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Configuring web apps to work like native Windows apps

Posted on: September 27th, 2017 by Simon Swords

There are times when you might want to put a link on your desktop to a web app which loads it like a native app would appear, with a place on the dock/taskbar and the ability to Alt/Control + Tab.

This is really easy to do in Windows (not on a Mac unfortunately) by going into the Chrome browser, and then  ‘Chrome’s Tools’ -> ‘More Tools’ -> ‘Add to Desktop’ -> ‘Open as New Window option’.  Wrapping Spotify Web, Outlook 365 and Slack for example into their own “applications” lets you treat them as if they are native apps, and uses a lot less resources than the actual “native” apps.

You can also pin a web app in the browser, this makes it easy to go visit the site (on Mac OSX and Google Chrome, use Cmd + , on Windows use Ctrl + ), pinning makes it one of the first tabs in the browser so Cmd + 1 (or Ctrl + 1) as an example and it is easy to use the web browser as intended and switch back to the web app.

Much discussion was had on Hacker News recently about new releases of Trello specifically for Mac and Windows. Trello have used Electron as the basis for these “native” apps, which means they deliver the web app in a slimline shell rather than as real native apps.

As a software development company we spend most, if not all, of our time working within browser based software. So for us it didn’t make sense for there to be a native version of Trello whatsoever. However the above hacks are useful to emulate native apps, and we’ll certainly be using them here at Atlas.

Credit to Hacker News users joshuacc and dpflan for these ideas.

Feel free to add any other browser hacks you might have in the comments below.

Simon Swords


Managing Director

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