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Weekly Poll: Should Web Apps Only Run in a Browser Tab?

Google’s new packaged Chrome web apps are radically different from what we’ve been calling “web apps” all along, since they run 100% offline and their online parts feel no more “online” than a native app that syncs. For all intents and purposes, they’re “real” apps. We’ve been making fake “real” apps from web apps with tools like Fluid for OS X for years, letting web apps run in their own separate windows outside the real browser, but in the back of your head you always know that it’s little more than a trick. Let your internet connection go out, and boom — most web apps will loose your data at best, and totally fail to keep working at worst.

And yet, Chrome’s packaged web apps break the mold. They’re actual apps made from web code (HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and such), but they live on your machine and don’t expect you to always be online. Some of them, such as Caret, are honest-to-goodness offline apps that don’t have any online component at all. They’re just apps. It’s flipped the world around.

So, let’s say there’s two types of web apps: the normal kind you can visit in any browser, and the ones you have to install like Chrome packaged apps. The latter make perfect sense to run in their own window and launch from the Start Menu or Launchpad — they’re real native apps, really. But how about web apps that require you to be online anyhow, ones you can run from any browser just by visiting their site. Should those live in their own windows, too, like a normal app, or do you prefer to keep them in a browser tab where they feel like just another website and you’re reminded that they’re really virtual apps? We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether or not web and native apps — and the halfway house between the two that is Chrome offline apps — should have a difference, or if we’d all be better off if we treated all apps the same.

Ever since Google killed off Google Gears, users were left without any way to access their Gmail accounts without internet. Google said they were ending Gears because they wanted to focus on implementing HTML5 to get a newer, more complete, and less plugin-based system for offline email.

Even though it’s been a long time in the making, Google’s finally kept their word: the Offline Gmail app is now available for free in the Chrome Web Store. Let’s check out what it’s like!

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No matter where you live on Planet Earth, odds are you’ll have a holiday (or 3) before the end of the year. In America, the Christmas season seems to get longer each year, while on the other side of the planet in Thailand, my town of Tak has a week long festival celebrating the 18th century King Taksin right around New Years. And if November and December’s holidays aren’t enough, Chinese New Years is only a few weeks later.

This week, though, it’s Thanksgiving time for Americans (even Americans in Thailand), a time to remember the things we’re thankful for with the ones we’re most thankful for. Sure, there’s the usual festivities and food, but for web-addicted people, it can be a trying time away from your computer. Most of us spend too much time in front of screens already, but it can be tempting to pull out your smartphone under the table and check Tweets instead of eating turkey.

What’s the point of get-togethers, anyhow, if you’re going to stay online? So, that’s why we’re curious: how do you deal with internet on holidays? Do you try to stay offline and make more time for family? Or do you end up posting more pictures of the celebrations on Facebook and Instagram than ever before?

And by the way, here’s an early Happy Thanksgiving (for our American readers), Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years from the Web.AppStorm team!

Christmas Lights photo via lavandarfields on Flickr

Reading is an enjoyable experience irrespective of whether you read a book or an article online. It’s the quality of content that counts and not the mode of consumption. You can always read an article from a magazine at a later time, but it’s hard to do so online. Sure, you can use the bookmarking apps to store the links to read later, but isn’t the most elegant solution. That’s what Instapaper and Read It Later are for.

Instapaper recently released a massive and impressive update for iOS devices, while Read It Later has also recently announced a major revamp. Read It Later is an amazing app across all platforms, but when compared to Instapaper, the buzz it gets is far less. It isn’t like one app is less feature rich than the other. Both of them are used by hundreds of thousands, but Instapaper has an influential and vocal fan base.

After the break, let us take a sneak peek at the first batch of changes about to come to the Read It Later web app.

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Our contest is now closed, and the winner is James Eisenlohr. Congrats! Thanks for commenting, and stay tuned for more giveaways in the future!

Conventional wisdom would say that web apps generally are less feature-full than their native app counterparts. Google Docs is less polished than iWork or Microsoft Office 2010, but that’s just to be expected. And on mobile browsers and tablets, many web apps are much harder to use than native apps, but hey, it’s just a web app. You can’t expect so much, right?

LucidChart is one app that’s proving the conventional wisdom wrong. They’ve created a web app that runs faster and smoother than many desktop apps. Visio can drive you insane after using it for a few minutes, but we were very impressed at how nice LucidChart was at creating diagrams and more when we first reviewed it. Since then, the developers haven’t rested on their laurals. Instead, they’ve added a Visio file importer, offline support, and amazing integration with the iPad that lets you draw intricate diagrams quicker than ever.

Keep reading for a peek at the new features, and a chance to win a free year of LucidChart Professional! (more…)