One of the better features to emerge in iOS 9 is support for picture-in-picture mode on the iPad. But when you’re trying to surf the web while watching Netflix on your Mac, it’s not as easy to do – you often end up moving separate windows around on the screen, or switching back and forth between the playing video and other browser tabs.
A new floating browser app for Mac called Fluid solves this problem by offering a way to view your work alongside your media content from places like YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo, Hulu and more.
The Fluid browser works just like any other normal browser, except that it’s floating on top of all other windows and can even be adjusted to be transparent.
If you make it transparent, you can then work behind your content. When you want to visit another site in Fluid, or make any other changes, you return to the app using either the menu bar icon at the top of the screen, or you can click the icon in the dock.
While active, you can adjust the transparency levels, manage your favorites and history, and access file uploading features – features that make Fluid feel more like a real web browser, rather than just a video-watching utility.
The browser currently supports PDFs, images and (soon) movie files that it can then display in its window. (The company says .MP4 support is in the version waiting for App Store approval). In addition, when you visit popular media sites including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo and Youku, the site will automatically switch to embedded video links allowing edge-to-edge viewing.
Also available is a Chrome extension that allows you to open up links within Fluid Browser.
According to Fluid’s developer, Grant Wilkinson, now a senior at the University of Denver, the idea to build Fluid came to him because it was something he needed for himself.
“As a younger-generation college student, in my opinion, there is this growing need to have the TV on when also on your computer,” he says. (By “TV,” he seems to mean TV on the Internet. Kids these days!) Plus, there’s value that goes beyond a desire to multitask while simply watching entertaining videos, he adds.
“As a college student, I see immediate uses while studying and typing a paper,” says Wilkinson, noting that there are productive uses for Fluid as well, like watching tutorials or lectures alongside his work.
Fluid is not the only multitasking browser for Mac, of course. Another popular app called Helium has a similar feature set, but doesn’t offer quite the same experience. Helium also allows for a transparent floating window. However, Fluid is handy as it displays a menu bar at the top for navigating the web, access to Favorites and History, along with standard browser controls while active, like back, forward and refresh buttons. And when you click away from Fluid, the toolbar disappears so you just see the video content.
Wilkinson previously built a social utility called Hashtack that combined Facebook, Twitter and Instagram into one app. But Fluid, which he built with college friend Alec Tremaine, is his first major application, he says.
The team is bootstrapping the project – the app costs $2.99 to download on the Mac App Store.