Building a Desktop App with Vue: NW.js

Building a Desktop App with Vue: NW.js

Building a Desktop App with Vue

Previously I’ve written two articles about building desktop applications with Vue framework: one for Vuido library and one for Electron. I’ve had some comments requesting an article about NW.js and I promised to write one… and here we go! Better late than never 😅

NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.## ⚛️ Differences from Electron

Electron and NW.js share many features: they are both built on top of Chromium and Node.js and use HTML, CSS and JS for building a desktop app. But they also have some notable differences:

  • In NW.js the main entry point of an application is a web page or a JS script. You specify this entry via package.json main property. In Electron, the entry point is a JavaScript script. Instead of providing a URL directly, you manually create a browser window and load an HTML file using the API.
  • On build process NW.js builds all Chromium; Electron uses libchromiumcontent to access Chromium’s Content API
  • NW.js has built-in support for compiling your source code to protected binaries. Electron is packaging its applications with asar, which contains the applications’ unprotected source code.
💻 What are we going to build

Now when we understand differences with Electron, we’re going to build the same application as in the previous article: an app to check the weather in the city of user’s choice built on top of OpenWeatherMap API. This project will be built with Vue CLI and I recommend this way to scaffold any Vue application.

If you want just to check the final NW.js app code, it’s here.

🛠️ Installation

Creating an app with Vue CLI

First, let’s scaffold an app with Vue CLI. Please make sure you have installed it with typing the following command in your console:

vue --version


If you don’t have a version or it’s less than 3.x, please run

npm install -g @vue/cli


Now you can create a Vue project from the console! To do so, please run

vue create <<YOUR-PROJECT-NAME>>


and select options you need. I will use the default setup for this project.

Great, now we’re ready to add some desktop magic 🧙

Adding NW.js

NW.js official documentation recommends to use one of two builders to package your application:

  • In NW.js the main entry point of an application is a web page or a JS script. You specify this entry via package.json main property. In Electron, the entry point is a JavaScript script. Instead of providing a URL directly, you manually create a browser window and load an HTML file using the API.
  • On build process NW.js builds all Chromium; Electron uses libchromiumcontent to access Chromium’s Content API
  • NW.js has built-in support for compiling your source code to protected binaries. Electron is packaging its applications with asar, which contains the applications’ unprotected source code.

I chose nwjs-builder-phoenix and I will describe further steps assuming you will use it as well 😅

So, first you need to add it as a dependency to your project:

npm install --save-dev nwjs-builder-phoenix
## OR
yarn add --dev nwjs-builder-phoenix


Now you need to modify your package.json file to provide a correct entry for the packager.

NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.
Packager entry should be specified under the main property. We’re going to run a development environment on the desktop so let’s extend our package.json with the following:

"main": "http://localhost:8080"


It’s the port where our scaffolded web application is running locally. Usually main is index.html but now we want to have a hot reload on every application change. That’s why we’re pointing main to a Vue application with hot reload module.

Running an application

Now let’s run our web application:

npm run serve
## OR
yarn serve


You can check [http://localhost:8080](http://localhost:8080 "http://localhost:8080") in your browser to make sure an app is actually running. There should be something like this:

And finally we’re ready to start a desktop app:

./node_modules/.bin/run .


NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.> NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.
Now you should have an application running on desktop

Let’s automate running dev environment a bit. Close your desktop app and install the NW.js SDK flavor:

npm install --save-dev [email protected]
## OR
yarn add --dev [email protected]


Now, add a new task to package.json scripts section:

"scripts": {
  "serve": "vue-cli-service serve",
  "build": "vue-cli-service build",
  "nw-serve": "nw ." /* <--- here is your new npm task */
},


Let’s try to run it:

npm run nw-serve
## OR
yarn nw-serve


You should have your app running on desktop again but no downloading step now 🎉

Good news: you can simply open devtools like you do in the browser and use them to debug your application! Just click Window -> Devtools

🕹️ Scaffolding an app

Similarly to Electron, NW.js-powered application is built like a usual web application, so we’re going to create a web app, style it with some CSS and let nwjs-builder-phoenix to care about packaging it to desktop application.

NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.
Open App.vue file and replace its content with the following code:

<template>
  <div id="app">
    <p>Enter the city name to check current weather in it</p>
    <section class="weather-input">
      <input type="text" v-model="query">
      <button :disabled="!query.length">Check</button>
    </section>
  </div>
</template>

<script>
export default {
  data() {
    return {
      query: "",
    };
  }
};
</script>

<style>
#app {
  font-family: "Avenir", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
  -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased;
  -moz-osx-font-smoothing: grayscale;
  text-align: center;
  color: #2c3e50;
  margin-top: 60px;
}

.button {
  color: #000;
}
</style>


Now our application looks this way:

🔗 Making an API call

I used the OpenWeatherMap current weather API. It gives you a lot of different information, you can check an example of JSON response here.

We’re going to use axios to make API calls. Obviously, we need to install it:

npm install axios
## OR
yarn add axios


To be able to use axios inside any Vue component we will import it to main.js, set the base URL and then create a property in Vue prototype for it:

//main.js

import axios from 'axios'

axios.defaults.baseURL = 'http://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5';
Vue.http = Vue.prototype.$http = axios;


Now in the App.vue we will create a bunch of data properties to display different weather data:

// App.vue

data() {
    return {
      query: '',
      error: false,
      city: '',
      country: '',
      weatherDescription: '',
      temp: null,
      tempMin: null,
      tempMax: null,
      humidity: null,
      icon: '',
    };
},


Similarly to Electron, I’ve added one additional property comparing to Vuido version and it’s an icon. API provides a weather icon but we couldn’t use it in Vuido app because currently there is no support for displaying images.

Let’s also create a method to fetch our data:

methods: {
  showWeather() {
    this.$http
      .get(`/weather?q=${this.query}&units=metric&&appid=${API_KEY}`)
      .then(response => {
        this.city = response.data.name;
        this.country = response.data.sys.country;
        this.weatherDescription = response.data.weather[0].description;
        this.temp = response.data.main.temp;
        this.tempMin = response.data.main.temp_min;
        this.tempMax = response.data.main.temp_max;
        this.humidity = response.data.main.humidity;
        this.icon = `http://openweathermap.org/img/w/${
          response.data.weather[0].icon
        }.png`;
        this.error = false;
      })
      .catch(() => {
        this.error = true;
        this.city = '';
      });
  },
},


NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.
and add it to the click callback of our button:

<button :disabled="!query.length" @click="showWeather">Check</button>


Now if you enter the text into an input field and click the button, you can observe the API call in the Network tab:

💅 Displaying weather data

Let’s add this data to the template:

<template>
  <main id="app">
    <p>Enter the city name to check current weather in it</p>
    <section class="weather-input">
      <input type="text" v-model="query">
      <button :disabled="!query.length" @click="showWeather">Check</button>
    </section>
    <section v-if="error" class="weather-error">
      There is no such city in the database
    </section>
    <section v-if="city.length" class="weather-result">
      <h1>{{city}}, {{country}}</h1>
      <p><em>{{weatherDescription}}</em></p>
      <div class="weather-result__main">
        <img :src="icon" alt="Weather icon">
        <div class="weather-result__temp">
          {{temp}}&deg;C
        </div>
      </div>
      <div class="weather-result__details">
        <p>Min: {{tempMin}}&deg;C</p>
        <p>Max: {{tempMax}}&deg;C</p>
        <p>Humidity: {{humidity}}%</p>
      </div>
    </section>
  </main>
</template>


Our application view:

It still looks too basic, so it’s time to add some CSS. Let’s replace the whole style section of App.vue with the following code:

<style>
* {
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
}
html,
body,
#app {
  height: 100%;
}

#app {
  font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
  font-size: 16px;
  padding: 10px;
  background: rgb(212, 228, 239);
  background: radial-gradient(
    ellipse at center,
    rgba(212, 228, 239, 1) 0%,
    rgba(134, 174, 204, 1) 100%
  );
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient( startColorstr='#d4e4ef', endColorstr='#86aecc',GradientType=1 ); /* IE6-9 fallback on horizontal gradient */
}

.weather-input {
  display: flex;
  align-items: center;
  padding: 20px 0;
}

.weather-result {
  text-align: center;
}

.weather-result__main {
  display: flex;
  align-items: center;
  justify-content: center;
  padding-top: 5px;
  font-size: 1.3rem;
  font-weight: bold;
}

.weather-result__details {
  display: flex;
  align-items: center;
  justify-content: space-around;
  color: dimgray;
}

.weather-error {
  color: red;
  font-weight: bold;
}

input {
  width: 75%;
  outline: none;
  height: 20px;
  font-size: 0.8rem;
}

button {
  display: block;
  width: 25%;
  height: 25px;
  outline: none;
  border-radius: 5px;
  white-space: nowrap;
  margin: 0 10px;
  font-size: 0.8rem;
}
</style>


And finally we have a beautiful fully-functional app:

The last thing to do before packaging it is to reduce a window size. To do so, we need to add a window property to package.json:

"window": {
  "width": 600,
  "height": 400
},


📦 Packaging

To package a NW.js app with nwjs-builder-phoenix you need to run a build command with a proper set of parameters. I am going to build it on for Mac to compare its size with Electron and Vuido apps.

First, we need to specify a NW.js version to be used on build process. We can do it via build property of package.json

"build": {
  "nwVersion": "0.35.3"
},


And then let’s run a build command in the terminal:

./node_modules/.bin/build --tasks mac-x64 .


NW.js (previosly known as node-webkit) is a framework for building desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s based on Chromium and Node.js. NW.js lets you call Node.js code and modules directly from browser and also use Web technologies in your app. Further, you can easily package a web application to a native application.
Let’s check a package size… 233 MB 😱!

Wow, that’s a lot. It’s even bigger than Electron application!

🌟 Conclusions

Pros:

  • In NW.js the main entry point of an application is a web page or a JS script. You specify this entry via package.json main property. In Electron, the entry point is a JavaScript script. Instead of providing a URL directly, you manually create a browser window and load an HTML file using the API.
  • On build process NW.js builds all Chromium; Electron uses libchromiumcontent to access Chromium’s Content API
  • NW.js has built-in support for compiling your source code to protected binaries. Electron is packaging its applications with asar, which contains the applications’ unprotected source code.

Cons

  • In NW.js the main entry point of an application is a web page or a JS script. You specify this entry via package.json main property. In Electron, the entry point is a JavaScript script. Instead of providing a URL directly, you manually create a browser window and load an HTML file using the API.
  • On build process NW.js builds all Chromium; Electron uses libchromiumcontent to access Chromium’s Content API
  • NW.js has built-in support for compiling your source code to protected binaries. Electron is packaging its applications with asar, which contains the applications’ unprotected source code.

What are the differences between the various JavaScript frameworks? E.g. Vue.js, Angular.js, React.js

What are the differences? Do they each have specific use contexts?

What are the differences? Do they each have specific use contexts?

Ember.js vs Vue.js - Which is JavaScript Framework Works Better for You

Ember.js vs Vue.js - Which is JavaScript Framework Works Better for You

In this article we will discuss full details and comparison of both Ember.js and Vue.js

JavaScript was initially created to work for web applications. But today they have become the favorite of mobile app developers. Most of the developers prefer to work with frameworks based on JavaScript. It simplifies coding. You can use JavaScript with almost any framework.

The use of a particular framework will decide how easy and fast it is to create the app. So, you must choose the best one suited for the app that you are planning to build. You must make a wise choice so that you benefit in the end. Among the crowded market, two of the frameworks stand out. We will make a comparison between Ember.js and Vue.js.

Why Do You Select A Particular Framework?

Before we start comparing the two frameworks, we should understand the factors that lead to the choice of a framework. Each developer chooses a framework before he or she goes to work on an app. Let us see the reasons for the selection.

● The codes must be easy to understand and transparent.

● The framework should give the maximum power with the least amount of coding.

● The framework should provide a well laid out structure to work on.

● Does the framework support an in-built router or an external plug-in router?

● The framework should be able to transfer more data on a full page-load so that it becomes a single-page app. A single-page app is more beneficial for the application.

● In single page architectures if there is a need for users to share links to sub-screens within the interface, then the framework should have the capacity to route based on the URL.

● A tighter template option can help in enabling two-way binding.

● The framework should not conflict any third-party library.

● Testing the codes inside the framework should be easy.

● The framework should provide the HTTP client service for AJAX calls

● The documentation is essential. It should be complete and up-to-date.

● The framework should be compatible with the latest version of the browser.

● The framework has to fulfill the above conditions for easy construction of the app. You must ensure that the framework you choose meets the conditions.

Vue.js Explained

Developers are always looking at new frameworks to build their apps. The main requirements are speed and low cost. The framework should be easy to use by even new developers. You should be able to use it at low cost. Other considerations are about simple coding, proper documentation, etc.

Vue.js combines a lot of good when it comes to software language for web app development. The architecture of Vue.js is easy to put in use. The apps developed using Vue.js are easy to integrate with new apps.

Vue.js is a very lightweight framework. It makes it fast to download. It is also much faster than other frameworks. The single-file component nature of the framework is also beneficial. The size has made it very popular.

You can further decrease weight. With Vue.js you can separate the template-to-virtual DOM and compiler. You can only deploy the minified and zipped interpreter which is only 12 KB. You can compile the templates in your machine.

Another significant advantage of Vue.js is that it can integrate easily with existing applications created with JavaScript. It will make it easy for using this framework to make changes to applications already present.

Vue.js also integrates easily with other front-end libraries. You can plug in another library and make up for any deficiency in this framework. This feature makes this tool a versatile one.

Vue.js uses the method of rendering on the streaming-side server. You can render your component and get a readable stream. You can then send this to the HTTP server. It makes the server highly responsive. Your users will get the rendered content very quickly.

Vue.js is very SEO friendly. As the framework supports server-side rendering, the views are rendered directly on the server. The search engines list these.

But the most important thing for you is the ease with which you can learn Vue.js. The structure is elementary. Even new developers will find it easy to use it to build their apps. This framework helps in developing both small and large templates. It helps to save a lot of time.

You can go back and check your errors very easily. You can travel back and inspect all the states apart from testing your components. It is another important feature as far as any developer is concerned.

Vue.js also has very detailed documentation. It helps in writing your applications very quickly. You can build a web page or app with the basic knowledge of HTML or JavaScript.

● Vue.js has pure architecture. It helps in integration with other apps

● Vue.js is lightweight and fast. It can be made lighter by deploying only the interpreter

● You can separate the compiler and the template-to-virtual DOM.

● Due to smooth integration, you can use this to make changes to existing apps

● To make up for any shortfall, you can plug-in any library and makeup.

● As Vue.js uses streaming-side server rendering, your users can get quick responses.

● The server-side rendering also helps in being ranked higher by search engines.

● It has a simple structure. Easy to use for any new developer

● You can go back and check and correct your errors.

● You can check all the existing states.

● Detail documentation also helps build the web page or application very quickly.

Ember.js Decoded

Ember.js is an MVVM model framework. It is open-source software. This platform is mostly used for creating complex multi-page applications. It maintains up-to-date features without discarding any of the old features.

With this framework, you have to follow the architecture of the framework strictly. The JS framework is very tightly organized. It reduces the flexibility that other frameworks might offer.

There is a very refined and developed control system for its platforms and tools. You can integrate it with the new version with the tools provided. There is strict guidance about avoiding outdated APIs.

You can understand Ember’s APIs easily. They are also easy to work. You can make use of highly complex functionalities simply and straightforwardly.

The performance is better as similar jobs are processed together. It creates batches of similar bindings and DOM updates to improve the performance. It means that the browser needs to process them in one go. It will avoid recomputing for each task, wasting a lot of time.

You can write the codes in a simple manner and modules. You can use any of Ember’s APIs. It is possible due to the presence of Promises everywhere.

Ember comes with a well-written guide. The API is recorded in a useful manner. It is a front-end framework that is loaded. Ember has a router, pipeline, services, etc. of its own.

The basis for views, controllers, models, and framework is the Ember Object Model. All components come from the same objects. The framework is firm and steady. The reason is that all elements have similar jobs and characteristics.

Ember has made the general application, organization, and structure clear so that you don’t make any mistakes. You will have no chance to complicate the application unnecessarily. If you have to go out of the defined limits, you will have to force your way out.

The language used for templating in Embers is Handlebars. This language helps Embers to keep its logic out of view. The clean syntax of Handlebars makes it easy for you to read and understand the templates. Handlebar templates are faster to load.

Another advantage you gain from Handlebar is that you don’t have to update your template every time you add or remove data from the page. It will be done automatically by the language itself.

A community that is continually improving the framework supports Ember. They are updating the framework with the latest technology. They also make sure that backward compatibility is possible.

● Ember.js is an open-source MVVM model framework suitable for complex multiple-page applications.

● It offers both the latest and old features.

● It has a very tightly structured framework which doesn’t offer much flexibility

● A very refined control system helps you to integrate with new versions without any problem.

● There is strict guidance about avoiding outdated API versions.

● Ember’s APIs help you to use complex functionalities in a simple manner

● There is no recomputing for each task as the framework allows the browser to do similar functions together.

● Promises allow you to write modular and straightforward code using any API of Ember.js.

● Ember.js is a fully loaded, front-end framework.

● The framework is stable because all components have the same functionalities and properties.

● It has well-defined limitations which will prevent your complicating your application

● Handlebars, the language used by Ember.js allows you to read and understand templates easily. It also helps to load the templates faster.

● Handlebars will ensure to update the template every time you add or remove data.

● Ember.js has an active community that updates the framework regularly and facilitates backward compatibility.

A Comparison Between Ember.js And Vue.js

This article intends to compare the features of both frameworks. Let us see how the characteristics of these frameworks compare. It will help you to make use of the right framework for your web application.

When you need a modern engine for an old application, it is Vue.js which will help you. It combines the best properties of other frameworks. Vue.js is a developing framework. A ready-to-use library of interface elements does not exist. However, many third-party libraries can help you.

Ember.js offers you a well-organized and trustworthy framework. When the development team is big, this is the framework that suits best. It allows everyone to understand the written code and contribute to a common project. The technology will be up-to-date, and the platform will be stable.

Vue.js can help you use the syntax of different kinds. It helps in writing the codes with ease. It is also an SEO friendly framework. Ember is a fully loaded front-end framework and can help you develop the applications very fast. But it is not suitable for developing small projects.

It is not easy to say this is better than that. It will depend on what kind of project you have undertaken. Both have their pluses and minuses. The below table will help in a better comparison.

Final Thoughts

It is not easy to conclude as to which is better. It all depends on the application that you want to develop. Both frameworks are developing. Both are getting updates. Both the communities are working on the frameworks.

While Vue.js is more comfortable for writing codes, Ember is a full-stack framework allowing the development of apps very fast. It is suitable for big projects. It is too complicated to be used for smaller projects.

We hope you had a great time reading this article. If you’ve any questions or suggestions related to this blog, then feel free to ask them in the comment section. Thank You.!