Fluid (browser)Image via Wikipedia

Last January when I first got my MacBook Pro, I was searching for free software that I could use and I came across one that really intrigued me called Fluid. What it does is creates a Site Specific Browser (SSB) out of a website or web application, so you can add it to your Dock and treat it more like a desktop app.

With my limited knowledge of how a Mac ran at that time, I didn’t figure out that I could use other images for my shortcut (alias on a Mac) and didn’t like the resultant very blurry icon that I ended up with on my dock. So I put Fluid down as something interesting, but didn’t work for me. This year while I was searching for a different task manager, I came across Fluid again and remembered how I had tried it and didn’t like it before, but was still intrigued enough to look at it again.

This time when I tried it, I noticed the “other” and tried it. It gave me access to my computer’s files, so that I could use different images/photos as my shortcut image. Figuring out this simple function made it so that Fluid suddenly was a tool that I could use. I have downloaded several icon sets for my Mac and Picassa had saved all of them for easy access. After a bit of playing around, I found that a 256 x 256 pixel image works really well and created several shortcuts (alias) for the web applications that I use the most. Below is a copy of my Dock this morning:

Tools in my Dock: Finder, Hiveminder, Chrome, TweetDeck, NoteShare, Preview, Apple Mail, gMail, gCalendar, gDocs, Blogger, gReader, gSites, Word, iTunes, iPhoto, Photobooth, QuickTime, CleanMyMac, Stuffit, Picassa, Safari

There are a couple of more web applications that I want to add to my dock, like my school’s gDocs site, Infinite Campus and probably my online Picassa or Google Bookmarks.

Below is a screenshot of what the Site Specific Browser looks like with four of them open.

They open just as though they are an application and don’t take up one of your tabs in the browser, so you can quickly go back to the website or web application you want without having to find it in your open tabs. If you are like me usually there are too many tabs open at a time and it becomes a pain in the butt to find the one you want quickly. I am finding having my applications in the Dock is more of a time saver than I could have imagined.

One thing that I do like is when I create a Fluid shortcut (or SSB) is that when I click on links they open up in my browser or another SSB window (I just wish I had a bit more control over how that works, but that is a minor issue).

Review questions that I try to answer at the end of each review.

  • Do my students have access the product? No, they are not allowed to download software and put it on their MLTI laptops without special permission.
  • Is Fluid intuitive and easy to use or is there a steep learning curve? Once I figured out that the “other” took me to the files on my Mac, it became very intuitive and easy to create shortcuts (alisas) for use in my Dock. There are videos I could have watched, but I tend to just try something to see how it works for me.
  • How much does it cost? Free.
  • What are the other options that do the same function? I haven’t found anything, that is similar in function.
  • Whether it synchs well with my iPhone? Not applicable
  • Does it actually get used in my classroom. It is a personal use item on my personal Mac and I will use it that way, but unless I decide to download it and get it installed on my MLTI machine, (which might happen if I find it useful enough non my MBP), it is not really for classroom use.
  • On occasion what students think about a particular tool: Not applicable.
  • Will I use this web application? I have used Fluid for a couple of days now (I got to experiment with it a little once school break started) and now that I can use the icons that I like, I will be using it quite a bit.
  • How does it apply to Special Education? It really does not do a lot for a Special Educator, unless I create an alias to a specific Special Education related website that I use a lot i.e. the Maine Special Education Law/Regulations website. Other than saving a couple of keystrokes and quickly finding a specific application, I don’t see any big benefit for using Fluid in the world of Special Education.

The reality is now that I have figured out how to change the icons, Fluid will be in my toolbox. Fluid gives me the option to create a Dock Icon so that I can quickly and easily get to the webapps that I frequently use. Which will in the long run save me a bit of time, which is always important to me.

I know that Fluid has been around for quite a while, but it is definitely worth taking a look at and I am glad that I gave it another try.






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