What is Electron?
Who uses Electron?
Here are some stack decisions, common use cases and reviews by companies and developers who chose Electron in their tech stack.
We wanted to experiment with building an Electron app with downloads for every Linux distro, macOS, and Windows, in addition to the web. Fundamentally, this seemed pretty easy: we write code, wrap it in an Electron shell, and release to our desired operating system… It turns out we were wrong.
Electron, though powerful, turned out to be a bigger beast than we had anticipated. Building to different distros was especially hard, even with electron-builder (granted, we had the bad luck of needing to patch electron-builder (and that bug has since been fixed), but that only accounted for some of the pain points we hit). The macOS menu bar had to be just right for the macOS store to accept our app, and performing small tasks with the Electron API, like opening a link in an external browser, turned out to be pretty difficult.
Despite the difficulties, our team moved forward with some custom tooling (all visible and open-sourced on Github) and we released not only to all of our release targets but to the web, too.
I'm building most projects using: Server: either Fastify (all projects going forward) or ExpressJS on Node.js (existing, previously) on the server side, and Client app: either Vuetify (currently) or Quasar Framework (going forward) on Vue.js with vuex on Electron for the UI to deliver both web-based and desktop applications for multiple platforms.
The direct support for Android and iOS in Quasar Framework will make it my go-to client UI platform for any new client-side or web work. On the server, I'll probably use Fastly for all my server work, unless I get into Go more in the future.
Update: The mobile support in Quasar is not a sufficiently compelling reason to move me from Vuetify. I have decided to stick with Vuetify for a UI for Vue, as it is richer in components and enables a really great-looking professional result. For mobile platforms, I will just use Cordova to wrap the Vue+Vuetify app for mobile, and Electron to wrap it for desktop platforms.
Finding the most effective dev stack for a solo developer. Over the past year, I've been looking at many tech stacks that would be 'best' for me, as a solo, indie, developer to deliver a desktop app (Windows & Mac) plus mobile - iOS mainly. Initially, Xamarin started to stand-out. Using .NET Core as the run-time, Xamarin as the native API provider and Xamarin Forms for the UI seemed to solve all issues. But, the cracks soon started to appear. Xamarin Forms is mobile only; the Windows incarnation is different. There is no Mac UI solution (you have to code it natively in Mac OS Storyboard. I was also worried how Xamarin Forms , if I was to use it, was going to cope, in future, with Apple's new SwiftUI and Google's new Fuchsia.
This plethora of techs for the UI-layer made me reach for the safer waters of using Web-techs for the UI. Lovely! Consistency everywhere (well, mostly). But that consistency evaporates when platform issues are addressed. There are so many web frameworks!
But, I made a simple decision. It's just me...I am clever, but there is no army of coders here. And I have big plans for a business app. How could just 1 developer go-on to deploy a decent app to Windows, iPhone, iPad & Mac OS? I remembered earlier days when I've used Microsoft's ASP.NET to scaffold - generate - loads of Code for a web-app that I needed for several charities that I worked with. What 'generators' exist that do a lot of the platform-specific rubbish, allow the necessary customisation of such platform integration and provide a decent UI?
I've placed my colours to the Quasar Framework mast. Oh dear, that means Electron desktop apps doesn't it? Well, Ive had enough of loads of Developers saying that "the menus won't look native" or "it uses too much RAM" and so on. I've been using non-native UI-wrapped apps for ages - the date picker in Outlook on iOS is way better than the native date-picker and I'd been using it for years without getting hot under the collar about it. Developers do get so hung-up on things that busy Users hardly notice; don't you think?. As to the RAM usage issue; that's a bit true. But Users only really notice when an app uses so much RAM that the machine starts to page-out. Electron contributes towards that horizon but does not cause it. My Users will be business-users after all. Somewhat decent machines.
Looking forward to all that lovely Vue.js around my TypeScript and all those really, really, b e a u t I f u l UI controls of Quasar Framework . Still not sure that 1 dev can deliver all that... but I'm up for trying...
Have been a Visual Studio Code user since just after launch to the general public, having used the likes of Eclipse and Atom previously. Was amazed how mature it seemed off the bat and was super intrigued by the bootstrapped nature of it having been written/based on Electron/TypeScript, and of course being an open-source app from Microsoft. The features, plugin ecosystem and release frequency are very impressive. I do dev work on both Mac and Windows and don't use anything else now as far as IDEs go.
I use Visual Studio Code because it is great out of the box, it has an integrated terminal, and support for quite a few languages. As a developer who works with TypeScript, their tooling is amazing in the VSCode Marketplace. The best part about VSCode is that can be as lightweight or as decked out as you want it to be. Even though a lot of other IDE's are Electron apps just like VSCode I find that VSCode boots up the fastest. I've tried other IDE's and I always find myself coming back to VSCode.
Slack's new desktop application was launched for macOS. It was built using Electron for a faster, frameless look with a host of background improvements for a superior Slack experience. Instead of adopting a complete-in-box approach taken by other apps, Slack prefers a hybrid approach where some of the assets are loaded as part of the app, while others are made available remotely. Slack's original desktop app was written using the MacGap v1 framework using WebView to host web content within the native app frame. But it was difficult to upgrade with new features only available to Apple's WKWebView and moving to this view called for a total application rewrite.
Electron brings together Chromium's rendering engine with the Node.js runtime and module system. The new desktop app is now based on an ES6 + async/await React application is currently being moved gradually to TypeScript. Electron functions on Chromium's multi-process model, with each Slack team signed into a separate process and memory space. It also helps prevent remote content to directly access desktop features using a feature called WebView Element which creates a fresh Chromium renderer process and assigns rendering of content for its hosting renderer. Additional security can be ensured by preventing Node.js modules from leaking into the API surface and watching out for APIs with file paths. Communication between processes on Electron is carried out via electron-remote, a pared-down, zippy version of Electron's remote module, which makes implementing the web apps UI much easier.
- Electron is open source
- maintained by GitHub and an active community.
- Electron apps build and run on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
- Automatic updates
- Crash reporting
- Windows installers
- Debugging & profiling
- Native menus & notifications