Earlier this month, Google released Chrome Packaged Apps to essentially turn web apps into desktop ones. The result? Some pretty useful and powerful software with features you probably never expected from something with a browser at its core. Come take a look at our favourites.
What Are Chrome Packaged Apps?
Chrome packaged apps take a web app and make it function more like a native desktop program. Unlike traditional web apps, however, Google requires packaged apps to work offline. All necessary code gets installed locally on your hard drive and doesn't require a connection to the internet to function. That said, most packaged apps will require web access from time to time for full functionality.
Google designed this system to allow web developers to create desktop app experiences that work across multiple platforms without the need for multiple, more complex code bases. As a result, developers can deliver cross-platform apps pretty easily. That's great for the end user, and several useful tools have already surfaced on the Chrome Web Store. In this post, we've highlighted some of our favourites.
Google needs an iMessage competitor, and it seems Hangouts will assume that role. With native apps available on both Android and iOS, you can sync your conversations across your mobile devices with ease. On top of that, you now have a Chrome packaged app that keeps your Hangout conversations easily accessible on your desktop. Rather than hiding in a browser tab you have to struggle to find, Hangouts can now hide itself at the bottom of your screen for immediate availability when you need to contact someone or someone contacts you.
Install Hangouts (free)
We love Any.DO, but it lacks native desktop apps on all platforms, which limits its syncing abilities. Fortunately, they now have a Chrome packaged app that runs just like a native desktop version. You get Any.DO's simple list style in a floating window that doesn't take up too much room on your screen. You can add new items with your voice, schedule tasks and organise your work from various views.
Install Any.DO (free)
As you can see from the screenshot above, Wunderlist's Chrome packaged app provides a nearly identical experience to the desktop. If you use the native version on your operating system, someone could swap in the Chrome version and you'd likely never even know. If you want robust to-do management with a desktop-like experience, but without the weight of a desktop app (which is nonetheless a favourite on both OS X and Windows), you should definitely give Wunderlist a go.
Install Wunderlist (free)
Keep, Google's simple snippet-based reminder service, naturally has a Chrome packaged app to make your saved information easily accessible. It floats like a small window reminiscent of a mobile app, allowing you to save new items or find old ones.
Install Google Keep (Free)
The great article-saver Pocket also exists as a Chrome packaged app, and you'd probably never know the difference between it and its desktop counterparts. It works just the same, allowing you easy access to your saved articles and media.
Install Pocket (Free)
You can get a variety of text editors on your platform of choice, but if you just need to edit a file or store a few notes in your browser, you can do so easily with Text. While it doesn't assume the native stylings of your operating system of choice, the free-floating window doesn't feel like a website either. You won't use this for any serious note taking, but it's the way to go if you just need to edit some plain text.
Install Text (free)
Remo adds a music player that runs through Chrome. You don't use it to play cloud-based music though; it plays the local files on your machine. You can drag and drop them or open them as you might normally with a desktop app. Even better, you can control the player remotely with your smartphone. Remo still has a ways to go on its development, but the player offers a nice start and a simple option for your music playback needs.
Install Remo Beta (free)
While this selection doesn't account for all of the packaged apps available for Chrome, it does include a lot of them. Developers just started rolling them out, and Google has yet to publicly advertise them to all users of their web browser. In the coming months, we'll likely see a larger rollout of awesome packaged apps. Keep an eye out for them.