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App Development
7 minutes read

What are Electron Apps?

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
7 minutes read

What are Electron apps? If you are considering desktop app development, you have likely come across the term Electron app. There are many quality technologies that web developers use to create stunning websites and applications. Determining which technology is the right choice for your desktop app can be difficult, especially if you are not familiar with all of your options. 

Today, web developers can choose from several different, high-quality web development tools. This post will cover the Electron framework. First, we will explain what Electron is and then the benefits of using it to develop desktop applications. Learning more about the power of Electron apps should help your organization make the best choice for your needs. 

Understanding Electron Apps: What is Electron? 

Electron, also known as ElectronJS, is an open-source software development framework for building cross-platform desktop apps. The Electron framework was initially developed and released by GitHub in 2013. At the initial release, Electron was called Atom Shell. 

The framework has since gotten very popular and has been used to build several immensely influential desktop applications, including Slack, Trello, and Discord, to name a few. GitHub continues to support and maintain Electron, and contributors and companies join them from all over the world in their efforts to continuously improve Electron. 

Electron apps run natively on all major desktop operating systems, macOS, Windows, and Linux. In addition, web developers don’t have to learn any new programming languages to work with Electron because the framework runs on Chromium and Node.js, which means developers can use JavaScript everywhere, and other standard web technologies such as HTML and CSS.

Chromium is the engine that powers Google Chrome, and Node.js is the world’s most popular server-side JavaScript engine. Both Chromium and Node.js are well-established and maintained technologies, so your organization can be confident in the stability and longevity of Electron apps. 

Now that you know more about Electron, it is time to discuss the pros and cons of using Electron for your desktop application. 

The Pros of Using Electron 

Electron is a very popular desktop app development framework. It is used by some of the most successful tech companies to create rich desktop apps. The main pros associated with using Electron are:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast development time 
  • Cross-platform 
  • Auto updates 
  • Open-source 

Easy to Use 

A technology's ease of use is a bigger deal than you might imagine. Keep this in mind, the more skill a technology requires, the more difficult and expensive it will be to find talented developers. Electron allows developers to use standard web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS to create desktop apps. 

Your organization doesn’t necessarily even need to find a software developer. Since Electron apps can be built entirely using web technologies, your organization could hire web developers instead of software engineers. While both positions require skill, web developers are typically more affordable to hire than software engineers. 

In addition, since there is a global shortage of development talent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will likely be easier to find available web developers who are well-versed in JavaScript than software engineers. 

Fast Development Time 

The amount of time it takes to develop a desktop app when using a framework like Electron is significantly reduced. This is because frameworks allow developers to focus on the unique parts of the code without having to code every small, fundamental aspect of the application. 

Electron apps can be developed even quicker than many other frameworks allow because they are written in JavaScript. Not only is JavaScript a language that most developers are very familiar with, but JavaScript is also far easier to debug and optimize than most other languages used to develop apps. 

Cross-Platform 

There are three major desktop operating systems, macOS, Linux, and Windows. Cross-platform technologies, like Electron, simplify the development process for project management teams. Instead of creating three separate desktop apps, one for each operating system, your development team can put all of its time and energy into creating one great desktop app that can run on all of the major platforms. 

Auto Updates 

Electron apps contain an autoUpdater component that enables them to update themselves automatically. Modern users have gotten used to apps automatically updating themselves on their mobile devices. Creating a desktop app that doesn’t need to be manually updated ensures that all of your users get the latest version of your app. 

When users have to manually update their apps, they tend to fall behind the updates, leading to poor app performance and damage to your brand image. Automatic updates also ensure that all users are getting the most secure version of your app. 

Open-Source 

The advantage of being an open-source technology should not be underestimated. For one, open-source technologies enjoy large support communities that provide help, resources, and new development tools. In addition, open-source technologies are free to use. This not only helps save your organization money, but it also means that more people are using the technology, which makes it easier to find developers who can use it effectively. 

The Cons of Using Electron 

While there are many pros associated with Electron apps, there are also some cons that you should be aware of. Understanding the drawbacks of using a technology can help your organization make the right choice for your project. The main cons associated with Electron apps are: 

  • Size 
  • RAM/CPU consumption
  • Lack of mobile support 

Size

The biggest con associated with Electron apps is their size. This is mainly because Electron bundles Chromium and Node.js into the app. While Chromium and Node.js benefit Electron apps, these two technologies also make these apps a lot larger than their counterparts built on similar frameworks like Flutter. 

Size is an important consideration to take into account during the design phase. Users might be turned off if your app is too large. 

RAM/CPU Consumption 

Electron apps consume a lot of RAM and CPU resources. These apps consume a lot of resources because they run multiple instances of JavaScript simultaneously. Heavy resource consumption can slow down a user’s desktop app, leading them to abandon your app in favor of something that consumes fewer resources and runs faster. 

Lack of Mobile Support 

Mobile apps and devices dominate the modern Internet, and users tend to prefer mobile experiences to desktop experiences. Unfortunately, Electron has no mobile support. So if you're looking for a mobile option, Electron is not the choice for your needs. 

Final Thoughts 

There are several pros and cons to choosing Electron. While some of the cons might scare you away from using this framework, remember, some of the largest, most successful tech companies in the world use Electron.

If you need help determining which technology is best suited for your desktop app, reach out to an app development partner. A development partner can help you build a desktop app with their industry experience and technical expertise. Now that you know what Electron apps are, you can make the best choice for your organization.

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