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Doug Behr & Ken Getz: Turn browser apps into desktop apps

I use Google Inbox for my email in Windows 10, but I get tired of having to keep a browser window open all the time. I often close the browser when I’m done working with email by accident, and forget that I need to keep it open for email. I’d love it if I could create some sort of separate desktop application just my Google Inbox email. Can you help?

This problem is the very reason why many people use a dedicated email client desktop application, like Windows Mail, or Thunderbird on Windows, or Outlook or Mac Mail on a Mac.

If you want to use the Google Inbox user interface, you need a browser window or an app on your iOS or Android device.



(The user interface is awfully nice — check it out at google.com/inbox, and once you’ve set it up, browse to inbox.google.com.)

There is no client application that presents this user interface to you as a separate window, at least on Windows.




On the Mac, you can use the MailPlane app (http://www.mailplane.com — Ken uses this application daily) or several other newly created (and untested by us) applications that present this Web interface wrapped up in a desktop application.

If you’re a Gmail user on a Mac, Ken can’t recommend MailPlane highly enough — it’s a wonderful wrapper around Gmail, including Inbox and Calendar, that works exceptionally well. Highly recommended!

But back to the point — on Windows, you’ll need some extra help to set up Google Inbox in a separate window.

The goal would be to have Google Inbox act like a standard Windows desktop application, and you can do this, with the right tools!

A browser application that looks and acts like a desktop application is called a “site-specific browser” — it’s a way of making a browser window work like a desktop app, and that’s the goal here.

Google Chrome, the browser from Google, makes this relatively easy, on Windows (not on the Mac, for reasons unknown to us).

Start by ensuring that you have a recent copy of Google Chrome installed on Windows (http://www.google.com/chrome).

Start Chrome, browse to the Google Inbox site (or whichever site you want to create a site-specific browser for), and click on the three-line menu in the upper-right corner of the browser window. (That icon is often called the “hamburger”—no kidding!—because it kind of looks like a hamburger with bun and filling. We don’t make this stuff up.)

From that menu, choose More Tools and then Add Taskbar. The Add Taskbar menu pops up a dialog box that displays what the application will be called — change it if you want — and make sure to check the Open in Window checkbox.

Click Add. This action adds a new item to the Task Bar. That’s it! You now have an icon on the Task Bar that you can click at any time to open a browser window specific to Google Inbox (or any other site).

It looks and feels like any other desktop application.

For more information, check out the article here: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/use-chrome-create-windows-10-app-website/

Replace a spinning hard drive with a solid state drive

I have an aging laptop, and it’s feeling slow. It takes what feels like forever to boot. I’ve heard that replacing my hard drive with a faster disk will speed up the computer. Is that true? If so, how do I do that?

It’s true: the older a computer gets, the slower it seems to feel.

We’ve all experienced this, and it’s not that the computer is getting slower, for the most part: In general, software gets more complicated and resource-intensive over time, and as you upgrade your operating system and applications, the whole thing just seems to bog down. Microsoft and Apple continually work on speeding up the boot times of their operating systems, but on an older computer, that work doesn’t seem to help. Common knowledge indicates that there are two relatively simple ways to upgrade a computer: Add more RAM/memory, up to a point: More than 8 gigabytes of memory, for most people, will be overkill.

Not all computers support this much memory, or adding memory at all, but if you have less than 8GB and you have the option to add that much, and if you currently have less than 4GB of RAM in your computer, it’s worth considering a memory upgrade. The other way to upgrade a computer is to replace its spinning hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs process data much faster than spinning drives, and they run cooler, use less battery power, and are quieter than spinning/standard hard drives, as well. The only problem is that they’re significantly more expensive than standard hard drives, at this point; the difference is getting smaller month by month, but it’s still there.

At this point, on Amazon.com, a 500GB laptop hard drive is around $50, while an equivalent SSD is around $150. In our eyes, the speed difference makes the cost worth it.

To replace your hard drive, you’ll need a new drive, along with some way to connect the new drive to your computer. We recommend a drive enclosure that supports a USB connection (here’s one Ken has used: http://goo.gl/yRmnwc), generally costing around $10. With hardware in hand, put the hard drive into the enclosure, connect it to your computer using a USB connection, and then back up your existing hard drive to the new one.

You can use few software like Macrium Reflect (http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx), or if you have Windows 10, you can use the imaging backup software built in (http://www.windowscentral.com/how-make-full-backup-windows-pc). Once you have a complete hard drive backup, you can replace your existing hard drive with the backup you just created.

Assuming you backed up to an SSD drive, your computer should run significantly faster. Obviously, this task is not for everyone — if you need help, engage a professional. But as you can see, it’s not terribly difficult, and it’s hard to “mess it up.”

And replacing your hard drive with an SSD drive will definitely give you a bit more life from your aging computer.

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to questions@techtipguys.com.


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