Turn websites into apps running on PC and Mac desktop

Do you want to run Google Keep, Drive or Gmail like an app in its own window on your computer? Turn Outlook, OneDrive, Wikipedia, news, sport and other popular websites into desktop apps.

What is wrong with accessing websites in a regular web browser window, you may ask? The problem is that browsers have a lot of clutter. They have tabs, buttons, menus and so on. All of these things are distracting and they get in the way when we want to get things done.

Another problem is that websites open in tabs and you can view one tab or another, but not both at the same time. Although a site can be opened in a new window instead of a new tab, that adds more window clutter.

Apps can clutter the desktop on a small screen like on a laptop computer, but usually they are cleaner and simpler. You can see apps side by side on a big screen and even on a small screen where app windows have to overlap, it can still be better to have app windows than browser tabs.

With software and services becoming increasingly web based, you probably work online more than ever. There are task and project managers, notes, task managers, collaboration apps, photo and video editors and much more online. I don’t know about you, but probably half of what I do on a computer these days is actually online in a browser. Turn websites into apps and provided you have an internet connection, it is just like running software on your Windows PC or Apple Mac.

Many websites work great as apps and here I will show a few examples on PC and Mac. There are few restrictions and you can do this with almost any website.

Google Keep in a window as an app

You need to right tool to turn websites into apps and Microsoft Edge browser is needed. This runs on Windows PC and Apple Mac and it is the default browser in Windows, but on a Mac you will need to install Microsoft Edge. It is based on Chromium, so it is like Google Chrome underneath, and it is growing in popularity.

1 Install sites as apps in Edge

Install a website as an app in Edge browser in Windows
Install a site as an app in Windows or macOS
  1. Visit a website you want to turn into an app, like Google Keep.
  2. Click the three dots in the top right corner to show the menu.
  3. Move the mouse down to Apps to open the sub-menu.
  4. Click Install this site as an app.

This is a Windows PC screenshot, but this works just the same on an Apple Mac.

2 Name it and install it

Turn a website into an app in Edge browser
Install a website as an app in Edge in Windows or macOS

What appears next varies a little and here is the most common thing you will see. This popup message has the site name, which you can edit, and an Install button. Just click Install. Unlike installing software, which can run to tens or even hundreds of megabytes of code, installing a web app uses around 1.5 MB of disk space, which is hardly anything. It is around the size of a single photo in your photo collection.

3 Create icons for the app

Google Keep installed as an app
Create icons to open the website app

Windows and macOS diverge here and Windows can be seen above. The newly created app for the website appears in its own window and you have the option to create icons on the taskbar, Start menu and desktop. Create at least one, then it is just one click to open a website as an app in its own window.

Edge apps on an Apple Mac
Websites installed as apps on a Mac

On an Apple Mac, icons are created automatically in your personal ~/home/Applications folder, not the system Applications folder. A window like this appears.

Add an app to the Dock on the Apple Mac
Add an app to the Dock

Click the app icon to open it, then Ctrl+click the icon in the Dock and select Options > Keep in Dock to add it.

4 Use the website like an app

Google Keep running like an app on the desktop
Google Keep app on the desktop

Here is the result and it is almost identical on PC and Mac. Opening Keep results in a resizable window on the desktop. It looks and works just like an app, even though it is a website.

Google Drive as an app on the desktop

The same sort of thing can be done with Google Drive.

Google Drive running as an app on the desktop
Google Drive as an app
  1. Go to Google Drive in Edge browser.
  2. Click the three dots in the corner to open the menu.
  3. Select Apps > Install this site as an app.
  4. Click Install.
  5. Add the icons to run it.

Outlook in a window as an app

Outlook is available as part of Microsoft Office. However, it is also also a website and so it can be converted into an app instead of accessing it in a web browser. This makes it cleaner, simpler and easier to use in many ways.

Outlook website as an app on the desktop
Install Outlook as an app on the desktop

It is set up in the same way as before, just go to the website, select Apps > Install this site as an app, and then click Install.

Other websites as apps

Other websites are set up in exactly the same way. Just visit the site and install the site as an app. Add icons to Start, taskbar or desktop on PCs or add them to the Dock on a Mac.

The sport section of the BBC website turned into an app
The sport section of the BBC website

For example, here is the sport section of the BBC website running like an app. This is a live resizable window on the desktop and it makes a neat news app. Desktop apps do not need to be the whole website and any page can be an app, like this one. This is exactly as it looks and there is no sign of a web browser or tabs.

Uninstall websites installed as apps

Apps installed as websites are tiny, around 1.5 MB, so you are not going to free up any significant amount of space by installing them. However, if you do want to remove one, open the menu in Edge and click Apps > Manage Apps. There are grid and list views and clicking the Details link opens a page with information about the app. There is an option to remove the app.

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