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PWA are about to behave a lot more like Desktop Apps

Google and Microsoft are closely working together to bridge the gap between PWA and their Desktop counterparts

written by
Stéphane Chan-kam
Feb 3, 2020

Things are shaking in the PWA space at the beginning of 2020, and I thought it would be good to sum up all the new features that are going to enhance the use of our beloved Progressive Web Apps this year.

The new Microsoft Edge browser is now available

Since mid-january 2020, the new (Chromium-based) Microsoft Edge Browser is available for download. The fact that this new version of Edge is based on the Chromium codebase is important for what's coming next. If you're already using an older version of Microsoft Edge, it will be replaced by this new one.

PWA icons located on the Windows Taskbar will be getting "App shortcuts"

In order to get app shortcuts similar to what you can find on Android, the Microsoft team pushed a feature proposal earlier this year. The feature will allow users to right click on the PWA icon and perform custom actions related to the app.

Indeed, Rahul Singh from the Microsoft Edge team wrote: 

“Chromium currently supports adding PWA icons in several locations like the desktop, start menu on Windows, and the quick launch bar as part of the installation process. These shortcuts are aimed at helping users quickly launch the PWA. However, Chromium currently does not allow users to start a key task within a PWA through the quick launch bar icon menu” 

PWA will be able to start at system launch

Spotted in the Chromium codebase this week, a new feature request (again from the Microsoft Edge Team) suggests that it will be soon possible for Progressive Web Apps to be launched at system startup, without the need for the user to start them manually. 

This is great news for the future of Progressive Web Apps, as this was a missing feature compared to apps built with the Electron Framework such as Slack for example, or Spotify which is running on the Chromium Embedded Framework.

Microsoft is adding URL Protocol Handler Registration Support for PWA

As explained on their Github account, Microsoft Engineers explain that Progressive Web Apps should be able to be registered as handlers for URL protocols.

This will provide the user with a more native-like experience, being able to be redirected to the registered PWA when clicking on an hyperlink with a specific scheme such as "mailto://", "msword://", "web+music".

The PWA will then be opened on the correct scope with the corresponding content. 

Basically, this looks a lot like deep linking for PWA, available from any Chromium-based browsers.

Please note that all of these features are only at the proposal stage or just being integrated in the Canary version of Chromium, but there are very high chances to see them appear in the Chrome and Edge stable version later this year.

I'm personally seeing a big push from Microsoft to enhance the user experience while using PWA, making their behaviour and usage closer and closer to what we can find in native apps. What do you think about it ?

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