Google Testing Chrome App Launcher and New Hosted Apps in Chromium, Chrome Canary

December 19, 2013 - Written By Jeremiah Nelson

The Chrome for Android beta recently got the ability to add any webpage to the home screen and essentially turn it into a web app. The feature is really useful. Google recognizes this as well, and is building similar functionality into Chrome OS, Chromium, and Chrome Canary. Chromium is the open-source browser that Chrome is built on, and Chrome Canary is the bleeding-edge developer version of the Chrome browser. Because the feature is being tested in Chrome right now, we’re hoping that Google brings it to the Chrome browser for all platforms.

Francois Beaufort announced the new feature on his Google+ page yesterday. In order to enable the functionality in Chrome OS, you’ll need to be on the Developer channel. In Chromium and Chrome Canary, you can turn the feature on by enabling the experimental chrome://flags/#enable-streamlined-hosted-apps flag. Once the flag is enabled, you simply go to any website, open the Chrome menu and select Tools, then click on “Create app from this website…”. This will open the Chrome App Launcher and you’ll see your webpage as an app that you can click to open up. Super simple. When you click on the web app, it opens Chrome and navigates to that website. This is a genius way to handle your bookmarks and put them close at hand, all the time.

The Chrome App Launcher looks like it works on Windows and Mac, as long as you’re using Chromium or Chrome Canary. Of course it also works in Chrome OS. Google’s goal here appears to be to create a seamless experience across platforms and keep your Google services close to you at all times. They don’t want you to have to be running Chrome OS on your laptop (or desktop) in order to get this new Chrome App Launcher functionality.

This new feature is only available if you’re looking for it; it’s not available by default yet. Keep in mind that Chromium and especially Chrome Canary are designed for developers and testing. Chrome Canary is not suitable as a daily driver. Thankfully, both browser options can be installed side-by-side with your current installation of Chrome. That means you can test out these cool new features before they are ready for prime time, then switch back to your stable Chrome experience. We certainly hope that Google brings this feature to the stable Chrome channel quickly.