How to Make Web Apps Shine in Gnome 3.10

gnome3webapps

Getting Web Apps Right

If you’re like most people, you spend an awful lot of your time working with a computer in a web browser.  And that’s great!  The cloud is the next frontier for just about everyone, and the developers of Epiphany understand this.  If you’ve had any experience appifying your favorite web services, you’ll notice that it’s pretty hit-and-miss — unless you’re using Gnome.

In Windows, you can pin sites you visit in Internet Explorer to the taskbar, causing a separate instance of IE to launch the page you intend to use.  It’s clever enough to grab the favicon of the site you wish to appify, and transform it into a system icon.  Not bad, really.  Though it just doesn’t feel like a real app when it launches with all of Internet Explorer’s controls.  KDE offers a similar function with reKonq.  With reKonq, you can easily appify a webpage into a sleek application with hardly any browser controls.  This is how it should be!  So what’s wrong with that?  reKonq web apps don’t play well when more than one is open at a time.  For instance, if I appify Spotify and Google Books, and have them open at the same time, my kpanel will show only a reKonq icon.  If you’re using the default panel settings, these might be grouped together under the reKonq icon.  In relation to Windows 8, this is one step forward and one step backward placing both environments on equal footing.

This is where Gnome 3 shines.

With Epiphany, you are able to save a web page as an application just as easily as with reKonq, but Epiphany will generate a .desktop and grab the page’s favicon .  There is only one problem, and it’s one that you can fix very easily.

Gmail Android Icon

Gmail Android Icon

I’ve made several web apps so far, and they work so great!  I’ve got one for Google Maps for which I use a 512×512 .png Android icon for.  Overall, it feels just like an Android app on my Gnome desktop.  I’ve got one for Google Books, and Spotify, too!  For this example, we’ll make one for Gmail.  I took the liberty of Googling for a nice Gmail icon in .png format.  Just right-click ==> Save As the image on the right.

Now, open Epiphany, or ‘Web’.  Navigate to Gmail and login (or don’t, just go the place where you wish the app to start).  Click the gear on the top right and select “Save as web application”.  Notice the awful looking 16×16 icon you get.

Gmail's 16x16 Favicon

Gmail’s 16×16 Favicon

Now, we just need to navigate to where the .desktop entry was generated.  Open a terminal and cd to Epiphany’s config directory.

cd ~/.config/epiphany/

Did you name your app Gmail?  If so, you should see a directory in here labeled “app-epiphany-gmail-someuniqueidentifier“.  someuniqueidentifier will be different for you than it was for me, so cd in to that directory.

cd app-epiphany-gmail-someuniqueidentifier

You’ll see a file named app-icon.png.  This is your icon.  Let’s not completely destroy it.  Instead, let’s rename it in case we want to use it later.

mv app-icon.png app-icon.png-bak

Finally, let’s move the attractive icon you downloaded above to the properly directory and be sure that it’s named app-icon.png.  Assuming you’re using the file above, and it’s in your Downloads directory, do this;

mv ~/Downloads/Gmail-icon.png ~/.config/epiphany/app-epiphany-gmail-someuniqueidentifier/app-icon.png

…and Voila’!  You may need to logout and log back in before Gnome will notice a change in your .desktop entries.  Is there a way to refresh this manually?  I’m not sure.


Dean Howell

Dean Howell has over a decade of experience with Linux and nearly 2 decades of experience with computers in general. Currently, Dean is Editor-in-chief of The Powerbase and also works for one of the world's largest providers of Linux-based NVRs.

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