So I read some Ubuntu news sites. In the past months I saw many different articles about the integration of web-sites to the unity-desktop.

From what I understood there are at least two different efforts:

  • ubuntu web-apps
  • fogger

What would be the main differences, and are there more efforts that do the same? I am a bit unclear on what I should choose to install.

  • thanks for these answers! what do i do if multiple answers are correct? hehe – dmeu Aug 14 '12 at 17:47

The two approaches are quite different under the hood.

After using both for a few days I prefer Fogger (at least at this stage of development).

Ubuntu Web Apps

Ubuntu Web Apps uses your preferred browser (Firefox or Chromium) to view sites utilising a browser plugin to create a page-specific shortcut in the unity launcher and to access unity desktop features (notifications, messaging menu, sound menu, dash, etc.).

  • One advantage of this approach is deep integration with the desktop.
  • One disadvantage (IMHO) is that web apps aren't given their own separate browser instance, but are just opened as a new page in Firefox or Chromium.

This means, e.g., that when cycling through open apps with Alt-Tab your web app simply appears as another browser window.

It also means that in some situations the web app seems to open as a new tab in the browser instead of creating a separate browser window.

All of the usual browser 'Chrome' (statusbar, URL bar, bookmarks bar) also appears in the app's browser window, meaning that you don't feel like you're using a desktop app--you're clearly using your browser.

Finally, you can only "integrate" a web page if your browser gives you the option, i.e. if someone has set up an integration script already.


Fogger creates its own new browser window, with a new application instance for each web app and uses two kinds of files to customize the web page's behaviour:

  1. user scripts

  2. user styles

The user styles basically override the css of the page, customizing the page's appearance (see the Fogapp for Facebook).

The user scripts are javascript files that can customize the behaviour of the page in any number of ways. For these user scripts, Fogger exposes unity desktop features through a javascript API. One advantage of this approach is that pages feel more like desktop applications: they have their own separate icon in the Alt-Tab cycle, and the usual browser toolbars are absent. (I like the lack of clutter).

A big advantage of Fogger is that you can turn any page into a Fogapp on the fly, in a matter of seconds. For those who like visual tweaking, it's also easier to use a custom icon for a Fogapp, and Fogapps respect your icon theme where it has an applicable icon (e.g., for gmail).

If there is a disadvantage to Fogger it may be that the javascript API doesn't (yet) provide access to as many features of the unity desktop.

In summary

In the "I don't know which is better" category, the two frameworks take very different approaches to your user data.

Ubuntu Web Apps try to centralize data. Not only does your web app use the same data profile as your default browser, it also centralizes account data at the OS level via Gnome's "Online Accounts" manager.

Fogger, on the other hand, isolates each app's data. This makes it easier to, e.g., keep your browser signed in to Google but use a Fogapp to surf YouTube without being signed in (to avoid Google's nasty data collection).

It also makes it easier to set up multiple web-apps for the same site, each of which uses a different user profile. This could be especially useful if multiple users employ the same computer and want separate apps for "Mary's Gmail" and "Bob's Gmail". It also makes it easy to clear the data for one web app while leaving your other data untouched.

My Preference So at present, I think Fogger provides a more flexible and satisfying kind of integration, even though at present Unity's Web Apps offer deeper access to the unity desktop.

There's nothing stopping Fogger from expanding its API for user scripts, though, and I hope that happens. Actually, it would be great to see the two approaches be united (unity?), with the current differences becoming different options you could choose when creating an app. This is one instance where I'm not sure competition is necessary.

  • +1 Good answer, I agree with you, these are exciting applications and a merge would be good, but like all things the cream will rise to the top – stephenmyall Aug 9 '12 at 14:41
  • Thank you for the Fogger explanation, I was not knowing it. – Pisu Jan 6 '13 at 17:58
  • It seems that Fogger is unmantained and not available for Ubuntu 12.10 (also in PPA). I think we should move works to Unity Web Apps – Pisu Jan 6 '13 at 20:19
  • Generally, I agree, though the Fogger developer did tell me a while ago that he's planning to update it for 12.10 when he has time. Still, I think the best option would be to integrate the best features of Fogger into Unity Web Apps. The biggest one to my mind is the ease of creating your own web-app for a new site on the fly. – monotasker Jan 7 '13 at 17:11
  • @monotasker: yes you're right! In fact I'm trying to find an easy way to create simple custom web apps. Now I've done it manually adding files to /usr/share/unity-webapps/userscripts, unluckily it seems that there is no way to create them in a user folder. – Pisu Jan 9 '13 at 7:01

I am currently taking Fogger for a test drive after looking at web Apps. Here are some differences (from my perspective)

Users will only be able to get Web apps through a PPA as there are no plans (at present) to fully backport it to the LTS. Fogger is available now in the USC. However webs apps appears to have better integration with ubuntu. I try to stay clear of PPAs (personal choice)

There are a limited number of sites supported by Unity Web Apps (out of the box), however these do include Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Last.FM, GMail, and Yahoo! Mail) a notification bar will appear asking you for permission to integrate. Fogger seems limitless in terms of what sites can be wrapped ( I have been using it on apps like Evernote and OL photo editors and it works perfectly, especially when level of deep integration are not needed and you just want your web application to behave like native desktops one.

Preferences I suspect will be subjective I'm sure and I look forward to how both these tools mature.


They are different in many ways.

Fogger is an application that creates separate webapps for your preferred website. It basically creates an app that loads a specific page. But by default it doesn't integrate with the native Ubuntu desktop.

This is where is webapps is more integrated into Ubuntu. When you choose to integrate a site, that site became a part of your Ubuntu desktop.

For example, if you create a facebook application in fogger, it will create an app. If you open that app it will load a window with a web browser that connects to facebook. Using user scripts you can get notification. For new message, new notification (facebook), it creates a pop up with something like 1 New messages

But if you integrate facebook, you can get the exact message in your desktop. Empathy activates automatically so that you can reply using it. (In fogger, you have to reply via the window, which is basically a webpage.)

If you integrate Libre.fm you can play music with rhythmbox. But if you create a fogger app, it will be played via browser.

If I am not clear to you, I suggest that you install both. You can spot the difference very easily.

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