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Convert a website to a desktop app

How to use Nativefier

Desktop apps are great for keeping focused. Unlike a browser they only work with one app, and you can't get distracted with other tabs. You can alt-tab to them to move around quicker and you can open them by name from Spotlight or the Start menu.

If you have a product and customers using it, a desktop app can be a great addition to your offering. Users open desktop apps more often, spend longer in the app, and are more focused while using them.

If a service you use doesn't offer a web app, that's not a problem! You can easily convert it to a desktop app yourself using Nativefier.

This guide will cover:

How to convert a website to a desktop app with Nativefier.

How to customize a desktop app with Nativefier's CLI.

When you would use Nativefier instead of Electron.

Considerations for building apps to distribute to others.

What is Nativefier?

Nativefier is a command-line tool that wraps a website for usage on macOS, Windows and/or Linux. Nativefier uses Electron under the hood to wrap these websites. Lots of companies, from Microsoft and Slack down to new startups use Electron for their web apps.

It's easy for a developer to get an app up and running with Electron. But also thanks to tools like Nativefier you can make an app with Electron using only the command line.

First let's install Nativefier

You can use Nativefier on macOS, Windows, or Linux. You only need to have NodeJS installed. (How to install NodeJS).

Use npm to install the nativefier package. (The -g flag tells npm to install it globally so you can run nativefier anywhere on your computer).

    npm i nativefier -g

If you get an EACCESS permission error when running this command;

  1. A quick fix is to run sudo npm i nativefier -g so you don't get the permission error.
  2. If you want to fix that issue for good, follow this article .

Now let's build your first app

The most basic usage for Nativefier is to simply run nativefier and pass it a url.

        nativefier ""

Nativefier will download everything it needs and spit out a folder in your current directory. The folder should be called something like "The worlds leading software development platform GitHub-darwin-x64" .

macOS Finder showing a Github desktop app built with Nativefier

Nativefire looks at the title and icon on and uses these for the app.

-darwin-x64 means it is built for macOS on an x64 architecture. Nativefier detects the correct platform and architecture for your system. If you were running Windows 32bit the folder would end -win32-ia32, for example.

Let's see what we've built

Open that Github app we have built.

Tip: you can open the current command line directory in your file browser using:

  • open . on macOS
  • explorer . on Windows
  • xdg-open . on Linux

A Github desktop app built with Nativefier

The app will work the exact same as if you opened it in Chrome. This is because Electron uses a browser based on Chrome under-the-hood.

The name of the app is a bit unwieldy though:

A screenshot of the name of a Github desktop app built with Nativefier

Simply renaming the file won't change the name, we'll have to rebuild it.

We can do better

We can pass more arguments to the nativefier command to customize how our app looks and behaves.

Let's set a custom name:

          nativefier "" --name "Github"

You can use -n as a shorthand for --name like so:

          nativefier "" -n "Github"

For Linux Users: Don't put spaces in the app name if using --name. This causes problems when pinning a packaged app to the launcher.

A screenshot of the name of a Github desktop app built with Nativefier

That's much better.

But wait, there's more

Nativefier has a massive 52 options you can use to customize how your app works. You can update the window settings like the default width and height. You can make the app start in fullscreen mode, or always be on top. And that's only scratching the surface.

Take a look at Nativefier's documentation for the full list of what you can do.

Building for other platforms

This guide should have you covered if you're looking to make apps for your own use.

If you're looking to build apps to distribute to your users there are a few other complexities to consider:

Building for each platform

You'll have to build the app manually for each platform you want to support (i.e. macOS, Windows and Linux). Building for a platform other than your own OS has a few extra requirements .

Code signing

If you don't sign your code your users will receive a warning that your app may be malicious when they try to install it. That's not a very nice user experience. You'll have to buy code signing certificates ($798/year) and sign each app on the correct platform (i.e. sign your Windows app on Windows, your macOS app on macOS).


If you ever want to update your app's name, icon, window options or behaviour such as adding offline-support you'll have to build a new version. To get this in the hands of your users you can either ask them all to update manually or build and maintain an auto-update server.

Native installers

Windows users expect an installer and to be able to uninstall from Control Panel. Mac users expect a drag and drop .dmg file. You'll have to implement this yourself for each platform.

An easier way

This may be a #shamelessplug but we have built ToDesktop because we experienced these frustrations when building and distributing our previous Electron app to our users.

We offer auto-builds, code signing, auto-updates, native installers, and lots of customisation options for just $58/month. Give it a try, all you need is the URL of your web app. You'll have a desktop app made in two minutes.

Ready to start building?

Create your desktop app for free*

ToDesktop Builder will take you step-by-step through the process of creating your first desktop app in just a few minutes.

Download ToDesktop Builder

*You can create a desktop app and run it on your computer for free. You will only be charged if you want to create a distributable app for your customers.

App screenshot