FoxGLove Standalone Google Apps Portal

Crafty Firefox user Alex customised his own Firefox Portable installation to tightly integrate with Google Apps. He calls his creation "FoxGLove," and uses it as his own Google-powered productivity portal instead of Microsoft Outlook. Along with his pick of add-ons that enhance and integrate Google Apps in Firefox, Alex tricked out this portable Firefox version with a Chrome-like theme, custom homepages (that auto-load in tabs), web site favicons, and even slapped the FoxGLove name and icon onto the whole shebang. Best part? You can download and try it out right now without disturbing your current Firefox setup. Download FoxGLove below to give it a spin on your own desktop, and get the rundown of what comes with it.

First things first: Download FoxGLove (Windows only) right here. Extract the ZIP file and run it by clicking on the shortcut to FoxGLove. Sign into your Google Account to start using the default apps (Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Docs).

As you can see in the screenshot above, FoxGLove looks a whole lot like Chrome, but has Firefox's extensibility. Here's the full list of add-ons that come bundled with FoxGLove.

Here's more from Alex on why and how he compiled FoxGLove.

Why FoxGlove?

Alex explains:

I found myself running Firefox in two windows: One with Gmail, Google Reader and other webapps, and the other for my casual web wanderings. I read about Chrome's feature that lets you can set up a standalone launcher for any webapp, but I wanted all my apps together in tabs, and I wanted access to all the customisation and extensibility of Firefox, but without overhauling my current setup. Then I remembered Asian Angel's howto on running multiple copies of Firefox portable. So, I decided to build a second Firefox install specifically around using Google Apps, one that I could run side-by-side with my regular Firefox browser.

How Did FoxGLove come together?

Alex says:

First things first. After setting up Portable Firefox on my thumb drive, I started by adding the Chromifox theme, to set the proper tone. Then I continued as I do when starting any project, by searching Lifehacker for relevant hints. So I loaded up the new Firefox with all those helpful extension that make Google Apps even better:

Better Gmail 2
Better GReader
Better Gcal
Better YouTube (for when I'm not quite so productive)

Then I added some more Google add-on goodness:

Customize Google
Google Notebook
Google Toolbar (replacing the FF search bar, and added searches for Gmail, Docs, and Wikipedia)

I even found a some instructions for making Google Gears portable. (Plug in USB, launch, sync GReader and GDocs, and only pay for two min of web access).

Then I started really customising: I set Gmail, Reader and Docs as my home pages so they'd all open when I launched. This makes the FF 'Home' button useless since it opens all three when clicked, so I pulled it out and also added the Copy, Paste, and Print buttons, since this FF is mostly about word processing. That being the case, I got the Dictionary add-on for quick reference when I need a spelling or synonym. As a surrogate 'Home' button, I added the 'New Tab' button and the NewTabURL add-on so the new tabs would load the Google search page. Then I put in Hide Menubar for more screen real estate and to cover any convenient but less-frequently used buttons.

Not happy with the small versions of gadgets in Gmail's sidebar, next I doubled my productivity by using another LH tip to add bookmarks to Chat, Cal, and Notes that would open in FF's Sidebar so I could keep an eye on two apps at once. This also prompted me to install the Favicon Picker 2 add-on in order to pretty-up the new sidebar bookmarks in my toolbar.

Since I wanted to take this to work with me on a thumb drive, I wanted a launching shortcut that would work regardless of the assigned drive letter. After trying the LH bat file laucher tip with limited success, I found some instructions for creating a relative path shortcut to launch from my USB drive. (See Joe's comment on July 28th on this post.)(

Then finally I jumped over to my Macbook to make a customised icon. (Squint close at the screenshots: It's Firefox inside a ring of Google Apps favicons. Editor: See the enlarged icon on the right.) The whole thing is portable, even Google Gears and the favicons I used in Favicon Picker. Right now I have one copy in C://Program Files and one on my USB drive, and I can keep them both in sync (and backed up!!) by just copying the folders over.

Last but not least I wanted to pick a name for my creation. I couldn't figure out how to change it in the code, so I scrounged up one more add-on: FireSomething (specially tweaked for FF3), which let me brand my final creation:

I call it "FoxGLove."

Alex also notes that by default FoxGLove is set to clear private data when Firefox closes, but if you change that, it will log you into your Google Account automatically at launch. He says:

I could make some other suggestions, (like finding better favicons for the sidebar bookmarks) but customising your own version is half the fun, right?!

If FoxGLove doesn't fit your workflow perfectly, hopefully this project will spark some ideas of your own on how to make Firefox Portable work for you. Got a custom portable Firefox install? Link it in the comments. Nice work, Alex!!


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