Using Fluid.app to Bring Google Reader for iPhone to your Desktop

Do you find yourself checking feeds on your iPhone and thinking, “Man… I wish Google Reader looked like this on my computer, too.” I have. Using Fluid.app and a bit of user agent trickery, you can make it happen.

Google Mobile in a Fluid app with iPhone User Agent

Wait, What’s Fluid.app?

Fluid is a free Mac application that creates Site Specific Browsers (SSBs). An SSB allows you to run a single web site or application as a stand-alone Mac application, independent of your other web browser windows or tabs. This way, it is always instantly available via the Dock or application switcher, with no fumbling of tabs. Also, if your browser crashes, your important sites (in SSBs) are kept safe from harm.

What types of apps might you want to run in a SSB? How about your CRM, project management app, feed reader, email app, etc. Anything you use a LOT.

If you’re on Windows, Mozilla’s Prism creates SSBs, but the main highlights of this article are Fluid/Safari-only.

Setting It Up

Creating an SSB with Fluid.app

When you fire up Fluid, you need to choose the URL (m.google.com) and the name of your application (I chose “Mobile Google”). You can then choose a custom application icon. Why do this? Otherwise it’ll go with the teenie little favicon the site uses. There are plenty of high resolution application icons on Flickr you can use that will look more like OS X icons.

Once you enter all that information, you can launch your new app.

Changing the User Agent

Hey wait, that didn’t look like the iPhone version! Nope. You’re still just looking at the generic mobile version non-iPhone users will get. Take a moment to think about how lucky you are that you have an iPhone.

Here’s how you change the user agent in Fluid so that it thinks it is an iPhone:

Changing the User Agent in Fluid.app

I’m going to guess that you need Safari’s “Develop” menu turned on in order to do this. You can do that via the “Advanced” pane in the Safari preferences.

Opening External Pages

While I don’t want to do any extraneous surfing from this new SSB, I also monitor things like the BatchBook support forums and our Summize searches in Google Reader. So, if I want to open something quickly to take action, I’d rather just do it right in my little SSB. So, I do this by setting this preference below:

Allowing external sites to open in Fluid.app

And there you have it. You’ve got a handy little Google Reader (and Gmail/Calendar/Docs/etc.) widget on your desktop at all times. Enjoy!

10 Comments

  1. On August 14th, 2008 at 10:03 pm Scott said:

    Very cool Adam. On the PC I use Bubbles for similar SSB purposes. It works really well with Google Calendar and the iPhone version of my to-do list app.

    SB

  2. On August 27th, 2008 at 11:17 pm Ben Greenberg said:

    This is cool, Adam. I’ve got mine set up and I like it… Thanks.

  3. On August 27th, 2008 at 11:24 pm Adam Darowski said:

    Glad you like it, Ben! It’s been working like a charm for me so far.

  4. On September 17th, 2008 at 10:39 am Scott McCracken said:

    Great tip, Adam. I had used Fluid to make a SSB for GMail, but it makes a lot of sense to use http://m.google.com to manage feeds, calendars, email, etc.

    One problem I’ve recently run into with version 0.9.4.1 and using “Mobile Safari 1.1.3 – iPhone” as the user agent: everytime I scroll down to view a long email, or read a RSS feed, the application automatically scrolls back to the top of the page. Unfortunately this makes things quite unusable, hoping an update will fix the issue ‚Äì wonder if I’m the only one?

  5. On September 17th, 2008 at 10:51 am Adam Darowski said:

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that with GMail, too. That’s quite annoying. I’ve been using it mostly for Reader (which, for some reason, DOESN’T do the scrolly thing), so it hasn’t caused me to switch. But yeah… I don’t really use Gmail in it, besides checking to see if new stuff came in.

  6. On February 4th, 2009 at 7:19 pm John Eckman said:

    I found that to get the real iPhone experience in my SSB I had to use this url:
    http://www.google.com/reader/i/

    Rather than just m.google.com with the mobile safari user agent.

  7. On September 4th, 2009 at 6:02 am Project Management Methodology said:

    I tried to use the mobile site using Fluid, but it won’t let me log into my account. Every time I hit enter the page pops up in my browser. Can anyone help?

  8. On September 4th, 2009 at 6:52 am Adam Darowski said:

    Are you using the better URL (http://www.google.com/reader/i/) that John supplied in the comments? I just checked this one and it worked for me. Please let me know!

  9. On January 20th, 2010 at 7:07 am Andy said:

    Good stuff. Thank you.

    This has other uses I’m looking forward to – SSB for google tasks, nice small window that I can hopefully toggle as always on top

  10. On January 20th, 2010 at 7:10 am Adam Darowski said:

    You certainly can have your SSB sit on top of all other apps. In the Fluid.app preferences, choose “Appearance”. There is a “Window Level” dropdown where you can set this. Cheers!