Web Development

Four improvements to Google Chrome Packaged Apps

The improvements to the Chrome Packaged Apps platform make it possible for web technology-based built apps to function like regular native apps in desktop and laptop system environments.

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Google made major improvements to its Chrome Packaged Apps platform; the apps are designed for desktops and laptops similar to the way apps work on tablets and smartphones. The apps are available for Windows or Chromebook systems.

I summarize the four major improvements below. They're also covered in an introductory video from the Chrome team's Erik Kay.

1: Chrome Packaged Apps will no longer be tied to the browser. In other words, the apps will launch in a separate window outside of Chrome and will have their own top-level windows and will typically behave similar to other apps in the operating system. This functionality makes these apps look and feel more like native applications, and gives the user an interface that is built totally from web technologies.  

2: These apps are now offline by default. This means you can continue to use the apps when Internet connections are down, and as packaged apps, all the code and resources are installed locally. In addition, content security policies enforce potential issues that might result from remote resources, and the new API structure means that the apps are more resilient when network connectivity is compromised or reduced.

3: The Browser tag has been added, so you can safely and securely include hosted web content in your apps. Additionally, new app window APIs give your app the ability to manage multiple windows (including the look and feel of window frames) and to respond silently in the background to system events.

4: New APIs leverage the power of system-level services and devices such as TCP/IP, USB, and Bluetooth. New APIs also allow your apps to inter-operate with the system including photos, music, contacts, and identity, as well as allow for more connectivity to web services. The security model and the programming model have also seen significant improvements.

These improvements make it possible for web technology-based built applications to function like regular native applications in desktop and laptop system environments.

Chrome Packaged Apps architecture

Chrome Packaged Apps are integrated closely with the user's operating system and are designed to run outside of the browser window, similarly in the way native apps run on smartphones and tablets. Read about the three component models of Chrome Packaged Apps.

  • App container model describes the visual appearance and the loading behavior of the packaged app, similar to typical native apps.
  • Programming model describes the app lifecycle (which should be independent of the browser) and includes installation, startup event controls, termination, update, and uninstallation processes.
  • Security model allows developers to protect users by insuring that information is safe and secure. It includes the Content Security Policy (CSP), which details how to comply with the model.

Sample apps

If you want to browse sample apps created using the Chrome Packaged Apps model, check out the Sample Apps page for hundreds of selections from the library. Topics include Analytics Apps, Diff Tools, File System Access, Google Drive, Image Edit, Keyboard Handler, Messaging API, Notification API, and more. Several sample apps are shown in Figure A.

Figure A

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Creating your first Chrome Packaged app

When you're ready to create your first Chrome Packaged app, check out the tutorial that walks you through creating a manifest using json, creating a background script with js, creating an HTML window page, adding png icons, and launching your app.

In a subsequent piece, I will review in detail how to create a demonstration Chrome Packaged app.

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Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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