Thursday, September 5, 2013

Google Chrome Apps Launcher Misconception -- Launcher Icons Can Be Standalone Too!

Today, Google released a new category of apps previously known as "packaged apps", and they've now dubbed them as just "Chrome Apps", as announced on both Lifehacker and TechCrunch. Both articles state that a new launcher icon will appear in the task bar of Windows and, eventually, in Mac OS as well.

However, for developers and application designers who strive for a more "standalone" user experience, this may appear as a shock. While those articles are factually true, the articles overlook one very important point: These apps also get their very own launcher icons that can be found in the Windows Start Menu and in the Mac OS Finder Applications folder.

Under the hood, these launcher icons use a command-line startup flag called --app-id that takes the application id, found in the "Window -> Extensions" section of Chromium. When run, this command launches only the app, without starting a browser window.

In Windows, and on Linux, it's actually a shortcut, but on Mac OS it appears to be a binary file.  Below is an example of a few launcher icons from some example apps I've installed, as well as Synclio, the WebRTC VOIP Chrome application I'm building at work with our team.

Perhaps this hasn't been announced because it's still in progress, but rest assured that Google and the Chromium team are diligently working hard to make sure that our apps will appear standalone, providing the user with a seamless user experience up to and including how the apps are launched.