Moving closer to the cloud

The first time I used Google Maps (almost 4 years ago?), I clearly remember thinking “This is the start of moving applications off the desktop and into the browser”.  Since then it appears that we’ve made slow, but steady, progress in that direction.

email, in my opinion, is an application that makes the most sense “in the cloud”.  That being said, there are benefits to having some level of desktop integration: keyboard shortcuts, alerts, pretty icons to click on, etc.

I’ve played with a couple of applications today that fuse the GMail web interface w/ thick client functionality on OS X.  They are MailPlane and Fluid.

MailPlane is specifically written to work with GMail only.  The level of integration they have is quite astounding: Drag’n'Drop attachments, email-friendly (from the KB-perspective) photos straight from iPhoto, Growl notifications, hot key support and many others.  I used it for the better part of the day, and liked it quite a bit.  The only downside (which probably isn’t much to most folks) is that it costs $25.

Fluid, on the other hand, is not written specifically for GMail.  It creates “Site-Specific-Browsers” for any web app you like.  It also allows for extension via User Scripts (I think it has some relationship to GreaseMonkey…but I haven’t dug deep enough yet).  In very little time, I was able to customize my new Gmail.app to integrate with Growl (desktop notifications on OS X) to alert me anytime a new mail arrived.

I like where they’re going with Fluid.  Right now, GMail is the only “app” that I spend a significant amount of time in (basically occupies a browser tab 24/7).  I could see Google Calendar or Google Docs getting their own Fluid app on the Danker-desktop in the near future.

For now, I think I’ll stick with Fluid over MailPlane.  I’m mostly looking for alerting of new messages and the little “badge” that tells me how many new messages I have on my dock icon…both of which are accomplished with Fluid.  That being said, if you’re a GMail power-user, MailPlane is likely money well spent.

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