Open Websites In A Floating, Borderless Window With Pennywise

Pennywise load website in floating window

Pennywise is a cross-platform application to open websites or local media in a floating window that stays on top of other windows, somewhat similar to the Picture-in-Picture feature available in some web browsers like Google Chrome, Vivaldi or Firefox Nightly, but with extra features.

The application, which uses Electron, allows you to load a website, be it a video or text tutorial, a music video on YouTube, watching your favorite streamer on Twitch, and so on, in an always on top window on which you can keep an eye on while doing other stuff, for easy multitasking.

Pennywise can be made borderless, and it can be set to Detached mode, which lets any interactions fall through to the window below it. The application has an option that allows changing its opacity too, but it only works on macOS and Windows; while not supported by Pennywise directly, this is also possible on Linux using the features available on some desktop environments (explained below).

Pennywise floating borderless window
Pennywise being used to watch a tutorial in a floating, always on top window

For some video streaming websites, like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch and DailyMotion, Pennywise uses the embedded video code, so the video takes up the whole window, as if it's maximized inside the Pennywise window. It's worth noting that Pennywise is not able to play videos that require Widevine, such as Netflix.

Pennywise features:

  • The Pennywise window starts and stays on top of any other open windows
  • Minimal, toggleable user interface: the menu is hidden by default (hold Alt to show it), the navbar can be hidden and the application window can be borderless
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Remote control (currently this is only used by a Chrome/Firefox extension that can send the current tab to Pennywise)
  • Supports opening local media (from its menu: Pennywise -> Open) like videos and even PDF files
  • Detached mode allows you to interact with windows behind the Pennywise window (on Linux, or at least on Gnome, Detached mode only works when the Pennywise window is used in borderless mode)
  • macOS and Windows only: adjustable window opacity
  • Cross-platform: it runs on Linux, Windows and macOS

The adjustable opacity feature is quite important, and unfortunately it's not available on Linux due to a limitation in Electron.

But there are ways of changing the Pennywise window opacity on Linux - for example using a command like this assigned to a keyboard shortcut, using an extension such as Transparent Window on GNOME Shell, using the built-in opacity feature in KDE Plasma (go to System Settings -> Window Management -> Window Behavior -> Window Actions and change the behavior for Alt + Mouse wheel to Change Opacity), there's a Compiz plugin if you use Compiz/Unity, and so on.

The Pennywise window with decreased opacity on Linux (I'm using the Transparent Window extension I already mentioned):

Pennywise floating transparent window

A few useful shortcuts and hints on using Pennywise:

  • After you load a website in Pennywise, a navigation bar is shown, with back/forward buttons, the URL bar, etc. Hide the navbar to maximize its window's real estate by using Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + L. Show and focus the navbar by using Cmd/Ctrl + L
  • Make the Pennywise window borderless using Ctrl + Shift + F. This restarts Pennywise, so it won't preserve any URL loaded in Pennywise prior to using this keyboard shortcut
  • After you open the YouTube (or Twitch, Vimeo or DailyMotion) homepage or search page and click on a video, the video is not fullscreen inside the Pennywise window (taking up the whole window). Make the video fill the entire Pennywise window by focusing the navbar and pressing the Enter key after selecting the URL (refreshing the page does not achieve this). If you see a "Video unavailable" error, it means that video can't be embedded, and you can get it to load anyway by disabling Pennywise from embedding videos from its menu (hold Alt to show the menu, Edit > Embed Videos)
  • Check out the complete shortcuts list

Download Pennywise

Pennywise runs on Linux, macOS and Windows. For Linux, its releases page has DEB binaries for Debian, Ubuntu and Linux Mint (and other Debian or Ubuntu-based Linux distributions), and AppImage binaries, which can be used on any Linux distribution.