Custom Chrome Applications

Austin Haedicke bio photo By Austin Haedicke Comment

Creating custom / local Chrome Applications isn’t a novel concept. However, using that information in conjunction with my Linux applications that use a browser-based front end; as well as a handy Chrome application (made by someone else) was new to me and I found it extremely convenient and useful. Basically, the information isn’t new, but the process of putting all together was something I’d never thought of before.

Overview: Web Apps, Servers, and Bookmarks

Web Apps: Google Chrome’s ability to install browser-based applications means that they are essentially agnostic of the operating system they run on (given the dependency of chrome or one of its variants). You probably spend a good deal of time in your browser anyway so lets make it a bit more practical.

Servers: If you’re a Linux user you probably make use of some server based apps, or apps that (can) run a web-base graphical user interface through your web browser. What is actually happening here is that the app is runing a small local server on your home network.
Examples include Syncthing, Transmission, and CUPS printers.

Bookmarks: Bookmarks, and their respective folders, are useful but it has been my experience they become more clutter than they’re worth.
For somethings they are useful for archival purposes (e.g. I have a book mark folder for ‘to read’ news and journals and also a folder for recipes). However, when it comes to technichal suppport some Google ninja skills usually find what I want faster than scowering through a, perhaps not even relevant now, pile of bookmarks. At any rate, the above mentioned web apps / servers are usually atop my bookmark list so that I have quick access to them.

The ‘New Tab’ Page:

There are apps in Chrome’s Webstore (such as this one) that will change your ‘new tab page’ to the chrome://apps page. That eliminates a few clicks in and of itself when you open a new tab all your apps are right in front of you. Just Ctl + T, click, and you’re rolling. There’s no scrolling through bookmark lists and no screen clutter (as with the browser’s bookmark bar itself), not to mention it will clear a few spaces in your said bookmark list.

Creating Custom Chrome Applications:

There are several guides out there (such as this one from How-To-Geek) that describe the sub-five-minute process of creating custom web apps. The only caveats I found to such guides are that the .pem file needs to stay out of the root folder when you compile that app, and the icon image must be .png format.

Connecting Server Apps:

This process is pretty straightforward and relies on the above linked guide:

  1. Name and describe the application however you’d like.
  2. Google for an image icon (.png format) that you’re satisfied looking at every day.
  3. Change the web url to the local address your Linux app uses, something like https://192.168.1.2 and add the port number if needed (such as for Syncthing -> https://localhost:8384).
  4. Follow the necessary steps in the above guide.
  5. Install the chrome app liked above to set chrome://apps as your ‘New Tab Page.’
  6. Enjoy!
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