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Open Source PWABuilder for Progressive Web Apps Gets Version 2.0 Update

Microsoft announced an update to its open source PWABuilder tool to convert existing Web apps/sites to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which act more like native desktop/mobile apps with the help of several technologies.

PWA is a term coined by Google engineer Alex Russell in 2015 to describe the use of multiple technologies to blur the line between mobile apps and mobile or regular Web sites, providing a hybrid solution that leverages benefits of each approach.

While the approach has been widely used to provide Web apps that act like native apps on smartphones, Microsoft emphasizes Windows desktop applications in its PWA approach, though it said it's working on improving mobile capabilities.

To help convert Web sites/apps to PWAs, Microsoft created and open sourced the PWABuilder online tool, which is now out in Version 2.0. It lets a user enter a URL to test PWA functionality and convert a Web site or app to a PWA, along with the ability to add "extras" -- or code "snippits" -- provided in a Feature Store to enhance the PWA with various capabilities.

"While the tool has been working great for hundreds of devs, we wanted to update the tool to make it easier to use and to help developers take their PWA just a little further," said Microsoft's Justin Ellis in a post last week. "We have been hard at work behind the scenes updating the tool and just a few weeks ago released the 1.9 update. That update introduced some of the new concepts we have been working on, such as providing a 'report card' for your PWA and bringing the Microsoft Graph to our ever growing list of snippits!"

Although the post deals mainly with desktop app functionality, Ellis said the mobile side of things wasn't being ignored in future work for the app itself and its capabilities.

"We now have advanced APIs that help our apps deliver first-class experiences on users' devices, on mobile and desktop," he said.

Going forward, he said: "We are currently working on the 2.1 update which will update the design in the manifest editor and service worker picker pages and will include a new way to easily package your PWA as a Trusted Web Activity to enable you to ship your PWA to the Google Play store!

"Also, as some of you have pointed out PWABuilder currently does not support mobile well. This is because the app has historically been desktop focused, but we are slowly working on making sure it works well on mobile. The 2.0 update has some improvements in this area, but we have many more coming."

A preview reflecting future capabilities is available online.

The open source development of PWABuilder is carried out on Microsoft's GitHub platform.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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