Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Surfin Safari with Gears

As a Mac user I have of course been able to use Gears with Firefox for a long time. However, now and then I like to tinker with WebKit/Safari, and it is great to see the official release of Gears for Safari.

Gears is also supported in applications that use WebKit such as Fluid, as stated:

ou can download it today from http://gears.google.com.

This means that you can now access all the Gears-enabled sites (such as Zoho office, WordPress, the new YouTube uploader and Google Docs offline) in Safari.

Since launch, we’ve increased the number of APIs available in Gears. The 0.3 release added the ability to create desktop shortcuts for websites, and the 0.4 release added Geolocation and Blobs (useful for resumable uploads of large files). All of these are now available in Safari and work exactly the same as on the other browsers Gears supports.

We thought it might be interesting to talk about some of the technical aspects of Gears peculiar to Safari and OS X. If you aren’t a developer you can safely skip the following paragraphs and go straight to the download page.

When you install Gears, you’ll notice that it’s composed of 2 components: an NPAPI plugin which lives in “/Library/Internet Plugins” and an InputManager. Gears needs to load first thing upon browser startup, for cases in which the first page loaded into the browser is from the Gears offline cache. NPAPI provides no mechanism for loading that early (it only provides support for loading plugins the first time a page specifically includes them) so we needed a small InputManager to do the work for us.

For browsers other than Safari that use the WebKit engine, we’ve provided a really simple mechanism to allow them to load Gears into their program without using the InputManager. Fluid is one example of a 3rd party browser that supports Gears this way.

On the Mac, Gears desktop shortcuts are actually small applications that are designed to open the website in the same browser they were originally created from. This means that if you created them from a Fluid app they’ll open in that same place and if you’ve got multiple versions of Firefox installed on your machine the shortcut will open in the right one.

I gave a talk at @media Ajax in London today, as Michael kindly wrote up. The presentation is below:

Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:39 am
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