Firefox Through a Prism

image I have stated previously (here and here) that the main focus for my attention on my desktop and laptop these days is the browser as I have more and more of my key applications (email, calendar, documents etc.) in the cloud. This is all well and good but this has thrown up a number of issues namely: 15 years of working with Windows means I constantly press Alt-tab to switch applications only to find, now, that I didn’t want to do that as I wanted to remain in the browser; there is a large amount of wasted space at the top of a browser that just wouldn’t exist if the page was a traditional application. Mozilla Prism is designed to overcome some of these issues and I’ve been giving it a bit of a test drive.

Prism is installed as an extension for Firefox that allows you to “convert” any website to an application through a simple dialog (show below) that allows you to set things such as the icon and where any shortcut should be created. Once this is done clicking on the created shortcut opens up a browser in a new window with little or no menus, status or tool bars. All of this means that you get a focused workspace with additional room to display what you are working on. At a very high level the concept works well and after a couple of weeks I have found it useful to be able to keep my calendar and mail open as separate applications. However, there are a few kinks that need to be ironed out before Prism is ready for prime time.

Firstly, while there is the option available to install an add-on as you would in Firefox proper it doesn’t currently list any add-ons and it is not possible to include an add-on by dragging and dropping it onto the installation dialog. This means, for example, that I cannot add the remember the milk Gmail extension to my app. This is a minor irritation and likely to be resolved as Prism gets greater acceptance.

More serious is a security hole that seems to exist. Firefox will, if you tell it to, record all your usernames and passwords filling them in for you when you return to the site. If you have a machine that is shared you may want to set a master password to you have to enter before the details are recalled. Unfortunately, Prism seems to take no account of this so, using Gmail as an example, it is possible for anyone to merrily open up the Gmail app and log into your account with the stored credentials and read your mail.

Reading the comments on the Prism page I get the impression that this is a bit of a side project, which is a shame as I think it has great merit but perhaps if more people knew of its existence it would pick up steam.


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