Unite 3 for macOS Turns Any Website Into a Desktop App
Unite 3 is the newest major update to the popular website-to-desktop-app converting app for macOS. With version 3, it has received new smart and useful new features which include intelligent whitelisting, ad blocking, a compact mode for mobile web apps, support for macOS Catalina, and much more. Here is our in-depth review of the new features in this update.
Unite 3 - Turn Websites into Mac Apps
Although browsers like Chrome allow adding any website as a 'desktop app', specially if it's a PWA (Progressive Web App), the functionality is very basic. It works well as a cross-platform solution but does not take full advantage of the native features that macOS offers, leaving a lot to be desired for the website to feel like a native desktop app. This is where Unite 3 steps in.
Unite 3 not only allows converting websites into desktop apps, it also offers tons of customization features. The app lets you a status bar icon, apply custom style sheets, block ads, change browser user agents, switch between desktop or mobile website and much more.
Unite 3 Setup
When you first launch the app, you are greeted with a simple setup screen. You can enter the name for the app, the website URL and chose the icon. The app lets you fetch the icon from the website which is really handy. However, in case it is low resolution, or you just want to use your own, you can do so.
An option is available to create the application as a 'status bar app'. This will out the app's icon in your Mac's status bar on the top right. Clicking it will instantly open the app, and also allow access to some quick settings. Another option allows creating a 'compact app'. This is a handy feature that allows creating apps using mobile versions of websites. If you are an Instagram user and want to access your message on desktop, this is the option to use.
The last option in the setup screen is 'Enable Intelligent whitelisting'. This basically allows the app to automatically open certain links in a browser, instead of trying to load them in the app view. If you setup up Gmail as an app, and click a link in your email, it will not open in the app itself. Instead, it will open the link in your browser. Keep this option enabled at all times, as it prevents your app from redirecting to another URL.
Unite 3 offers a plethora of customization options. You can customize the following:
- Downloads folder location.
- Create a global keyboard shortcut.
- Enable or disable cookies.
- Enable dock badge support.
- Hide window title, icon and titlebar.
- Change window color and fonts. The app can also automatically detect and apply the window color based on the website's colors.
- Customize behavior for opening links in a new tab, window or in the background.
There are a lot more options available in Settings. The app even supports custom user scripts and user styles, which can be used to override specific features and design elements on websites.
Using Unite 3 based apps
Once you have set up your apps, you can easily launch them from your applications folder or Launchpad. Since Unite 3 does not use Chromium, it is extremely lightweight and fast, thanks to WebKit 2. The apps do not consume a lot of memory, and do not make your MacBook fans go crazy either.
I set up Netflix as an app, and removed the top toolbar. The app looked beautiful in the chrome-less window. Since Unite 3 uses Webkit, the same engine as Safari, Netflix streamed video in full HD resolution.
I also used Twitter as a Unite 3 app and it worked well. However, as Twitter already has a desktop app, I found myself using it more often thanks to notifications support.
I also tried out Gmail but noticed that it just works better on Chrome's own engine, rather than on WebKit. Blame that on Google's insistence on making their websites work better only on their browser. However, one nice thing was that the app shows an unread badge for Gmail.
With YouTube, you will miss out on 4K quality video as it doesn't work on WebKit. But that is a small price to pay for not having my Mac heat-up because YouTube does not stream 4K in h.264.
A single Mac license for Unite 3 costs $14.99. If you buy it for 2 or more Macs, the price gets cheaper as you add more licenses. The good thing about the Unite 3's pricing is that it avoids the recurring subscription payment model. Before you make the purchase, you can also try out the free trial version to make up your mind.
The top question on everyone's mind would be: why use Unite 3 instead of other free alternatives? The features you get such as simple setup, extreme customization, WebKit 2's performance and efficiency, intelligent whitelisting and ad-blocking justify the app's price. We recommendation that if you use a lot of web apps and would like to set them up like native apps on your Mac, Unite 3 is one of the best solutions available right now.
Buy Unite 3
Thank to Binyamin Goldman for providing the review copy!