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How to Install and Use Ubuntu’s New Web Apps Feature

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Install Ubuntu’s new web app feature – included by default in the upcoming Ubuntu 12.10 – to see unread email in your messaging menu, control music playing on websites from the sound menu, and more.

This feature makes web apps first-class citizens of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop. The preview release supports over 30 websites, including Gmail, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Angry Birds.

Installing Web Apps Integration

To install this feature in Ubuntu 12.04, launch a terminal and run the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webapps/preview
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unity-webapps-preview

Log out and log back in to enable the feature in Ubuntu’s Unity desktop after installing it.

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Using Web Apps Integration

Currently, web apps integration only functions with Chromium or Mozilla Firefox. With the feature installed, visit a supported website in one of these browsers and you’ll see an integration prompt.

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After you agree, the web app will be integrated with your Ubuntu desktop. Each web app will appear in your Dash, so you can easily search for open them like desktop apps. You can also pin them to your launcher.

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Some web apps will appear in your messaging menu and display a count of unread emails, tweets, or other messages.

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Music websites like Grooveshark and Pandora will appear in your sound menu, so you can control them without switching to a browser window.

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Web apps can display notifications – for example, the BBC news web app displays updated news with desktop notifications.

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Web apps are also integrated with Ubuntu’s HUD – you can press Alt and start typing to quickly activate and search their menu items, just as you can with desktop applications.

Supported Websites

Here’s a list of currently supported websites. Visit any of the websites to see an integration prompt.

Mail

  • Gmail
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Hotmail (Windows Live Mail)
  • Yandex Mail
  • QQ Mail
  • Mail.ru

Social Networks

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • VK

Music & Videos

  • Groovershark
  • Pandora
  • Hulu
  • YouTube
  • Last.fm
  • Libre.fm
  • Yandex Music

Games

  • Angry Birds (chrome.angrybirds.com)
  • Cut the Rope
  • Lord of Ultima
  • Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances

News

  • Reddit
  • Google Reader
  • BBC News
  • CNN News
  • Google News
  • Yahoo! News
  • Yandex News

Other

  • Google Docs
  • Google Calendar
  • Amazon Cloud Reader
  • Amazon
  • WordPress.com
  • Launchpad
  • Subway IRC

Thanks to OMG! Ubuntu! for compiling a lot of this information, particularly the list of supported websites!

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 07/21/12

Comments (5)

  1. Green Star

    Thanks for the post, if any one already tried I have a question, is there any way to remove the launcher icons and keep the rest of functionality. For example after integrating gmail, it automatically adds a launcher, the only way to remove the launcher is by unselecting gmail in Firefox->Preferences->Unity window. By doing this I also loose the gmail related options in ‘Messaging Menu’. I dont like the launcher buttons but I like the ‘Messaging menu’ options.

    Let me know how the google calendar integration works, other than calendar launcher button I dont see any other useful stuff with it. It would be nice if it lists my events in some place like under ‘date and time’ popup menu?

  2. TheFu

    This sounds like a great idea, provided the browser sandbox isn’t breached.
    We don’t need another OCX debacle.

    I don’t know anything about how this works behind the scenes, but Mozilla had an App to integrate websites with the desktop https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Prism for years, but I haven’t seen it advertised recently.

  3. cam2644

    It would be good to see this feature expanded to take in other email servers. Not everyone likes GMail,Hotmail etc

  4. zarnaik

    Does this feature work with other versions like x/l/kubuntu?

  5. Jerry Reed

    Nice feature, but I have discovered that the Gmail messaging and other web app functionality and integration disappears or stops working as soon as the browser is closed. Once the Chromium browser is closed the messaging envelope icon changes from a blue color back to white and the web app disappears from the messaging drop-down list. Hopefully there will be an adjustable setting at some point.
    Also, the same applies to the app if it is anchored to Unity. The app opens with a browser tab (without the browser toolbar) but the alerts do not function unless the browser is open in general iether with this or some other app or URL.

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