If there’s a web service that you use on a regular basis, chances are that there’s already an app available for it. But regardless of whether the app comes directly from the service or a third party, you might not enjoy the interface. Take Twitter, for example, the web client is just abhorrent in a lot of different ways. Thankfully, there are third-party solutions available such as Tweetbot, Twitterrific, or Aviary.
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However, thanks to Twitter’s limited API access, you’ll miss on certain Twitter features such as participating in polls. At that point, you’re better off to just use the Twitter website, but it’s still not an enjoyable experience. But did you know that there are a few different ways that you can turn websites into desktop apps on macOS?
How to Turn Websites Into Desktop Apps on macOS From Google Chrome Or Microsoft Edge
The easiest solution for those looking to turn websites into desktop apps on macOS is available if you use a Chromium-based browser. Chromium comes from Google but is a free and open-source framework that other companies have built their browsers on. The biggest example of a Chromium browser is Microsoft Edge, but there are others available as well.
When you turn websites into desktop apps on macOS using a Chromium browser, you’re essentially using what’s called a Progressive Web App, or PWA. Essentially, these can turn some of your favorite websites into applications that feel just like any other app that you use on your Mac. PWAs are also updated with new features as soon as the web client is, so there’s no need to worry about “updating” a Progressive Web App.
Here’s how you can turn websites into desktop apps on macOS:
- Open Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or any other Chromium-based browser on your Mac.
- Navigate to the website you want to turn into a desktop app.
- Tap the third icon from the right of the address bar. (This looks like a computer with a download symbol in the top right corner.)
- From the Install App dialog box that appears, tap the Install button.
After the app is “installed”, you’ll be able to access and open it just like any other app. This includes being able to use Spotlight, Alfred, or RayCast to summon the app without opening Launchpad. As a note, if you are trying to locate the app from Launchpad, it might not appear as a standalone app. Instead, some browsers (like Chrome) automatically create a folder (named Chrome Apps) where the PWA is accessible.
Other Ways to Turn Websites Into Desktop Apps on macOS
While Progressive Web Apps are extremely handy and are becoming more prevalent, not every website has the ability to be downloaded as a PWA. In that case, or if you are using Safari instead of a Chromium-based browser, you’re still in luck if you want to turn websites into desktop apps on macOS. With all of the options listed below, the created app will appear in whatever directory you select. We highly advise ensuring that you set /Applications as the default directory to make it easy to access or delete if you need to.
Unite 4 for macOS
If you follow some of the more popular Apple websites, you might have seen Unite 4 mentioned here and there. This app has been around for years, and is even available as part of a SetApp subscription. However, it is available as a standalone app if you don’t have a SetApp subscription. Essentially, it does the hard work for you, turning a website into a desktop app, just like if you were to install a PWA. Here’s how to use Unite 4 for macOS:
- Open the Unite 4 for macOS app on your Mac.
- In the first dialog box, enter or paste the URL for the website you want to create an app for.
- Enter an Application name in the next dialog box.
- Click the Create Unite Application button.
- Once created, click the Launch application button.
Unite 4 for macOS is available as a direct purchase with a single license priced at $24.99. However, you can also purchase multiple licenses ranging from two Macs for $34.99 all the way up to 25 Mac computers for $199.99.
Coherence X comes from the same developer as Unite 4 but offers a bit more customization compared to others. It’s also available through SetApp if you have a subscription, but you can also purchase it as a standalone app if you need to. Here’s how to turn a website into an app using Coherence X:
- Open Coherence X on your Mac.
- Click the Start using Coherence button.
- Click the Create application button.
- Enter a name for the “application.”
- In the next dialog box, enter or paste the URL of the website.
- Next to the Application save path box, click the three horizontal dots (…).
- Select where you want the created application to be saved. (By default, it will be saved to the Applications folder on your Mac.)
- Click either the From web or Browse mac button to add an App Icon. (If possible, Coherence will auto-generate an app icon.)
- Tap Next > in the bottom right corner.
- Select the browser you wish to use. Alternatively, you can click the Download browser button.
- Tap Next > in the bottom right corner.
- Select any extensions or profiles that you want to replicate.
- Click the Create application > button in the bottom right corner.
Coherence X is available as a direct purchase with a single license priced at $29.99. However, you can also purchase multiple licenses ranging from two Macs for $44.99 all the way up to 25 Mac computers for $249.99.
The final option on this list doesn’t require any additional downloads and is available on your Mac right now. While we know that Apple plans to sunset Automator in favor of Shortcuts on the Mac, Automator is still alive and kicking. The app is still a fan favorite when it comes to automation on macOS, and is quite a bit more powerful compared to what Shortcuts currently has to offer on the Mac. Thanks the vast library of actions, you can even use Automator to turn a website into a desktop app on your Mac. Here’s how to do so:
- Open the Automator app on your Mac.
- When prompted, click the New Document button.
- Select Application when prompted to Choose a type for your document.
- Click the Choose button in the bottom right corner.
- With Library highlighted in the sidebar, scroll down until you reach Get Specified URLs.
- Drag and drop the Get Specified URLs option to the right side of the Automator window.
- Select http://www.apple.com under the Address section.
- Click the Remove button.
- Click the Add button.
- Enter or paste the URL of the website that you want to turn into an app.
- In the Library of Variables, scroll until you see Website Popup.
- Drag and drop the Website Popup action to the right side of the Automator window. Make sure to place it below the Get Specified URLs action you already added.
- Customize the following options:
- Site Size
- User agent (browser)
- In the menu bar, click File.
- From the drop-down menu, click Save. You can also use the CMD + S keyboard combination.
- In the Save As field, enter a name for your “application”.
- Choose a destination for this Automator-created app to be saved.
- Make sure File Format is Application.
- Click the Save button in the bottom right corner of the dialog box.
Because Automator will eventually be phased out and likely removed from a future release of macOS, we don’t recommend relying on this method “forever”. You might be better suited with one of the options listed above. At the very least, keep an eye on the future of macOS to know when Automator will no longer work with your Mac.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.