Light, fast, and shiny, many Web apps have the futuristic feel of a bullet train. They also have numerous advantages over desktop apps: There's nothing to install, they don't take up any hard drive space or RAM, they're quick and easy to access, and you don't ever have to worry about using an outdated version. But Web apps ride on the rickety rails of a browser, and that means that every Web app you run has all your browser's problems with incompatibility, instability, and resource-hogging.
Best known for its slick way of slipping the Start Menu into Windows 8, innovative app platform Pokki (pronounced "poke-key") brings Web and mobile apps—including some which are exact replicas of websites—right to the desktop of any Windows PC running XP on up. There are hundreds of Pokki apps to choose from, but you have to get started somewhere. These five essential Pokki apps will fulfill all your basic Web needs without ever touching your browser.
The Web is all about communication. Gmail Lite is an incredibly lightweight Gmail client that takes email out of your browser and brings it, with a twist, to your desktop. The best part of having Gmail on your desktop is the real-time notifications; these come in pop-up banners as well as little tray badges, and ensure no email goes unnoticed. Gmail Lite sits in your Windows tray, and with one click, gives you access to all your emails, including labels, starred and sent emails. You can easily perform various Gmail actions such as assigning labels, starring and unstarring, archiving, and, of course, reading and writing emails.
Gmail Lite is almost perfect, but it is missing several crucial features: You cannot attach files; there is no in-email spellchecking; you cannot choose which email address to send from in case you own several, and (the most painful) the search feature doesn't work. Nevertheless, Gmail Lite is an excellent client for most Gmail features, and its multiple-user support really seals the deal.
Email is important, but you can't stay connected without reading the news. Pokki has you covered in this area as well, with its very own desktop version of Pulse. Pulse for Pokki is a mirror image of the Web app, with one significant difference: There's no need to launch your browser. Once you sign in with your Pulse account, the app will immediately sync your sources and feeds. If you don't have an account yet, you can easily create one from within the app or log in using Facebook.
To start, add some favorite sources using the "Add Content" button. These can be easily divided into categories of your choosing or added to one big collection. When viewing your feeds, you get to choose from three different layout options, all containing both titles and images in different sizes. Unlike Pulse for mobile, Pulse for Pokki shows one source at a time, letting you switch sources using the left menu. While reading an article, you can share it on Facebook or Twitter, play with different font sizes and styles, and choose between a light or dark theme.
Pulse for Pokki is not without downsides. The share-by-email option, marked by an envelope button, causes the app to freeze repeatedly. There's no way to add an article to favorites in the Pokki version, although you can browse your favorites from the app—but if you have none, the app will direct you to add some using the nonexistent star icon. There's also no convenient way to refresh the app. Despite these issues, Pulse for Pokki is a convenient and speedy way to stay in touch with your favorite blogs and online publications, thus staying connected at all times.
Staying connected shouldn't come at the expense of productivity. Finding yourself spending too much time on Twitter and not enough time on work? Wunderlist's beautiful Pokki app is just what you need. Renowned to-do list application Wunderlist is available for multiple platforms, including both Web and mobile, and they all sync automatically. While you can get Wunderlist for Windows,you'll have to download another 14MB, and clutter your system with yet another app. With Wunderlist for Pokki, there is no installation. You can start using the app less than a minute after deciding you want to.
If you're a Wunderlist user, the Pokki version of the app will look very familiar, with every feature you've come to expect from other versions of Wunderlist. After logging into your account, you can start adding scheduled tasks and to-do items, with or without a date, placing them in your own custom lists. Wunderlist comes with several useful keyboard shortcuts for easy browsing which you can easily learn by pressing "H." In fact, not only can you access your slick to-do list with one mouse click, you can easily access most of its features without having to click that mouse again.
As with other Pokki apps, this one too comes with tray badge notifications for overdue tasks, which will keep reminding you of the things you haven't done. With its customizable backgrounds, super-easy browsing and automatic mobile syncing, Wunderlist will make you want to get things done.
We all like being in touch and being efficient, but when it comes down to it, what we all really want is to stay happy. If you can do that by working, call yourself lucky—but if emails and to-do lists are sometimes stressful, there's nothing more relaxing than photos, and for beautiful photos, there's nothing better than Instagram. Despite its immense popularity, Instagram is notorious for its lack of Web and desktop presence. Although Instagram has recently added Web profiles and an online feed, Instagrille is still a much slicker way to browse your favorite photos, combining the best of the mobile and Web worlds.
Team Pokki's Instagrille brings Instagram to your desktop, and does it with impeccable style. Instagrille is truly one of the best-looking apps I've ever seen—on any platform—and the gorgeous interface is further highlighted by the general beauty of photography. Instagrille lets you do everything you can imagine with Instagram, excluding two things: You can't create an Instagram account, and you can't upload images from your computer. Aside from that, everything is possible. Using the top bar, you can browse your feed, popular and nearby photos. You can choose between two different layouts for photos, and view each photo by itself on the entire app screen.
Interactions such as commenting, liking, and sharing on other networks are very intuitive, and you can also discover, follow, and unfollow other users with ease. To top it all off, Instagrille lets you view each photo online, if you wish, or download it as is to your computer. And of course, as with other Pokki apps, a tray notification appears whenever a new photo is added to your feed, or when other users like or comment on your photos. This is the true Instagram experience, without touching your mobile device or your browser.
Photography is not everyone's thing, though, and as beautiful as it can be, Instagram might not be the thing to keep you happy. But where photos might fail, there's one thing that never does, and that's games. Specifically, the addictive game of Angry Birds. While known best for its mobile versions, Angry Birds is also available for Windows, but with its 50MB+ installer, a lengthy installation process, and a full-screen game that's hard even for medium-strength computers to haul, Angry Birds for Windows is not the best choice if you want to actually enjoy the game.
Angry Birds for Pokki, however, is a delightful discovery, bringing the Angry Birds Chrome experience right to your desktop. With one click, you can start playing dozens of levels of Angry Birds using half the RAM the full Windows version does, and with surprising responsiveness, even in full-screen mode. Since this is actually the Chrome version of Angry Birds, you need to sign in with your Google account in order to play most of the levels, and the available levels are mostly special holiday ones, but these include all the cool birds, all the mad piggies, and even the Mighty Eagle. The game is ad-supported, but you can get rid of the ads forever for $4.
For Windows 8 users, Pokki itself could be a lifesaver, with its start-menu-like interface that brings back the much sought-out feature to the Windows 8 interface. So now that you know where to start, it's time to download Pokki and discover the worlds of mobile and Web apps on your Windows desktop.