WebCatalog: install and run web apps natively

WebCatalog is a free cross-platform desktop program that allows you to install and run web applications natively on the device.

Depending on how you use your computers and the Internet, much of your digital life may happen already on the Web and no longer on your devices.

You may run email, chat, file hosting, media and other services in your browser of choice, and no longer as desktop programs.

The idea to move those services back to the desktop is not entirely new. There have been attempts in the past by browser developers or third-parties, to create engines that allow you to run web applications natively, or in dedicated browser windows.

WebCatalog

webcatalog

WebCatalog is available as a desktop program for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The engine is based on Chromium which is used to render the services on the desktop.

When you start WebCatalog you get the master list of services that it supports. You may use the built-in search to find services of interest as the list is quite large and requires scrolling.

Please note that you can only configure the services included in WebCatalog, and no other services. There is a submit new app request button however which you may use to suggest a new service for inclusion in WebCatalog.

As far as services are concerned, lots of popular services are supported. To name a few: Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Chess.com, Dropbox, Evernote, Feedly, GitHub, various Google services, Instagram, Netflix, Pushbullet, Skype, Spotify, and more.

Each service is listed with its name, icon, a link to the main web page, and an install button. To start using it, hit the install button first. The installation itself should not take long, and won't take up a lot of disk space either.

The install button is removed after the process, and you get an open and uninstall button instead listed there. Uninstall removes the application again from the system, open runs it in a new window on the desktop.

webcatalog run apps

What happens in that window depends largely on the service. Some services, SoundCloud for instance, don't require an account for usage. While you may sign in to an account anyway, you can start using them as a guest right away.

Most services do require an account however. You are asked to sign in to the service first before you can access your data or use the service.

How that is done depends on the service. Some let you sign in right away, others may require verification first before it can be used on the desktop.

The interface resembles that of a stripped down version of Chromium. You don't get an address bar and most of the other menu items, but you do get some.

You may use the menu to toggle fullscreen, navigate (right-click mouse is not working but shortcuts are), to clear browsing data, and copy URLs for the most part.

All installed applications and services are listed under installed in the main window. This gives you options to open them quickly rather than having to search or browse the master list of web apps.

Closing Words

If you prefer to run web apps, some or many, in a dedicated desktop environment instead of a web browser, you may find WebCatalog useful. Some may wonder why you'd want to do so. One reason that comes to mind is separation of these apps from your regular browsing. This may reduce tracking for instance, and reduces the chance of attacks that attempt to steal login data.

You do get less control though, cannot check URL or certificates quickly for instance. (via Caschy)

Now You: What's your take on the service?

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WebCatalog: install and run web apps natively
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WebCatalog is a free cross-platform desktop program that allows you to install and run web applications natively on the device.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Responses to WebCatalog: install and run web apps natively

  1. marcus March 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    This is pretty cool,ive gone back and forth so many times with win 7 and win 10 recently again went back to win 7 for good this time but one feature i really like about win 10 is pinning useful apps to taskbar,would really like to see more added to collection,in many cases i prefer to run a pinned app rather then browser depending on the service,thanks as always martin,regards : )

  2. Henk van Setten March 8, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    I try to use my browser as less as possible as an interface for online apps. My rule-of-thumb is: can I install some local piece of software that will do the very same job, and will still work fine even when I am offline? If yes, then I prefer to install and use such local software.

    Most of the services mentioned as examples in this post are things I would steer clear of. But of course you cannot avoid some online services. In such cases, I still prefer those that at least offer dedicated desktop software that I can install and (to some extent) manage myself. Such as dropbox.exe for Dropbox.

    Why? Because it separates different data streams, and because sometimes this will just suit me better than their browser interface. For example, for as long as it will keep working, I will continue to use an ancient version of spotify.exe (with auto-update disabled) because this gives me more simplicity and configurability than either their slap-in-your-face browser interface, or their overloaded latest desktop software.

    From this viewpoint, I do not really understand the need nor the advantages of using a dedicated "app-oriented-browser" like this WebCatalog.

    And to be honest, I also wonder about how safe my data would be with something like WebCatalog. Like, wouldn't it be tempting for them to try and profile users by combining data from all the different services used by one person? Call me paranoid, but somehow I don't like this. One the many aspects of online safety is a strategy called compartmentalization, which is the opposite of carrying all your eggs in the same basket.

  3. john4444 March 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    Looks like it only supports 64-bit OSes only:( (Note to self: upgrade soon)

    In any case, I've been using ICE on Linux - a "Site Specific Browser" - using Firefox as the backend. It's based on Prism (enhanced by the Peppermint OS guys) but works well on Mint and Ubuntu from my testing.

    While I haven't been interested in converting any websites into apps, I have used ICE to convert a number of local html/JS apps into standalone local apps. Very simple to use and allows the converted webpageApp to integrate into the system's start menu.

    The version I installed (for anyone that's interested):

    https://launchpad.net/~peppermintos/+archive/ubuntu/p7-release/+sourcepub/6427568/+listing-archive-extra

    More info: https://peppermintos.com/guide/ice/

  4. Shadess March 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    How about listing the available apps on the website, whoever runs this.

  5. WhyApps March 8, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    Generally, I never got the point of using apps. By using a browser I can bookmark my sites of interest (maps, shops, weather, news, etc.) and have the necessary addons for my personal needs.

    So let's say I want to shop ad Amaz..., where is the big difference between clicking on the A... bookmark or using their A...app ? I just don't get it what's so bodacious about these apps which are also cluttering the screen.

    Please enlighten me about my (possible) ignorance concerning the use of apps. I am old but still adaptive. :)

  6. ams March 8, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    "may reduce tracking"? What? Running a site's "app" in a crippled browser -- "you don't get an address bar and" (cannot install adblockers in order to prevent connections to unwanted "partner" sites) -- doesn't provide much ability to prevent tracking.

    • joe March 13, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

      The statement is perfectly appropriate (especially with the "may"). "Tracking" refers only to sites collecting data about you as you browse other websites.This tool can limit your browsing to a single website. If you use it for multiple sites, it stores the data from each browsing session separately. If you use Firefox for all of your normal browsing, never log into Facebook on Firefox, and use a site-specific browser for Facebook, then Facebook won't be able to track you all over the web. Granted, Facebook is not the best example, because you often want to follow links to external sites, and they add trackers to those links. If you're paranoid already and use all of the tools available to prevent tracking, using an SSB (site-specific browser) won't reduce tracking.

  7. ZippyDSMlee March 9, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    Any chance I can make an offline viewable creation kit wiki? Or is this for web apps only?

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