3 Clever Little Mac Apps for Web Workers

Sometimes doing things via web apps is great. Everything is in one place: your browser. Even so, sometimes having everything in one place isn’t ideal. A browser crash could kill all of your work, not just one component, and it can be harder to keep your focus appropriately segmented if your tools are all mashed together. Here are a few great Mac (s aapl) applications that give you access to your web apps, but do so in nice, native software packages.

Picture 5Propane

It’s a fine way to power a BBQ, but it’s also more than that. Propane is a new piece of beta software that does what I previously did using a Fluid browser instance. Specifically, it runs Campfire-based chatrooms, which are a popular tool for people who need to collaborate in real-time with a distributed team. I use Campfire rooms to coordinate with other writers at various blog sites where time and scheduling is a primary concern, but that’s just one possible use.

Like with a Fluid instance, Propane provides Campfire with the bare minimum of browser chrome, so that it does in fact look like a native OS X app. It also provides some nice bells and whistles that allow you to customize the how and why of notification sounds and messages, including Growl notifications. There’s also great tools for better file sharing, including automatic source detection when you drag content (text and images) from a Safari window into your active chatroom in Propane.

Picture 1Mailplane

I’m not actively trying to rhyme these app names, it’s just working out that way. Gmail (s goog) is great, and Mail.app is nice enough, but I’d rather not use the two together if possible. I love Gmail’s web interface, but I’m not crazy about trying to manage my email activities in a browser window. Maybe that makes me old school, but I grew up on Outlook (s msft), and old habits die hard.

Mailplane delivers all the Gmail interface goodness with a nice, native app wrapper. Basically it, like Propane, is just a browser instance with some additional features specific to the web app in question that makes it easier to use. It’s those features that make the app worthwhile, though. Mailplane takes advantage of Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts to allow you to view and create new messages, reply, attach media, and more using convenient buttons located along the top of the app window. It also badges the app icon in your dock with the number of unread emails, and can notify you of new mail using sound and Growl.

Those with Google Apps and multiple accounts are also in luck, because it supports easy account switching and storage. There’s also an option to display an icon in the menu bar, including new mail count. You can try it out for free for a month, but it is a paid program, and will set you back $24.95 if you do decide to purchase.

Picture 7Gdocsuploader

This is less an app and more of a handy little applet, but the single, focused service it provides is incredibly useful: a simple drag-and-drop interface for uploading documents to Google Docs. It may not seem like much, but it saves a lot of steps vs. the traditional method, which can quickly add up if you do most of your document editing in Google Docs, like I do.

All you have to do to use it is keep the app icon in your dock, and then drag any document onto the icon to upload it. It’ll prompt you once for your Google name and password, and afterward it’ll just work. If you prefer, opening the app will automatically take you to a file browser for selecting a file to upload manually.

None of the above apps does anything that you can’t do using the web, but they do offer time-saving and usability enhancements that you won’t necessarily get using only the corresponding app for each in a normal browser window. Just because web apps are often convenient and user-friendly doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be more so with a more solid connection to your desktop.

Have any tips on how to make web apps more native? Share them in the comments.

Where Startups Are Headed: Rapid, Lean and Micro

Whether you help run a web-based startup, are a member of an online production team, or earn your living in part by understanding how things get done on the web, it’s important to get a sense of how the most innovative Internet companies create their products and build their businesses today.
Even though the current economic climate is not so hot, amazing advances in the open source software movement, coupled with vastly reduced costs for such things as infrastructure, bandwidth and software services are allowing web-based companies to develop online products and services faster than ever before. And Internet companies themselves are developing non-traditional strategies that best meet the needs of the hyper-paced modern web marketplace.

Nancy Pelosi to Turn On Solar-Powered Radio Station

UPDATED: Politicians are lining up to appear alongside renewable energy projects these days — yesterday it was Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and earlier this month it was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This morning it’s Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who plans to officially turn on three solar arrays created by solar startup SolFocus that will partly power the transmission tower for local radio station KGO Radio in San Francisco.
Update: Pelosi flipped on the switch at the radio station a little after 10:30 and declared solar “the future.” Here’s our photo of the events in the radio studio; the bright lights in the second photo lit up after she turned the solar system on.

KGO says it will be the first major broadcast media outlet in California to reach its listeners by solar power. The festivities will happen on the Ronn Owens show at 10:30 this morning in San Francisco, where Pelosi will turn on the system. The arrays are actually at KGO’s Fremont transmitter site, but a video will be streamed live for the studio audience in San Francisco.
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Schwarzenegger to Detroit: Get Off Your Butt!

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — one of the first civilians to own a Hummer — told car manufacturers in Detroit to “get off your butt” and stop living in the past of huge SUVs and cheap oil prices, at the Common Wealth Club on Friday. He made the remarks in a Q&A session that followed a speech to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the state’s climate change bill, AB 32.

Detroit must do a better job at developing these alternative fuel vehicles, he said, and pointed out that Tesla has been able to produce a successful electric car far before Detroit has. (Schwarzenegger is a Tesla customer). Of course he noted that California has managed to lure Tesla back to the state with an incentive package and that the startup has decided to build a $250 million plant in San Jose, Calif.

Schwarzenegger also said that he wasn’t pleased with the federal government for protecting the auto industry, saying he will fight the feds in court until they stop. He wasn’t supportive of Washington’s general progress on fighting climate change either. “Washington is asleep at the wheel. We can not look for leadership there,” he said. And when it comes to the next president he said, whoever gets the position “will be better than this administration when it comes to the environment.”

On that front he says he plans to host a governor’s global climate summit in California in November. He says he’ll invite government officials from around the world, and every Governor in the U.S. will be invited. The goal is to form an international alliance for the Kyoto negotiators to use as a framework for their future discussions, he said.

F|R: What Startups Can Learn From Michael Dell

It’s not a new idea to make hay by seizing the messy business opportunities no one else wants. Innovating the distribution of a technology, rather than inventing the technology itself, isn’t novel either. This is the model that made founder Michael Dell a billionaire. Now, San Francisco-based Sungevity is taking a page from Michael Dell’s playbook in an effort to do to solar panels what Dell did to personal computers.

Solar installs are typically custom jobs — labor intensive and therefore costly. While there are rebates and tax incentives to cut the costs, the paperwork is dizzyingly complex, so consumers (and even developers) often don’t bite. Since most solar startups are focused on making the sexiest technology, Kennedy figured it was a no-brainer that Sungevity could effect more change, and make more money, by addressing the logistically painful process of selling, installing, and handling the paperwork associated with everyone else’s gear.

Michael Dell innovated the economy for PC-manufacturing by taking commodity computing components, then custom-assembling them to each buyer’s order in what we now commonly call a “just-in-time” supply chain. Similarly, Sungevity uses off-the-shelf web tools, commodity solar modules and drop-shipping to streamline a sales process for the retail solar industry that once took weeks or months. (Read more at Earth2Tech). Below, Kennedy offers a few tips for How to Spy Startup Opportunities in the Sales Cycle: Read More about F|R: What Startups Can Learn From Michael Dell

Happy Birthday to Us. Thanks All, for Everything

Structure 08 is over and folks are already asking us about Structure 09. I’m happy to report that our first official GigaOM conference not only sold out but got a big thumbs-up from attendees. I want to thank a lot of people for making this event a success: The speakers; the sponsors; the attendees; the fine folks at Marketing Alchemist (especially Erin and Stacey); Alistair Croll, our magnificent MC; and of course, the GigaTeam. In particular a big shout out to Surj Patel, Joey Wan, Chancey, Mike & Nick! They worked extremely hard to make my dream into an idea, and then a reality. Here is a list of our live blogging from today.

I have some other good news. We are two years old today (though I got outed by Valleywag a bit earlier than June 25) — so below is a little video that shows how we were then and and how we are now. The lessons I’ve earned in these first two years will turn into a really long post someday.

I am planning to take some time off tomorrow, so no posting! Good night all!

Project Playlist’s Gets $3M To Keep Experimenting

Project Playlist calls itself a “social music experiment.” In other words, it’s just one of the many options available when it comes to adding an embeddable music player to MySpace or Facebook profiles. Its simple player lets users aggregate free MP3 files available on the Net and put them together in a widget that can be posted just about anywhere. This week the company even announced a version of Project Playlist for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone.
The Beverly Hills, Calif.-based startup has raised $3 million in funding, according to PE Hub. We tried to contact the company to find out more about their Series A round, but to no avail.
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