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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mozilla Prism

In my last post I talked about how you can now properly access Gmail not only through its Web interface but also through a PC-based email program like Outlook Express or Thunderbird.

That’s an example of where a server-based application is accessed other than through a Web page. In this vein I’d like to mention Prism, which was announced a few days ago by Mozilla Labs and works with the Firefox browser. Prism (formerly WebRunner) makes Web-based applications behave more like PC applications and less like Web pages. Here’s an example:

I use a Web-based to-do list system called Vitalist, and I use it frequently throughout the day. But with lots of browser windows/tabs open at the same time, I may have to hunt a bit to find the one that has Vitalist. Not any more. A few days ago I installed Prism and told it to create an application with name “Vitalist” and URL “”. Now I have what seems to be a regular Windows application:  there’s an icon on my desktop labelled Vitalist (I could also put it into the Windows Start menu if I wanted to, or the Quick Launch bar), and when I run it the taskbar shows “Vitalist” in the same way that it would show a traditional application like Outlook Express, completely separately from any regular browser windows I may have. I can navigate to it in the same way I would any other Windows application. Furthermore, the window doesn’t waste space with browser buttons like Back and Forward, nor with a location bar, because with Prism those are optional: it gave me checkboxes for them and I didn’t check those off. Although the window is actually a browser window, you’d never know it.

I’ve used Prism for a few days and although it’s an “early prototype” it works fine for me, and I love it. If you use any web-based applications a lot, like Gmail or Facebook, you may like it too.

So far it’s available only for Windows, but Mac OS and GNU/Linux versions should be available soon. More information, and a link to download it are at, specifically here.


Blogger Jonas said...

Neat find!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 12:25:00 a.m. EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep seeing debates about whether the desktop app is dead and web apps will take over. I like the idea that really the two are just moving towards each, like this example.

Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 12:41:00 a.m. EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also have a look at the Vitalist Desktop. No idea if it's better or worse...

Monday, November 5, 2007 at 12:12:00 p.m. EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

The particular platform, Prism or Air or Silverlight, isn't so important as were these things are pointing us. They all point towards the thin-client future hosted by Google and the like.

We have heard this promise many times before, remember X terminals and JavaStations? It was one of founding ideas of Netscape too. Every time, the PC-centric solution, essentially MS Office, has won out instead

With the heavy investment of Google, Adobe and even Microsoft, in apps like Prism, maybe this time the thin-client really will be the future.

Monday, November 5, 2007 at 11:31:00 p.m. EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is better to have your to-do list on a palmtop and then there are no problems to reach it the whole day (:

Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 9:16:00 a.m. EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

somehow this post does not want to work ...

Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 9:18:00 a.m. EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Rohan. I saw this article that you posted on 10/30/07, and was wondering if you have been successful in using Prism with the new "beta" Vitslist that was introduced a few months ago.

I too was had been using Prism to launch my "old" Vitalist ( and it was working perfectly well ... until I switched to the "new" "beta" (
I set up the new Vitalist in Prism and the website launches OK, but when I try adding or changing tasks I get error messages or it just hangs.

Any advice?



Monday, December 15, 2008 at 12:39:00 a.m. EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Hi Tony,

Unfortunately I had to stop using Prism when I realized that it was chewing up a big chunk of my computer's resources. So I haven't tried it with the new "beta" Vitalist (which I too switched to a little while ago). I suggest opening a discussion about this in the Vitalist Forum, as other people may have found a solution, plus you may get the attention of Vitalist's developers.

Monday, December 15, 2008 at 12:56:00 a.m. EST  

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