Easily make native web applications on OS X

18 Jul 2018

Screenshot of native desktop OS X BBC radio electron wrapper app

I spend a fair bit of time listening to BBC Radio from my laptop while working and I had a thought that it would be easier if I had a desktop app that wrapped it to make starting and running it easier.

It’s easy to misplace a tab running a radio station in a sea of other pages and apps. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I’d rather have it as a desktop app.

Given the rise of Electron, it seems it would be quite simple to create a wrapper app.

Well, it is really simple, we don’t need to learn how Electron works at all. This is because someone has already open-sourced a project that does exactly what I want: give it a URL and it will do all the magic to create a native wrapper. It’s called nativefier.

Installing nativefier

Installing nativefier is really easy, the README explains how.

On OS X you need NodeJS, then install the nativefier package via NPM:

$ npm install nativefier -g

Creating a native application

It really is as easy as described in the README.

$ nativefier "example.com"

This creates a directory example.com, containing the Electron .app file you can launch.

Native BBC Radio Player

The default window size of the iplayer radio is smaller than the default window size of the Electron app nativefier creates but it’s easily tweaked.

$ nativefier "https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_6music" --name "BBC Music Player" --width 380 --height 665

Here we’re starting at the BBC 6 Music station (because it’s the best!). We set a static title, otherwise it’s taken from the <title /> tag of the page. And finally we set a sensible width and height for the window.

This results in the following directory:

Adams-MBP:src adam$ tree -L 1 BBC\ Music\ Player-darwin-x64/
BBC\ Music\ Player-darwin-x64/
├── BBC\ Music\ Player.app
├── LICENSES.chromium.html
└── version

1 directory, 3 files

And launching BBC Music Player.app starts the radio app. The screenshot at the top is the app in action.

It took much longer to write this than it did to create the wrapper app…