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Managing your web app workflow with Browser Fairy and Fluid

At my job we use a number of web based applications for every-day work: a ticketing/bug tracking tool, a code review tool, a company wiki, a source control repository browser, a database administration tool, and of course the actual product we develop. I have most of these web sites open all day, every day. I would start my day launching my browser, then opening a bookmarked folder as tabs – so each little web app would have it’s own tab in the right order. Then I’d have another browser window open to my local copy of our product, with a tab open to the staging server. If I needed to go read documentation for something online, I’d have yet another browser window open for that.

This teetering arrangement of browser tabs would then fall apart when I clicked a link to a ticket in an email notification (opening yet another tab in the wrong browser window). Once I accidentally destroyed a live database table because I got my windows mixed up. Whoops.

With iron resolve and kung-fu like discipline you might be able to keep only one window or tab open at a time, closing out all others as soon as you’re focus shifts. Unfortunately I’m fresh out of iron resolve and my kung-fu is weak.

Fluid

Fluid is a app that lets you turn websites into an app for your mac. Fluid creates a web browser that loads only one page. For example, if you use Google Docs you could launch Fluid, give it the URL for docs, give it a name (like ‘Docs’), and optionally give it an icon.

Fluid will create “Docs.app” and save it in your Applications folder. You can double click the app icon and go right to Google Docs. The app works just like any Mac app. It shows up in Launchpad, Spotlight search, in your dock, and when you Command-tab to switch applications.

At work I have a fluid app set up for all of our work apps. This way I always know what window is what (they have icons!) and it’s fast and easy to launch or shut down one of these apps without messing with my browser. If I crash my web browser while dinking around with JavaScript, my web apps stay open.

The basic version of Fluid is free, but for $4.99 you can upgrade to get features like full screen mode (in Lion) and other neato features. It’s cheap. Support your indie software developer.

Browser Fairy

Having all my web apps in their own application is great, but if I got an email notification to a bug or wiki update, the links would still open in my default browser. Now I’ve got the bug tracker open in two places. Boo.

Browser Fairy is an app available in the Mac App store which sort of sits between links and any browser you have installed.

You set up Browser Fairy by making it your default browser. Then you tell Browser Fairy about all the browsers on your system. When you click on any URL anywhere, Browser Fairy intercepts it, and then re-routes it to a browser your choose.

For example, if your company’s timesheet tool only works in Firefox, you give Browser Fairy the base url (maybe http://timesheet.jobbity.job) and anytime you you click a link to the timesheet app, it will automatically open in Firefox, while all of your other links open in Safari.

Since Fluid apps are just single-serving web browsers, Browser Fairy treats them like Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. So I can configure wiki links to go to my wiki app, bug links to the bug tracker, code reviews to the code review app, etc. All other links go to Safari.

It takes a little bit of work to configure, but you only have to do it once – and once it’s done it’s like magic. Any time I get a bug notification email, the link opens my bug tracking app, not my main web browser. If the bug tracking app isn’t open…Browser Fairy will open it so I don’t have to keep 10 things open all the time.

Browser Fairy is $4.99 in the App Store – with Fluid apps they’re a super-duper productivity enhancing duo.