The day has finally come; webapps are now treated like real, native OS apps. Thanks to Google’s new Chrome Web Store, it’s easier than ever to discover and install exciting new webapps. Although some of the webapps are simply links to existing webapps, including some we’ve reviewed here on Web.AppStorm, there are also some new apps just for Chrome.
This brings a few new features to the Chrome browser, since you can now install, tweak, and remove webapps from your browser. Let’s dig in and see what you can now do with webapps in Chrome.
Getting New Apps
Ready to get some new webapps or add some old favorites to Chrome? Head over to the Chrome Web Store via the new Web Store button on your New Tab page, or just go directly to chrome.google.com/webstore. We only saw the Web Store link in Chrome’s New Tab page after installing an app, so you’ll likely need to go to the link the first time.
Similar to the iOS App Store or the Android Marketplace, the Chrome Web Store lets you browse apps by category and also prominently displays featured apps. Google’s also made curated collections of the best apps for a variety of purposes. This is a great way to discover new webapps and rediscover old favorites.
Interestingly enough, the Web Store is now the new home for normal Chrome extensions and themes as well. You’ll find these down the left side of the Web Store.
If you find an app that looks interesting, you can quickly get more info about the app by hovering over it. A small popup will open showing you the app’s price, a quick description, and users’ ratings. Most webapps are free, at least for their basic plan, but the Web Store does contain some for-pay apps as well.
Click an app to go to its page, where you can view screenshots and videos of the app, depending on what the developer added. Scroll down to see other users’ review of the app, or click Install to add this app to Chrome. You’ll need to be logged into your Google account to add an app, so if you’re not already you’ll be prompted to login.
Seconds later, a new tab will open in Chrome with your new webapp listed along with others you’ve added. By default, your favorite sites will now show up in a list on the bottom of your new tab page, with webapp icons taking up the majority of the page. You can switch back to showing your most visited sites by clicking the minimize button over the apps section.
Tweaking Your New Apps
Even though many of the webapps are just links to existing webapps you may have already been using, you can do more with them in Chrome once you’ve installed them as a webapp. Hover over the top right corner of a webapp icon, and click on the gear icon that appears. Now you can select if you want the webapp to open as a regular tab, pinned tab, or full screen, or tweak its options if available. Or, if you don’t want to keep the webapp, simply select Uninstall to remove it.
If you’re running the dev version of Chrome, you can also select to run webapps in a new window. This is a nice way to run apps in a chromeless Chrome window, which makes them feel a lot more like a native app rather than a webapp.
Many apps don’t contain options that you can edit locally in Chrome, so the Options link on their gear menu will be greyed out. If your app does contain options, you can tweak them much like you would tweak options in a standard Chrome extension.
Sync Your Apps
If you use Chrome on multiple computers, you can keep your favorite webapps synced between all your different Chrome browsers. Chrome’s built-in browser sync now supports syncing webapps in addition to extensions, bookmarks, and more.
To setup or change your sync settings, open the Chrome Options window from the gear menu in the top toolbar. Click Sync or Customize in the sync section of the Personal Stuff tab, then sign in with your Google Account and select the things you want to keep in sync. Then repeat the steps on any other computers you want to keep in sync, and your Chrome experience will be the same between all of your browsers.
Want to keep up with the webapps you’ve installed? Browse to the Your Apps page on the Chrome Web Store to see all the apps you’ve installed. This gives you an easy way to see any apps you’ve paid for, and also gives you a chance to easily leave feedback about the apps you’ve used.
We’re very excited about Google’s new push toward promoting webapps. This is a great way for users to discover and add new apps to their browser easily. Even if many of the apps currently are only links to existing apps, the Web Store at least makes it easy to find and bookmark webapps. Hopefully developers will quickly fill the store with more unique apps that push the browser even further.
However, there’s also lots of room here for improvement. The new tab page can only hold a relatively small number of app icons, so Chrome needs a better way to manage installed apps. Additionally, there really needs to be a way to organize apps as you please, since currently they’re just listed in the order you added them.
We’re excited to see how Google progresses with the Web Store and Chrome. In the meantime, what apps have you discovered in the Web Store?