How to recreate the Chrome Apps Launcher

The Chrome Apps Launcher is no more. For those who long to have it back, here's how you can recreate it with the help of a built-in Chrome feature.

Image: Jack Wallen

Remember the Chrome Apps Launcher? As of late Spring 2016, it followed Elvis out of the building. I miss it, you miss it, we all miss it. Fortunately, you can cobble it back together with the help of a little built-in Chrome goodness and your favorite desktop.

First steps

Every so often I find myself with so many Chrome tabs open I can no longer discern which tabs belong to which sites. If it weren't for pinned tabs and favicons, I'd be lucky to guess what tabs were what. This is just one of the reasons why I use a special feature in Chrome called "Add to desktop." Another reason: recreating the Chrome Apps Launcher.

Our first steps will be to save a web page (such as Google Drive) in such a way that it will open up in its own app-like window. Depending upon which platform you are using, you can extend that to saving the "app" to your dock/panel/menu/etc.

Let's walk through the process of adding tab to the desktop and then we'll save it to a couple of different docks.

Adding to the desktop

The first thing you must do is add a tab to the desktop. What this does is add an icon for the new "app" to the Chrome Apps window (click on the Apps button in the menu bar to reveal this window). You can then open the window'd app from there with a single click. To add a tab to the desktop, here's what you do:

  1. Open web site or click to give that tab focus
  2. Click on the Chrome menu button (three vertical dots at the far end of the main toolbar)
  3. Click More tools | Add to desktop
  4. Give the "app" a name (Figure A)
  5. Check Open as window
  6. Click Add

Figure A

Figure A

Creating an "app" for Google Drive website.

Image: Jack Wallen

Once you've created an "app" for the website, you can open the "app" and then lock the app icon to your launcher of choice (depending upon your desktop).

If you happen to be using ChromeOS, you can skip adding the "app" to the desktop and add it directly to the shelf. This will create a quick launch icon on the desktop panel (aka the shelf) for easy access. To do this, follow the same steps as above, only instead of selecting Add to desktop, select Add to shelf.

Re-creating the Apps Launcher

With the help of the "apps" you've just created, you might well be able to re-create that Google App Launcher (depending upon your desktop). This will, of course, depend upon the desktop you happen to currently be using. I will demonstrate one way to recreate the tool on the Ubuntu Unity desktop. To do this, I must first add the app Launcher Folders. Here's how this is done:

  1. Download the Launcher Folders .deb package into your ~/Downloads folder
  2. Open up a terminal window
  3. Issue the command sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/unity-launcher-folders-XXX_all.deb (Where XXX is the release number)
  4. Type your sudo password and hit the Enter key
  5. Allow the installation to complete

From the Unity Dash, locate and click the Launcher Folders icon. Move that app to the bottom right of your screen and then open the Unity Dash. Search for all your Google "apps" that you've added as launchers and drag them down to Launcher Folders. Once you've added all the Google "apps", click the Save button and the folder will be added to the Unity Launcher (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Creating a GOOGLE folder launcher on Ubuntu Unity.

Image: Jack Wallen

Some docs, such as that found in Elementary OS Freya, will not allow you Docky, but will allow you to combine launchers into folders with ease. If you're a ChromeOS user, you can easily drag all of the Google App launchers into a single folder so the Google Apps are more easily found. You cannot, however, add a folder to the ChromeOS shelf. Fortunately, there is a handy extension called Apps Launcher you can add to Chrome that serves as a quick access button to all installed apps on your device. The one caveat to this is that it does display all apps (not just the Google Apps).

Make it work for you

I spend a great deal of time working in and out of Google Apps. Having quick access to those apps (and other web-based sites) makes my daily grind a little less grindy. With the smallest amount of creativity, and the help of Chrome and/or ChromeOS, you can make your desktop experience far more efficient.

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