Creating HTML5 apps for the desktop

Recently I have started to write a new offline application for our Tradebit platform that we want to distribute for Windows, Mac and Linux. In 2010 I used RealBasic for a small download client, that reached around 30,000 downloads so far and was my first shot on it. They have now changed the company name and brand to XOJO, by the way!

But times are changing and if you start coding a desktop application again today, you probably want to program in plain HTML5, Javascript and CSS with an API to access your users system, if your application does not need to reach the speed of a first person shooter!

I looked around and found TideSDK, which seems to be the best solution at the moment, because you will be able to compile for a smartphone out of the same source soon.

IDE for the compiler


The development suite consists of 2 major parts:

  • The SDK with the app.js file, that gives your the bridge to the system
  • The SDK Developer, which is your graphical interface to the compiler for your app

both are available for Mac, Windows and Linux (Ubuntu, as far as I can see).

Most importantly: it is based on the Appcelerator Titanium framework and should be mostly compatible.

Now the fun part: When you download the “Hello World” example and tinker with it for an hour or two, you will have a very quick road to success with your first example app.

You will only use HTML5 and CSS3 for the layout of the program. System functionality and user interface actions can be done in Javascript (besides the app.js, one would probably add jQuery and even jQuery UI for the usability)… beyond that, you can easily add PHP, Ruby or Python libraries and embed them in the code. I love that.

I used the PHP storm IDE on Windows 8 to create my first window and included jQuery to get started.

PHP storm

It took me only minutes to access the IP number, jQuery options and local system configurations by using the example and looking into the documentation. This is sweet – as much as I like to fiddle thru new software and solutions, I do not have time for a LOOONG learning curve. The SDK Developer package comes also with an installer creation button, which gives you a Windows app including the installer.

All in all pretty slick stuff.

One of the major concerns for desktop development would be the ability to release a version of that app also for the iOS and Android systems. I tweeted to TideSDK and got a quick answer:

Pretty good! So – as it seems there will be a simple and straight answer to the smartphone releases soon. With that in mind, I can continue to write my app for the desktop and create a GUI that will also work on smartphones.

To release your program for OS X or Linux, you have to copy your code over and compile it there.

All I have to do is split the API functionality into “Desktop YES/NO” and a new client will soon see the light of day. My personal summer of code :-)

One thought on “Creating HTML5 apps for the desktop

  1. Just adding, because I got some eMails from folks: yes, there are some other options around, but my blog post was my personal opinion. TideSDK is installed quickly, I understood it really fast, the documentation is good and the compiled program worked with an installer right of the bat!