Making your first Desktop Application with Electron

Use Javascript to build desktop apps 🎉

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If you're a web developer who uses a lot of Javascript, and want to make a desktop application without having to learn anything else, Electron is the right thing for you!

With Electron, you can build cross-platform applications with Javascript, HTML, and CSS.

Install Electron

Let's start of by creating a project and installing electron in it as a NPM Dev dependency

mkdir my-electron-app && cd my-electron-app
npm init -y
npm install -D electron

Your project structure should be like below

my-electron-app/
  |--node_modules/
  |--package.json
  |--main.js
  |--index.html

Create main.js file

The main.js file will serve as the entry point for our electron application. It will run the main process to serve our application, control the lifecycle of the application, display the GUI, perform native OS interactions, create Renderer processes, etc.

Import dependencies

const { app, BrowserWindow } = require('electron');

We need these two modules to

  1. Manage the app's lifecycle events
  2. Create and Control the Browser Window

Create Browser Window

function createWindow () {
    const win = new BrowserWindow({
        width: 800,
        height: 600,
        webpreferences: {
            nodeIntegration: true
        }
    })

    win.loadFile('index.html')
}

app.whenReady().then(createWindow)

In this function, we are creating a Browser Window. We have set the width and the height to 800 and 600, respectively and have enable node integration. Then we are loading the index.html file in our window and serving it

Bonus Tip

You can also serve a url instead of a file by using

win.loadURL('http://localhost:3000')
// OR
win.loadURL('https://livecode247.com')

On Window Close

app.on('window-all-closed', () => {
    if (process.platform !== 'darwin') {
        app.quit()
    }
})

In this function, we quit the application when all the windows have been closed. However, we do not do it in a Darwin(OSX) because of the different window management process in the same

New Window

You add a new listener that creates a new browser window only if when the application has no visible windows after being activated. For example, after launching the application for the first time, or re-launching the already running application.

app.on('activate', () => {
    if (BrowserWindow.getAllWindows().length === 0) {
        createWindow()
    }
})

Now that we have finished with the main script file, let's go to our HTML part

Create a web page

Add the following to the index.html file created earlier.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>Hello World!</title>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Security-Policy" content="script-src 'self' 'unsafe-inline';" />
</head>
<body style="background: white;">
    <h1>Hello World!</h1>
</body>
</html>

This is just a normal html file which has a heading Hello World!

Update package.json

Now, before we serve the application, we need to make some changes to the package.json file.

Main entry point

Update the "main" key to look like this

"main": "main.js",

Add Start script

Let's add a start script to our application like so,

"scripts": {
    "start": "electron ."
},

That's it! Now, let's try it out.

Running the app

Run the following in the terminal

npm start

Now, an application window should startup in your device and should show this Screenshot 2020-12-12 at 2.49.54 PM.jpg

BONUS

You can also add push notifications with electron. Let's try it out Add the following to your index.html

<script>
    const myNotification = new Notification('Title', {
        body: 'Notification from Rederer process'
    })

    myNotification.onclick = () => {
        console.log('Notification clicked')
    }
</script>

Now, when the app starts up, you should see, something like this Screenshot 2020-12-12 at 2.52.21 PM.jpg

Note: This will differ from OS to OS. The above is an image taken on OSX.

And when you click it, you should see Notification Clicked in the console. You can open the developer toold by running Cmd-option-i on a Mac or Ctrl-alt-i on Windows/Linux.

That's it for this

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