Writing a desktop app in JavaScript?

Axel Rauschmayer axel at rauschma.de
Sun Jul 3 09:27:50 PDT 2011

I hope the following question is not too out of place on this mailing list:

JavaScript would really profit from a simple environment for writing desktop applications, especially for tasks that you would normally use shell scripts for. I like that such an environment would make it incredibly easy to add a cross-platform GUI.

Can anyone recommend a good environment for writing desktop apps in JavaScript and HTML5?

- Read/write access to the local file system.
- Download any file from the web (even from servers that don’t support CORS).
- Ease of development: no extra build step before you can run your app.
- Use HTML5 for the GUI.

So far, I’ve looked at:
1. Adobe Air: needs the AIR runtime.
2. Google Chrome: comes pretty close: you can get read access to all files in a folder that you “upload” via a form; you can switch off cross-site restrictions via a flag; you can use the FileSystem API to write files and copy them back, out of the sandbox later. There are extensions, but those require a build step which makes it painful to develop them.
3. XULRunner: seems to require XUL.
4. Firefox Add-On: not geared towards desktop apps.
5. Node.js + GUI in a browser via a localhost URL: Cannot be packaged nicely, having to chose a port is problematic (usability, clashes).
6. Titanium Desktop: ready yet?

(1) and (5) look like the most practical solutions that are currently available.

Any other suggestions or experiences with the above solutions?

Dr. Axel Rauschmayer

axel at rauschma.de

home: rauschma.de
blog: 2ality.com

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