How to turn your favorite web apps into desktop apps

As you can have noticed, we now do most of our calculations through web browsers. Websites and web apps can take care of everything from watching movies to creating spreadsheets to checking emails.

If you think about the desktop programs that you use regularly, for many people it will probably be limited to an image editor, a web browser, and maybe a desktop application. Working in the cloud is now the norm and the trend is only going one way. (Microsoft even lets you stream windows via a web browser now.)

As the distinction between online applications and desktop programs becomes increasingly blurred, it is now possible to configure some of the most well-known web applications on your Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS desktop. This uses what’s called Progressive Web Applications, or PWAs, and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

Progressive web apps explained

Progressive web applications are special types of web applications. Not all apps that you can run on the web are PWAs. For an online application to be eligible, it must be designed in a particular way by its developer and use a particular set of coding standards that allow it to stand as a desktop program.

Some of the best known examples of PWA are Twitter, Spotify, Google Chat, and Uber, but more are added all the time. Google (naturally) and Microsoft both champion the idea that PWAs are part of the desktop ecosystem. That’s why the easiest option to configure them is to use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browsers.

Chrome OS can put entries for web applications in its main launcher.

Chrome OS via David Nield

When you switch from using a site like Twitter in the browser to using it in a PWA, you won’t see a huge difference right away. PWAs are basically websites that run in a desktop program wrapper, so most of the functionality is the same. However, you will be able to treat them like desktop applications, which brings a number of advantages.

This means that you can manage these apps more easily from the taskbar (Windows), dock (macOS), or shelf (Chrome OS). Installing PWA also means that notifications from these apps can be managed at the operating system level and handled differently from notifications from your browser. They are found in the main list of apps and you don’t need to open your browser to use them.

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