Meteor Electron, the easiest way to create a desktop Meteor application
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README.md

meteor-electron

meteor-electron lets you easily transform your Meteor webapp to a desktop app. Its ultimate goal is to build meteor add-platform desktop.

Some of the things it does:

  • automatically builds and launches a desktop application, rebuilding when the native code changes
  • defines feature detection APIs and a bridge between web and native code
  • serves downloads of your application and update feeds

Getting Started

meteor add meson:electron

meteor-electron will download the Electron binary for your system and build and launch an Electron app pointing to your local development server. The download process may take a few minutes based on your Internet connection but only needs to be done once.

The app, as well as the ready-to-distribute binaries (see Deploy), is built within YOUR_PROJECT_DIRECTORY/.meteor-electron. This allows the apps to be easily located as well as the builds to be cached for speedier startup. You should add this directory to your .gitignore.

Configuration

Configuration is possible via Meteor.settings.electron. For example,

{
  "electron": {
    "name": "MyApp",
    "icon": {
      "darwin": "private/MyApp.icns",
      "win32": "private/MyApp.ico"
    },
    "version": "0.1.0",
    "description": "A really cool app.",
    "rootUrl": "https://myapp.com",
    "launchPath": "/app/landing",
    "downloadUrls": {
      "win32": "https://myapp.com/download/win/",
      "darwin": "https://myapp.com/download/osx/{{version}}/MyApp.zip"
    },
    "sign": "Developer ID Application: ...",
    "height": 768,
    "width": 1024,
    "frame": true,
    "title-bar-style": "hidden",
    "resizable": true,
    "protocols": [{
      "name": "MyApp",
      "schemes": ["myapp"]
    }],
    "appSrcDir": "private/app"
  }
}
icon
platform dependent icon paths relative to application root
version
must confirm to semver
rootUrl
If unset, defaults to the `APP_ROOT_URL` and then `ROOT_URL` environment variables, in that order.
launchPath
If you want your app to open to a non-root URL. Will be appended to the root URL.
downloadUrls
URLs from which downloads are served. A CDN is recommended, but any HTTP server will do.
downloadUrls.win32
Copy the output of `grunt-electron-installer` (see Building and serving an auto-updating Windows app) to this location. Do not rename the files. If you wish to host the Windows installers at versioned URLs for caching or archival reasons, specify this as an object with the following keys.
downloadUrls.win32.releases
Copy the output of `grunt-electron-installer` (see Building and serving an auto-updating Windows app) to this location. Do not rename the files.
downloadUrls.win32.installer
If you like, you may copy the `Setup.exe` file created by `grunt-electron-installer` to this location rather than the "releases" location. If the URL contains '{{version}}', it will be replaced with `version`.
downloadUrls.darwin
Place the latest app at this location. If the URL contains '{{version}}', it will be replaced with `version`.
sign
Must be set to enable auto-updates on Mac.
appSrcDir
A directory of code to use instead of meteor-electron's default application, relative to your app's project directory. See warning below.

Electron-specific code

By default, all client web code will be executed in Electron. To include/exclude code use Electron.isDesktop

if (!Electron.isDesktop()){
  showModal("Have you considered downloading our Electron app?");
}

Deploying

Hot code push will work to update your app's UI just like it does on the web, since the app is loading the UI from the web. If you want to update the part of the app that interfaces with the OS, though—to change the app icon, to add a menu bar icon, etc.—you'll need to distribute a new version of the .app or .exe. Here's how to do that.

Building and serving an auto-updating Mac app

  1. Set Meteor.settings.electron.autoPackage to true to ZIP your app for distribution after it is built.
  2. If you wish to enable remote updates, you will need to codesign your application. This requires that you build your app on a Mac with a Developer ID certificate installed. Set Meteor.settings.electron.sign to the name of that certificate.
  3. Wait for the app to finish building and packaging, then copy YOUR_PROJECT_DIRECTORY/.meteor-electron/darwin-x64/final/YOUR_APP_NAME.zip to a publically-accessible location.
  4. Set downloadUrls.darwin in Meteor.settings.electron to the URL of the location where you copied the ZIP.

Downloads of the Mac app will be served at your webapp's ROOT_URL + /app/download?platform=darwin.

Building and serving an auto-updating Windows app

  1. Make sure that you have specified name, version, and description in Meteor.settings.electron.
  2. Build the app on a Mac, because changing a Windows application icon does not work on Windows at present.
  3. Ensure the URL specified by Meteor.settings.electron.downloadUrls.win32 has an empty RELEASES file.
  4. On a Windows machine or in a Windows VM (not a Mac, at present), run the electron installer grunt plugin against your app. Your Gruntfile should look something like https://github.com/rissem/meteor-electron-test/tree/master/.test. The value of remoteReleases should be your webapp's ROOT_URL + '/app/latest'.
  5. Copy the output to the server serving Meteor.settings.electron.downloadUrls.win32, to be served from that location.
  6. When you publish a new update, run the installer again and it will generate diffs, a new RELEASES file, and new installers. After copying these to Meteor.settings.electron.downloadUrls.win32 again (overwriting the RELEASES file and installers), apps that check for updates should receive a new version.

Downloads of the Windows installer will be served at your webapp's ROOT_URL + /app/download?platform=win32.

Building for Windows on Mac

  1. Install homebrew
  2. brew update
  3. brew install wine
  4. Specify a Windows build in your settings (otherwise defaults to current platform (mac)).
{
  "electron": {
    "builds": [
      {"platform": "win32",
       "arch": "ia32"}
    ]
  }
}

Example

[TODO] Link to an awesome chat app

Q&A

Q: How is this different from all the other Meteor electron packages?

This package differs from Electrometeor and Electrify by not baking Meteor into the packaged app. This makes things significantly simpler, but if you need strong offline support, one of them is a better solution.

Q: How can I create new browser windows, set app notifications and all the other awesome native functionality that Electron gives me?

This project selectively exposes such functionality to the client, in a way that is safe and avoids memory leaks, via the Electron module--see client.js. To request that this module expose additional functionality, please submit a pull request or file an issue.

You may also substitute your own application code for meteor-electron's default application by setting the appSrcDir settings option. meteor-electron will continue to package your application and serve the application update feed and download URLs, but in-app functionality will be your responsibility. Warning: this responsibility includes setting up your application window and menu, checking for remote updates, registering the Electron module (that defines Electron.isDesktop), and possibly other things. If you take this route, it's recommended that you start by copying meteor-electron's app directory.

Also, you also probably want to keep your application code in a subdirectory of your application's private directory so that Meteor will observe changes to it and restart the server; when it does so, meteor-electron will rebuild and relaunch the app.

Q: How do I prevent the Electron app from being automatically built and launched?

Set Meteor.settings.electron.autoBuild to "false".