in the Mac Finder and rename that copy. So instead of using Flotato & # 39; s launcher, you can create one yourself. When you open the app that you have renamed, Flotato recommends which webpage you want to open based on the app's name, and it opens it. (You can set it manually in preferences if you need it.) It's just a super smart way to create new web apps, and it's much easier than other methods.

It also does some very neat things with the icons. First, it automatically sets the icon to something suitable for each app, often a high-resolution favicon. For certain apps, it can automatically add badges for unread messages. Google Calendar will switch to today's date. If you wish, you can set the app icon as a live view of a custom cutout on the web page itself (for example, if you keep track of stock or web traffic or something like that, that number may be visible in your dock).


Flotato windows are deliberately chrome-free – and I mean that in both literal and metaphorical ways.

Literally there is no UI chrome. Even the small traffic light buttons are hidden by default. This makes the apps look as if they are floating (hence the name). You can set to ask for desktop or mobile versions of a web app, so you can have very small, narrow windows for certain apps, if you want.

Metaphorically, Flotato uses the Mac's native WebKit engine, so in theory it should be much less stressful for your processor and RAM than for Electron apps or, in some cases, Chrome tabs. There are a few extra software tricks on top of using the operating system's rendering engine, but it's still much lighter than with Electron. Flotato & # 39; s developer Morten Just tells me it's faster because "there are no plug-ins, no bundled browser renderer, no javascript bridges, no bookmark background synchronization, just a Webkit 2 webview with improper adjustments."

Anecdotal tests show that "Flotato for Twitter (uses) only 10% of Chrome memory usage with the same app", and apps such as Trello can be much smaller. Just tell me that in some cases Flotato also uses the mobile version of pages, which can also reduce their use of resources. My own anecdotal tests show that Slack uses about half as much RAM in a Flotato window as in his Electron app.

Like I said, Flotato is developing quite early. I use multiple Google accounts and the interaction between Flotato & # 39; s attempt to automatically set the URL based on the name of the app and the associated cookie structure has caused me some headaches. For example, I can't log in to Feedly because my personal Gmail is used for authentication, while other Flotato apps use my Gmail work.

Recently Chrome on the Mac has the ability to create a & # 39; shortcut & # 39; for a web page or web app, made possible as a & # 39; separate window & # 39 ;. In fact, it allows you to display the web apps on a tab and create them in a separate "app" on your Mac. You will find it under the menu with three dots under & # 39; More utility & # 39; s & # 39 ;.

I have used these Chrome apps a lot, but although they are useful, the question is whether they are really lighter than Electron apps. I haven't tested Flotato to see if I want to make it my most important way to use web apps. But after using it for a few weeks, I see its potential.


Flotato is free if you make a few apps, then it's $ 14.99 for a pro version that allows unlimited apps. If you've buried a lot of things in tabs, it's worth taking a quick look – if only because it's great fun to play with.

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