Thursday, November 13, 2014

Software Settings: Launch a website as an app from a Chromebook

I'm preempting my 7.1 audio channel construction to provide my first blog post about software rather than hardware. Well, it is about hardware in one particular way, in that I will be showing a feature that can be set up on a "Chromebook" or "Chromebox", a minimalistic computer system running Google's "Chrome OS" (Operating System). Chrome OS is a scenario that your Chrome web browser is the operating system of the computer. It connects you online, to "the Cloud" (like Google Drive and web-based applications) to do your work.

It's important to note, that even though Windows has a "Chrome App Launcher" that can be installed, the following procedure cannot be initiated on a Windows-based computer in the manner I am showing. The website "app" shortcut you create on your Chromebook / Chromebox will be synced to your Chrome App Launcher in Windows, but you can't do this procedure unless you have a device running Chrome OS. This topic also debuts the video recording I am doing on my Chrome OS systems, to be profiled in a later topic on its own.

I will now go into the convention of saying "Chromebook" (being the more known device running Chrome OS) when the same steps can also be done on a "Chromebox" (a Chromebook is a laptop/tablet running Chrome OS, a Chromebox is less portable, and needs display(s), keyboard, and mouse connected to make the complete equivalent basic system). On a Chromebook, certain features (deemed "experimental", or that could be possibly changed or withdrawn later) are activated by "flags", a software selection that you want to enable that feature or function. In a Chrome tab on your Chromebook, go to the internal address "chrome://flags/#enable-streamlined-hosted-apps" and click on the word "Enable". Re-start your Chromebook completely. Now when you are on a website that you want to create an "app" shortcut in the App Launcher, click on the "hamburger" or "hotdog" (the three short horizontal lines in the upper-right corner of Chrome to access the menu items) and select the heading "More tools". A sub-menu becomes visible, and you would select "Add a shortcut to this website...". In the dialog that appears, click on the "Add" button after you have shortened or chosen a name that is descriptive for that icon in the App Launcher.

If you have enabled "Voice Search" on your Chromebook (meaning that you can speak commands after saying "Ok Google" in a search window or the App Launcher), the "app" (website link) can be launched by voice. As an example, I navigated to the live streaming page of the IT Pro TV website (""), and added the "app" shortcut named "IT Pro TV". When I say (shown in the video) "Ok Google, IT Pro TV" it launches the website in its own window. That seemed to be a more-productive example, but I did also add an "app" for Facebook in the same way. If you have any questions or comments about this process, please post them below.

 The Chrome OS App Launcher

Setting the flag to enable an "app" website shortcut

Video demonstration of launching a website link "app" by voice command


  1. There still is at least one aspect I will need to submit feedback for, namely the "app" icon that is displayed (and synced to other linked App Launchers). I created an "app" link shortcut for Facebook on my ASUS Chromebox, which displayed their expected logo icon. When logging on to my Lenovo Chromebook later, the icon didn't sync correctly, and actually didn't even persist as the same icon on the Chromebox. Three "app" links turned into generic icons on the "shelf" (equivalent to the Windows Taskbar / Quicklaunch), thankfully not the one for IT Pro TV (I have to hover over the other icons for the balloon to show what "apps" they are).

    It appears only the initial App Launcher retains the icon Chrome OS retrieved from the website, when it is synced to other linked App Launchers it changes to a generic triad "box" (which is seen on the YouTube video at the 0:12 to 0:14 mark).

  2. As I have also commented on the YouTube video, the delays for the IT Pro TV website loading was caused by my Google Voice extension running, and checking for messages as the browser comes up. Usually I already have another browser window running on my primary display, and the App Launcher remembers to launch it on my 1080p secondary display. I would also be logged into my IT Pro TV account, but need to start the live streaming, make the video full-screen, and launch the site chat window on my primary display.