Turn any website into an app on your Mac

Fluid App logoAt FreeAssociates, we manage our projects with Basecamp, a wonderful, simple online system from 37Signals. I’m constantly closing the window — accidentally or through force of habit — then having to re-open it in my browser. I really just want it to act like an app on my Mac and function independently from my other web browsing.

Guess what? It can!

With Fluid, which was named a Macworld “Gem” for good reason, you can turn any website into a real application, running independently in its own separate window, with its own custom icon in your Dock. That’s how Basecamp now runs on my system. I’ve made one for Google Calendar, too, which is just like having it on my hard drive.

Such a simple, smart solution to an annoying problem — one I didn’t entirely realize I had!

(For you Windows users, you can try Google Chrome’s Application Shortcuts feature or Prism, which uses Firefox and is also available for Mac and Linux)


Apple logo with Steve Jobs silhouette

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steven P. Jobs (Image by Jonathan Mak)

How can I be a designer and not be moved by the death of one of the most brilliant designers of the modern age?

No, Steve Jobs wasn’t a graphic designer or an industrial designer or an interior designer or an architect or a fashion designer. But he was unequivocally a designer.

He envisioned not just products, but a new way of being in the world. A new way of working, and of playing. And he brought that vision to life.

He was the guy who decided things needed to be simple and beautiful. He was the one who dictated removing the clutter and enhancing the experience. He used the hands and hearts and brilliant minds of a huge team of stellar creators to sculpt a company — one that could create objects and adventures so beautifully designed that millions and millions of people wanted them. And wanted to be a part of his new vision of the world as well.

Was that world perfect? Not even close. But designed? Absolutely.

Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh in 1984

What a moment to have captured on video. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this was the single defining event that established our new world of technology. Suddenly the power to create and disseminate one’s creation was in the hands of everyone. Onscreen design and desktop publishing became reality, and enabled our entire business. All the basic ideas that have become Facebook, YouTube, WordPress (not to mention Windows, Word and PowerPoint)  were already right there — inside this little beige box.

40 years of practice makes perfect

No, not me. Apple.

Here’s an amazing archive of 40 years of Apple advertising. It took them a while to get it right, but when they did — wow!

Apple ad from 1976

Apple ad from 1976

It’s fun to see how a company with ideas this innovative, this targeted, this elegantly simple, still had to struggle through a whole lot of mediocre concepts to find their voice. Then, of course, in 1981, they hired Chiat/Day. And the earth shook.

Back in the Dark Ages, I did some computer programming. Just a dab of Fortran on those hideous punchcard-driven mainframes they had at UCLA. I thought it was something I ought to know about. But an Apple II was the first personal computer I ever got my hands on. One of my business partners bought it for himself  — he didn’t bring it to the office, since there wasn’t yet anything you could do with it that we needed. Or so we thought. But when he showed me VisiCalc (the precursor to Lotus 123 and Excel) I was blown away. We tend to forget the horrible experience of running estimates through an adding machine, then typing them up by hand. Then having to change one figure and re-doing everything. Auuggh!

Apple changed everything. They realized you had to design the whole computing experience. They introduced us to the graphical interface. They brought us the mouse. Safe to say, there would be no Windows without Apple. But even more than that, they made using a computer fun.

And their advertising reflects all that. “1984” was as cool a commercial as the Macintosh was a computer. The simple ads where translucent, colorful iMacs are arranged like a flower transformed how people perceived the entire category. The iPod billboards were knockouts in their graphic impact and unspoken message of utter coolness. And I can’t wait to watch the new “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” TV spots.

What a treat to be able to look back on this stuff all in one place and revel in all the captured genius.