It’s a long overdue match, really — if the Google Drive productivity suite is considered the centerpiece of Google’s web app catalog, and the Chrome Web Store is the catalog, why weren’t the two combined? Google has seen the light by turning Docs (text), Sheets (spreadsheets) and Slides (presentations) into neatly packaged web apps that can be installed through the Chrome browser. New Chromebook owners won’t even have to go that far, as the trio will surface automatically in the Chrome OS app list over the next few weeks. The web app bundles might be simple, but they could be tremendous helps for anyone who wants to punch out a few quick edits while on the road.
Mozilla’s love of web apps is more than obvious; we just haven’t had a real chance to try the Firefox Marketplace that represents a large part of the company’s app strategy. The doors are at last open for a peek, although Mozilla has chosen the unusual path of giving mobile users the first crack: Android users willing to live on the bleeding edge of an Aurora build of Firefox can browse and run those web apps in Mozilla’s store. Everyone else willing to venture into the Marketplace will have to wait until their own Firefox builds receive a matching update, including that rare group with access to Firefox OS. We’re not quite in a rush to try a first wave of apps in an alpha-grade browser. Should you be the sort who thinks that even beta releases are too sluggish, however, your gateway to the Marketplace awaits at the source links.
Firefox 15 is barely fresh off the vine, and we’re already looking at a beta version 16 for both desktop platforms and Android. Mozilla’s test release builds in the first support for web apps that play nicely with the Mozilla Marketplace; as long as titles have a slight amount of extra formatting, they can slot into Firefox without hiccups. More treats exist if you’re running certain platforms: the Android crowd receives a Safari-style Reader Mode that strips out the fluff from pages, while Mac users see the once test-only VoiceOver support flipped on by default to improve accessibility. Even developers get a little something special through a quick-access toolbar and more readily accessible CSS4 scripting. If any of this sounds tempting, there’s a pair of source links waiting for your attention.
Aw, wouldn’t you look at the cute little… wait. Right, there’s a Chrome OS update. At its heart, the upgrade to Google’s cloud-based platform introduces a streamlined app list that both occupies less space and carries an internet-wide search box. It’s also possible to save files directly to Google Drive, and audio can now play through either HDMI or USB. Don’t lie to yourself, however: the real reason you’ll rush to update your Chromebook today is newly added support for custom wallpapers, which guarantees all-day, everyday viewing of your most favorite dog in the whole wide world. Or at least, a nice change of pace from Google’s run-of-the-mill backdrops. Isn’t it so sweet?
Facebook App Center goes globetrotting with 7 new countries, blankets all of the English-speaking world
Facebook’s App Center is having its passport stamped quite a lot lately. Just days after the HTML5 app portal set foot in the UK, it’s making the leap to seven more countries. Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey will all get a crack at using web apps both on the desktop as well as in the Android and iOS native clients. The new group is coming onboard in the next few weeks. In the meantime, countries where English makes a frequent appearance — Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the US — now supply the App Center for every single user. To help speed along the virtual customs claims, Facebook is trotting out a translation tool to get developers on the right track. It shouldn’t be long before App Center is a mainstay of the entire Facebook world, even though we may end up cursing the company after hour three of a Jetpack Joyride marathon.
Facebook is no stranger to letting members use real money in web apps, but only for in-app purchases. Its new App Center on the web and in mobile versions will let you buy web apps that have an up-front cost to use rather than shoehorning you into a freemium or subscription model. The portal will even have its own shopping portal, although it’ll mostly be based around — surprise — recommendations coming from your social network profile. The addition should, in theory, lead to premium games and other apps that wouldn’t fit into the Facebook Credit mould. Facebook is taking developer beta sign-ups now, although the apps themselves will have to wait.
If you’ll recall, it was only a few weeks ago when Flickr announced Aviary was replacing the vanished Picnik as the main photo-editing tool on the site. Now, continuing its ongoing makeover, the Yahoo-owned image hosting service is introducing yet another feature. Uploadr, as it’s very cleverly dubbed, is an HTML5 web apparatus, which Flickr says will make for a “completely new uploading experience.” There’s a few major attributes Uploadr brings to the table, including improvements in the speed department, a drag-and-drop UI and bigger file size limits for paid and free users. Flickr notes that folks will now see a boost in uploading speeds of up to 30 percent, while “some” international users may see a spike of somewhere between 50-60 percent. As for file sizes, the limits have been bumped to 50MB for Pro hogs and 30MB for those enjoying the freebies. Uploadr’s set to be rolling out over the “next couple of weeks,” and is currently offering browser support for Chrome, Safari and Firefox.
With Google tasking itself to organize all of the world’s information, you’d think its own Chrome Web Store would be a bit easier to navigate. Apparently this revelation dawned on someone at the company, because it’s just introduced several enhancements that should help users find new and useful extensions for their browser. Along with faster autocomplete searches and new subcategories, you’ll now find badges that denote an application’s offline functionality and games that can be played on Google+, with additional badges said to be in the works. There’s even a new trending section, where users can discover recently popular titles that rank from “warm” to “on fire.” If it’s been a while since you’ve last visited the Chrome Web Store, now could be an ideal time to peruse the new features. You might even start a trend.