There’s an app for pretty much everything, or so they say. And it’s true that smartphones and tablets have brought us millions and millions of apps to solve nearly every problem under the sun.

But surely you use a handful of sites that don’t have an app or simply work better online. How do you make sure your go-to websites don’t get lost among all those browser tabs? How do you get them to behave more like real apps? SSBs to the rescue!

We're not talking about the Super Smash Brothers or Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. Rather, an SSB is a site-specific browser. Essentially, it’s a tool that transforms a website into a standalone app.

Here are just a few ideas of sites you might turn into an SSB:

  • Your favorite terminology resources, like Linguee or IATE
  • Productivity tools like Gmail, the web versions of Microsoft Office or a business management suite like LSP.expert (Bonus tip for Gmail users on Mac: Take a look at Mailplane.)
  • Your banking website of choice
  • Entertainment sites like Netflix or YouTube
  • Social media or shopping sites like Facebook and Amazon that track user behavior with cookies. (Put them into an SSB “container” for more privacy.)
  • Your favorite online courses

SSBs also work wonders if you regularly use two instances of the same website, making it easier to switch back and forth between multiple accounts you manage.

The cherry on top: site-specific browsers can be customized to your needs, starting with the icon for that website you’ve just turned into an app.

How to set up an SSB on your computer

Getting an SSB up and running couldn’t be easier.

If you’re using Chrome on a Windows or Mac computer, you don’t even need additional software. Simply pull up the website you want to “appify” and open the menu by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of the screen. Then, click “More Tools” and “Create Shortcut…”. Finally, enter the name of the new resource and tick “Open as window” for the full standalone experience.

Not a fan of Chrome? No problem! Download WebCatalog, a full-featured SSB tool available for Mac, Windows and even Linux. WebCatalog lets you choose which browser (e.g. Firefox) you want to use behind the scenes, and is free for basic use. For a one-time fee of 20 USD, you get enhanced security and advanced features like unlimited workspaces. (Perfect for multiple accounts on a single site.) Once you’ve downloaded and installed WebCatalog, just pick the website you want from the extensive catalog of existing resources or enter your custom URL. Done!

How to set up an SSB on smartphones or tablets

Android and Apple devices offer solutions that resemble an SSB.

From a mobile browser like Safari, Chrome or Firefox, add a bookmark to your home screen.

For example, on iOS, head to Safari, open the page, tap the “Share” button, and select “Add to Home Screen.”

On an Android device, this feature works similarly in most browsers.

Happy site-specific browsing!

PS. Questions or ideas about interpreting technology? Drop us a line at [email protected]! We do the research, so you don’t have to.

This column was first published in the 310th edition (December 2020) of the Tool Box Journal.