No, you’re not imagining it, the look and feel of desktop applications have advanced leaps and bounds over the past several years, with more and more applications resembling modern websites than ever before. The technology behind this latest evolutionary step of desktop applications is called Electron, and this article is here to explain why you should build an Electron desktop app before your competitors do.
What is Electron?
The first version of Electron was released in 2013 as Atom Shell, and the framework has since then been embraced by a large number of desktop applications, with many of them being open source. Here are 5 popular Electron apps that you’ve most likely heard about at some point in time:
- Atom: a free and open-source text and source code editor that makes collaborating on code easy.
- Discord: a VoIP application and digital distribution platform designed for video gaming communities.
- Slack: a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services that brings team communication and collaboration into one place.
- Trello: a web-based list-making application for organizing your work and life.
- Etcher: a free and open-source utility used for burning image files such as .iso and .img files.
There’s a number of reasons why developers flock to Electron, and why the demand for them has been growing steadily in recent years. Let’s take a closer look at 5 things developers love about Electron to explain why it makes so much sense to use it for your next desktop app.
Why should you build an Electron desktop app?
#1 Low barrier to entry
Professional developers are in extremely high demand these days, and it’s estimated that the number of unfulfilled software development positions could exceed one million by 2020. That’s especially bad news for anyone who is looking for quality software developers, especially if they are also on a tight budget.
#2 Increased development speed
Back in the day, it took a very long time to develop even a relatively small desktop application because software developers had to write all of its parts from scratch, using low-level programming languages that provided minimal handholding.
#3 Automatic updates and convenient installers
Mobile devices have changed what we expect applications to do. Instead of downloading updates from a website, users anticipate applications to update automatically as soon as the latest version is released, preferably in the background. They also expect applications to be shipped as convenient installers that bundle all application components together.
Electron desktop apps can automatically update themselves thanks to the autoUpdater component and creating convenient installers for Electron desktop apps takes very little time thanks to electron-builder, a complete solution to package and build a ready for distribution Electron app for macOS, Windows, and Linux.
#4 Cross-platform support
When you write an Electron application, you can be sure that it will run on all major desktop operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. Many different OS integrations are supported right out of the box, such as native OS menu bars, notifications tray applets, media keys, and others, which saves developers a considerable amount of time.
The reason Electron desktop applications run flawlessly across different operating systems is simple: they are essentially instances of the Chromium web browser, Google’s open-source web browser project. That’s also why they tend to consume far more memory than desktop applications written in other programming languages.
#5 Large community of developers and users
Electron is a massive open source project whose reach spans the globe, and there are thriving Electron communities of developers and users everywhere, producing an abundance of educational resources and development tools.
Perhaps because Electron has such a low barrier to entry, Electron communities tend to be extremely welcoming to newcomers, and they never punish their members for asking questions and being curious.
Electron is a progressive software development framework that has given us a number of prominent desktop applications, including Atom, Discord, Slack, Trello, and Etcher, just to name a few. The reasons why professional Electron JS developers enjoy using it include its low barrier to entry, fast speed of development, automatic updates and convenient installers, cross-platform support, and its large community of developers and users.