The Best Mac Site-Specific Browser for Google Docs

Originally published at: The Best Mac Site-Specific Browser for Google Docs - TidBITS

If you’re a Mac user who wants to turn Google Docs into a standalone app using a site-specific browser, you have at least seven choices. However, as Adam Engst discovered, there’s a great deal of variability in the site-specific browser world, and a number of the options work poorly with Google Docs in particular.

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Thanks for this article, Adam, it was very informative. I hadn’t realised how many different SSB solutions there were out there — I was aware of Fluid, and just recently heard of Coherence X, but the others were all new to me. While I don’t have a pressing need for an SSB right now, I’ll definitely save a copy of this article into DEVONthink for future reference.

You can do this in Safari using the excellent StopTheMadness plugin. It’s not my primary use of this plugin, but it’s a great bonus:

I would highly recommend people check out this plugin if they use Safari, and possibly Chrome-based browsers too (not sure if it works in them as I don’t use them myself), it solves loads of little irritations that websites present. One of my recent favourites is the ability to hover over an irritating page element (e.g. some overlay the site decides is more important than what you’re trying to read) and press cmd-delete to remove it.

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Wow. What a magnum opus of an article on SSBs. It’s going to take some time to really work through it all.

Thank you for a great piece, Adam.

I’ll come back and add to this admittedly gushing post and share my results and discoveries.

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Thanks for this terrific article. I’ll check out some of these options. I work with several nonprofits that all have Google Workspace accounts. I use Kiwi <https://www.kiwiforgmail.com> for all of these accounts. I have access to all of the accounts, drives, calendars, etc., without logging in and out. So much better than using a browser. Early on, they offered the app free for nonprofits, so I have a free account at the moment. However, their pricing seems reasonable. I have no connection whatsoever with the folks at Kiwi; just a happy user.

Thanks for the suggestion—can you use Grammarly within Kiwi? And direct clicks on docs.google.com links to Kiwi using something like BrowserFairy. Send links from Google Docs out to your default browser?

Hi Adam. Yes, Kiwi has Grammarly integration beginning with the Premium level. You can see the Pricing page that lists integrations here: https://www.kiwiforgmail.com/pricing. I’m not sure how it would work with BrowserFairy, but you could test it out by signing up for a free trial. Since I was given a free account for a nonprofit, I have a version that is a hybrid of the Basic and the Premium. I don’t have Grammarly, Zoom Scheduler, BlueJeans, Virtu, or Gmail reverse conversation, but it’s tremendously helpful to have access to email, drives, calendars, etc., on all of my nonprofit Workspace accounts and personal gmail accounts in a “desktop” app without having to log in and out of each account.

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Why was it that you needed to use a separate browser like BrowserFairy rather than Chrome itself? Or did I misread this?

The second paragraph of the article explains it:

Yeah, perhaps go back and read again. BrowserFairy is a utility that redirects links meant for a default Web browser to a different app.

Site-specific browsers like Coherence and everything else discussed here break a particular Web app out into what is essentially a standalone Mac app. That’s the goal.

Ok, thanks. I will reread. :slight_smile:

Doug

Any Old Web Browser

one sticking point: directing clicks on outbound links to my default Web browser.

Why not Control-click the link to open the contextual menu and select ‘Copy Link’, and then switch to your default Web browser, press Command-T, Command-V, Return?

I almost always keep three Web browsers open (iCab, Safari, Chrome) for different purposes, and use this "Copy Link’ technique “to redirect links from one Web browser to another,” all the time.

Mark

Because that’s six actions instead of one. :slight_smile:

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So here’s a mystery. My previous Google Docs site-specific browser was named “Google Docs” (clever, I know). While writing this article, I kept the Coherence SSB separate by calling it “Coherence Docs.” But afterward, when I’d settled on Coherence, I renamed (or recreated, I don’t remember) the SSB as “Google Docs,” replacing the Epichrome SSB.

It has been working fine, exactly as I described in the article. But here’s the mystery. Whenever I restart, the old Epichrome SSB replaces the new Coherence SSB every time. The Epichrome SSB has a modified date matching the restart. There’s no login item that would do this, and I can’t think of any other way that an app would be replaced on restart.

Restoring the Coherence SSB from Time Machine puts everything back the way it should be, luckily, but I’m currently at a loss as to what could cause this.

Ideas?

One thing I didn’t see: which, if any of these, keep their cookies and so on separate from the browser they’re borrowing an engine from? I know that Fluid keeps a separate cookie store—what about the rest?

One of the most important things to me is being able to isolate some websites, and that’s what originally brought me to Fluid (and, for a while, Prism for Chrome): I can put Facebook into a SSB, never log into Facebook in my main browser, and there’s no chance that it’s secretly putting cookies in or tracking my browsing behavior anywhere outside of Facebook.

As far as I know, they all keep separate cookie stores, but it’s not something I looked into in detail.

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Very good survey of SSB options, thanks Adam! Partly as a result of this story I purchased licenses for both Coherence and Unite. License terms are restrictive though, had to buy a second license simply to be able to install on backup as well as primary machine. Very very few mac apps are that restrictive in my experience. But more unpleasant: you can’t move a Unite app to another machine. And there is a way to move a Coherence app but requires extra steps when setting up new machine or trying to put on a backup machine. So my experience so far is that I can’t recommend these and probably won’t use for anything important to my workflow

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Interesting—I hadn’t delved into the licensing situation since I needed only a couple of SSBs.

The quirk I mentioned above in The Best Mac Site-Specific Browser for Google Docs - #14 by ace continues to bedevil me, even after I’ve deleted Epichrome. It’s better now—it’s not replacing the Coherence SSB, but my Dock icon doesn’t work after a restart and I sometimes need to fiddle with Coherence to get it to launch. The last time I rebooted, there was a Google Docs folder with a Google Docs file in it.

Sometime I’ll sit down and really try to analyze what’s going on.