LearnQuick trick for pimping Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs

Ryan Carson
writes on July 28, 2008

We’ve just moved our email, calendar and documents over to Google Apps (thanks Keir!) and it’s amazing. The migration of our email wasn’t too bad (besides the fact I deleted my entire ‘To Respond’ folder by mistake – oops).

However, Google Apps isn’t news to any of you. What is exciting is the way we’ve rolled out ‘Single Site Browsers’ (SSB) to make using them much easier.

We’re using Fluid to turn Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar into stand-alone apps which sit in the Dock. If you’re on a PC, you can use Prism to do the same (although it seems a bit slower than Fluid).

Why is that cool? Two reasons:

1. It looks gorgeous
2. It makes using them much easier

Why is it easier?

Mainly because people are used to their email and their calendar being stand-alone apps. Going to a browser tab and typing in a URL just doesn’t flow naturally (also it’s too easy to mistakenly close the tab). Clicking on an icon in your Dock or Start Menu is natural. Also, you can add these SSBs to your Start folder so they load every time your machine starts.

How?

It’s super easy. Just download Fluid or Prism and tell it what URL you want to turn into a SSB. The problem is it’ll choose the site’s favicon for the app icon, which usually looks crap. Instead, download these icons first and then tell Fluid to use them for your app. Beautiful.

If you have any other tips for integrating Google Apps into your desktop, please share in the comments below.

41 Responses to “Quick trick for pimping Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs”

  1. I love Fluid and I’ve been using it with Gmail and Google Calendar, but when I try to use it with Google Docs, It constantly tries to open new tabs and windows via Firefox, instead of within the Fluid SSB. “Sites spawning new windows” is checked. I’d love to get the Fluid-Google Trifecta going here, but the popup situation is giving me ADD… anyone else having this issue?

  2. Great post. I agree, site specific browser are way to go.
    Tip: If you like to get even more out of Gmail, try the Mailplane 2.0 SSB:
    You’ll get multiple account support, great new mail notifications, more keyboard shortcuts, drag and drop attachments, an iPhoto plugin, powerful labeling, OmniFocus integration, and much more. 2.0 is currently beta and it contains many improvements.

  3. We’re testing GMail for office use…

    On thing I noticed right off the
    mailto:(john.doe@gmail.com] On Behalf Of john.doe@xyz.com I’m guessing they do this for spamming/spoofing reasons. Is this removed when you point the mail to your domain or set it up coorectly with your domain?

  4. @Charles – That icon is for an app called Things.

    @Todd – Thanks for stopping by. We love Fluid 🙂

  5. @Benjamin D.C.: Check that youâ€re using the latest version of Fluid, and make sure the relevant checkbox is checked in your SSBâ€s Preferences. The Dock badge should appear automatically.

    I have the latest version of Fluid (0.9.2.4) and I’ve checked the “Fluid attempts to show Dock badge labels” option. It actually does work with Reader but not with Gmail… Weird :/

  6. Charles on July 30, 2008 at 2:31 pm said:

    @Benjamin D.C.: Check that you’re using the latest version of Fluid, and make sure the relevant checkbox is checked in your SSB’s Preferences. The Dock badge should appear automatically. (To my knowledge, Prism doesn’t support this.)

    @Ryan: Where’d you get that great checklist icon — the leftmost one in your screenshot?

  7. Pretty cool, but I don’t have the small badge on my Gmail icon when I’ve got new emails. Any tip to get it?

  8. you don’t need to use spanning sync or any of the other apps anymore… google now has CalDAV support which means that google calendar and ical can talk nice to each other… instant updates baby! This is as of yesterday so everyone enjoy!

  9. Hey Ryan, thanks for telling the world about Fluid (and Chris’ excellent icons)! I’m glad you have found a home for Fluid on your desktop!

  10. Thanks for the shout out 🙂

  11. Allan Henderson on July 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm said:

    Great idea, thanks Ryan – I knew I should have held off my mailplane licence – Doh! BTW FOWA Miami was great.

  12. Great Post!

    Been using Fluid for a few weeks now too, great for google apps – saves a hell of a lot of time and looks a whole lot nicer with those icons than the google notifier.

    Where’s the Google Reader Icon from!?

  13. I use spanning sync for syncing iCal and Google Calendar, although I use Google Calendar on the desktop rather than iCal. However by syncing like this it allows me to sync my iPhone with iCal and therefore Google Calendar.

    Here is a good Google reader icon too: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=5&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjvstin.deviantart.com%2Fart%2FGoogle-Reader-icon-80952222&ei=ByCPSOPWFJC41gbswYy5Cw&usg=AFQjCNGG0oGZzVzFtgQMOgJFtUVCAiE42g&sig2=Z07G2uWeCXZqjHBjma4Jbw

  14. @Matt – The reason I’ve gone for Gmail through a SSB is because I like the power features of the Gmail interface – especially the keyboard shortcuts.

    @Chris & @Andrew – Thanks for the tips. Good stuff.

  15. @Matt – The reason I’ve gone for Gmail through a SSB is because I like the power features of the Gmail interface – especially the keyboard shortcuts.

    @Chris & @Andrew – Thanks for the tips. Good stuff.

  16. Vincent Callut on July 29, 2008 at 9:03 am said:

    I can’t use Google Docs (i’m using Gmail for personal purpose) because i received lots of Word or Excel documents from my customers, and the import function of Google is not good. You can’t open Word documents larger than 500 KB (come on !) and you loose all the page-settings. I would love to use Google Docs but it doesn’t work for me.

  17. Thanks for posting this Ryan, very interesting.

    I wonder why you have gone for a SSB for Google Mail when you can use Mail.app via IMAP?

  18. iCal can be synced with Google Calendar through a couple of different 3rd party apps. I prefer BusySync—works flawlessly in my experience.

    And just today Google added CalDAV support, so you can sync for free. Sounds like they have a few bugs to work out still, but a promising direction for Mac users.

    And with IMAP support for GMail and a synced iCalGCal combo, if you have an iPhone, you’re never offline.

  19. iCal can be synced with Google Calendar through a couple of different 3rd party apps. I prefer BusySync—works flawlessly in my experience.

    And just today Google added CalDAV support, so you can sync for free. Sounds like they have a few bugs to work out still, but a promising direction for Mac users.

    And with IMAP support for GMail and a synced iCalGCal combo, if you have an iPhone, you’re never offline.

  20. We also use Google Apps, but we use Thunderbird for Gmail and Google Calendar.

    I setup Gmail with IMAP, and also set the option to save local copies for offline viewing.

    Then I installed the extensions Lightning and Provider. Lightning gives you an integrated Calendar and Task list, while Provider lets you hook up your local Calendar with a Google Calendar.

    You can then make edits in Thunderbird which are reflected in your Google Calendar. Perfect.

  21. Google Docs now uses Google Gears (not sure if works on MAC, but surely it does?) which seems to work very well for offline access. Its what we use.

    You should find a little link in the top right hand corner, when you log in.

  22. Ben Brooks on July 28, 2008 at 7:01 pm said:

    If you want to update gCal via iCal check out http://www.busymac.com/

    Not tried it yet but it seems the most robust solution available without a subscription. There are other options available too (http://spanningsync.com/, http://www.macness.com/)

  23. I followed your suggestion here, which is awesome by the way, and then realized that my Better Gmail Firefox extension was not going to work. This is a deal breaker for me as I need my Gmail signatures for my all of my different accounts I use with Gmail. Too bad Prism doesn’t allow the use of Addons.

  24. Thanks for the tips Ryan. Im trying to see if i can migrate my office to google apps…microsoft suite is driving us nuts.

  25. Thanks for the tip on the icons….I’ve been using gmail and google cal in fluid for a while now and I love it, but I didn’t have any decent icons for them. I’ve also been using the gmail notifier from Google, it adds an easy little icon in the menu bar that lets you know about your email and your next few appointments, then opens straight to the fluid SSB when you click on it.

  26. Hey Dan

    For offline access to email and calendar, we use Mail and iCal. Obviously you can’t update Google Calendar through iCal, but at least you can view it.

    We can’t use Google Docs offline but it’s quite rare for us to be offline so it’s not much of an issue right now.

    Cheers,
    Ryan

  27. Hey Ryan,

    Great tips.
    One question I meant to ask… How do you guys deal with working offline – on a plane, train or away from Wifi? Do you use IMAP / Mail.app with Gmail, or just rely on the SSB?

    Thanks! Dan

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