Progressive Web Apps can be enabled on Desktop Chrome right now—here’s how

Progressive Web Apps can be enabled on Desktop Chrome right now—here’s how

Apps on Chrome generally offer a good user experience, but they can be nightmares for developers who have to navigate the browser’s proprietary APIs. Luckily, Google’s moving to adopt a platform — Progressive Web Apps — that does away with many of the complexities, and it’s supported in the latest stable version of Chrome.

Enabling Progressive Web Apps in Chrome is easy. Assuming your client’s up to date, all you have to do is toggle three development flags: App Banners and Experimental App Bannerswhich enable the prompts that let you install web apps; and Desktop PWAs, which adds windowing and banner support for PWAs.

If the links aren’t working for you, try copying and pasting these URLs into the address bar:

Progressive Web App flags in Chrome.

It gets easier from that point on. Once you’ve enabled the relevant flags and typed in a PWA’s web address, you’ll see an Install to desktop option in Chrome’s drop-down menu.

Then you’ll get an Install to desktop pop-up prompt. Clicking on Add will save the PWA to your PC’s desktop, where you can launch it just as you would any Chrome app.

PWAs, if you haven’t heard, are web apps designed with the flexibility of desktop apps in mind. They launch from icons and shortcuts just like native apps, but their reliance on CSS3, JavaScript, and other open web frameworks allows them to work across browsers and platforms with minimal porting. By using a combination of plugins, web APIs, and scripts, they’re able to juggle tasks like network requests, push notifications, content fetching, and more.

There’s a lot to like about PWAs. They have the potential to reduce load times and data usage, and some even have better user interfaces than their native counterparts. But they’re not perfect. Chrome lacks a first-party storefront for PWAs, for example — to find apps, you’ll have to scour community showcases like PWA.rocks. And PWAs can’t use Chrome to its fullest just yet. In a statement late last year, Google said that it’s been “investigating ways to simplify the transition for developers that depend on exclusive Chrome App APIs.”

Like or not, though, Google’s going full steam ahead with PWAs. In 2017, the search giant announced that it’d phase out support for Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in favor of PWAs by “mid-2018”.

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