Recently, the folk at Mozilla Labs released an interesting piece of software called Prism. The goal of Prism is to bring Web applications to the desktop. Last week, I learned that a prototype of Prism for Linux is available. So, I duly downloaded and installed it. I have to admit that I find Prism, and the concept behind it, quite intriguing.
Obviously, the first thing that you have to do it download Prism. Installing it is easy — just unpack the archive somewhere (I put it in the subdirectory
/bin in my home directory) and then run the executable
prism. This opens a dialog box that enables you to create a link to your favourite Web apps.
Just enter the information in the fields, and then click OK. A new icon is added to the desktop. Just double click the icon, and the Web app (say, Gmail) opens in its own window. While what you’re seeing is a browser window, it acts like an application window — say, OpenOffice.org Writer rather than Firefox. You can’t get to another Web site or application from that window.
So, you’re probably asking yourself why use Prism instead of setting up an icon that takes you directly to a Web application in a Web browser? As I said earlier, Prism creates what’s essentially an application window. You don’t have to worry about accidentally going back to another page or closing a browser window or tab. You have fewer distractions.
The good and not so good
After using Prism for a couple of days, I’ve come to like it a lot. I enjoy the quick, unfettered access to my favourite Web applications.
There are a few things that I don’t like, though. First, I need to start a new instance of Prism each time I want to add a new launcher to my desktop. I’d like to be able to add multiple launchers in a single go.
On top of that, there’s no way to specify the icon that you want to use when adding a launcher. You’re stuck with the default blue globe until you change the icon on your desktop.
I’d also like to see a way of including the user name and password for a Web app, so that I can automatically log in when I double click an icon. Perhaps someone has already found a way to do this — I’ll have to look around.
Looking to the future
Afte r using Prism for a while, I started thinking about some potential uses for it. One of them is to add some life to older, lower-powered laptop computer. If you get, say, a ThinkPad T30 or R40 with wireless capability, install a lightweight Linux distro and a lightweight window manager, you can have a decent mobile workstation. The only software you’d need on the system is Prism, and maybe a lightweight Web browser (like Epiphany or Galeon) for general Web surfing. This solution would be great for the home user, or in places like an Internet cafe.
I’m definitely going to watch the Prism project. As it grows, it will definitely become a lot more useful.
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