Electron for PHP. Desktop GUI framework with HTML5 Chrome/IE engine.
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PHP Desktop

Table of contents:


PHP Desktop is an open source project founded by Czarek Tomczak in 2012 to provide a way for developing native desktop GUI applications using web technologies such as PHP, HTML5, JavaScript and SQLite. PHP Desktop is basically what Electron is, but with PHP support added. You create client interface in JS/HTML5 and use PHP for back-end stuff such as interacting with OS, filesystem and processing of data. So it works similarly to your web application, but can run and act like a native desktop application. The development workflow you are used to while creating web applications remains the same. There is no new API/framework to learn. The process of turning an existing website into a desktop application is basically a matter of copying it to the "phpdesktop/www/" directory.

PHP Desktop is not meant as a professional environment for developing desktop applications like the ones you can see developed in C++ programming language. PHP Desktop is more of a GUI tool for converting your PHP web apps and PHP CLI tools to desktop applications with little effort. If you have a big PHP code base and want to reuse it on desktop then it makes sense to use PHP Desktop. If you are more efficient in PHP programming than in JS programming then it makes sense to use PHP Desktop instead of Electron. If you have PHP CLI tools that you would like to convert to GUI tools then it makes sense to use PHP Desktop than to rewrite everything in some other language or specific framework APIs. With PHP Desktop you can accomplish great things in no time and painlessly. But be aware that desktop integration APIs in PHP Desktop can be limited. This project is not supported by big companies like Electron is and thus its development resources are limited. Before creating a desktop application I suggest that you go through documentation and see if the desktop integration API you need is available in PHP Desktop. PHP Desktop doesn't provide many of the built-in desktop integration functionality that you can find in Electron, but you can still accomplish many of these tasks by integrating external tools/libraries with PHP Desktop.

In a certain sense phpdesktop acts as a PHP to EXE compiler. It embeds a web browser, a multi-threaded web server and a PHP interpreter, all embedded into a single application, a single folder, a portable zip that you can easily distribute to end users (or optionally make it an installer). The web server embedded is a custom edition of Mongoose (the MIT-licensed version), a web server used by NASA on International Space Station. Supported browsers are Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. The package with Chrome embedded has no external dependencies, everything is included in the phpdesktop binaries and works out of the box on a user's computer. PHP Desktop actually embeds Chromium browser (using Chromium Embedded Framework to be specific) which is open source software on which Google Chrome is based, but for the sake of simplicity we just call it Chrome or Google Chrome here.

All popular PHP frameworks are supported, see the PHP frameworks support wiki page for example configurations for CakePHP, CodeIgniter, Laravel, Symfony, Yii and Zend Framework. You can create a standalone executable for distribution with the help of the Inno Setup installer. PHP sources can be protected with the many of the available PHP encoders. PHP Desktop is released under non-restrictive license, thus it is free for commercial use.

It is one of the top goals for PHP Desktop to be stable, to work reliably. PHP Desktop does not suffer from memory leaks. PHP by design was never intended for running long hours/days, as desktop applications usually do. This is not a concern when using PHP Desktop, as it is running an internal web server and serving pages through CGI. So when PHP script ends execution PHP-CGI process is killed and all memory is always freed.

Lots of other useful information can be found on the Knowledge Base wiki page and on the PHP Desktop Forum.


The PHP Desktop project is seeking companies to help make the project greater than it is today. There is a lot that can be done for the project such as monthly releases with latest Chromium version, an automated build system, cross-platform support with full functionality on Mac and Linux, more Javascript and PHP API exposed for accomplishing desktop specific tasks, better integration with desktop / taskbar / systray, HTTPS/SSL support, custom window themes, running app in background, sqlite encryption, desktop notifications, and the many more proposals for new features submitted in the issue tracker. If your company would like to sponsor PHP Desktop development efforts then please contact Czarek. Long term sponsorships are welcome and Czarek is open to ideas about the project. He would love to spend more time on developing this project, but he can't afford doing so in his free time.

Fundings for new features

Here is a list of ongoing fundings for the new features in PHP Desktop Chrome:

Feature Funds gathered Issue
Chrome v70 release for Windows $0 of $2,000 Issue #227
Initial Mac release $150 of $2,000 Issue #208
Initial Linux release $1,500 of $1,500 Issue #221

Fundings for other features submitted in the issue tracker or the ones presented on the PHP Desktop Pro wiki page are also possible, just let know Czarek.


  • PHP Desktop Chrome for Windows - go to the Download Chrome wiki page.
  • PHP Desktop for Linux - see the linux-v70.0 release
  • PHP Desktop MSIE (Internet Explorer) - go to the Download MSIE wiki page.

New releases RSS/Atom feed
To be notified of new releases subscribe to this Atom feed.


Support development

If you would like to support PHP Desktop general development efforts by making a donation please click the Donate button below:


If you would like to see some feature implemented you can make a comment about that when making a donation. It will give it a higher priority.

For sponsorship opportunities please contact Czarek.