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A glossy Matrix collaboration client for the web

Element Desktop

Element Desktop is a Matrix client for desktop platforms with Element Web at its core.

First Steps

Before you do anything else, fetch the dependencies:

yarn install

Fetching Element

Since this package is just the Electron wrapper for Element Web, it doesn't contain any of the Element Web code, so the first step is to get a working copy of Element Web. There are a few ways of doing this:

# Fetch the prebuilt release Element package from the element-web GitHub releases page. The version
# fetched will be the same as the local element-desktop package.
# We're explicitly asking for no config, so the packaged Element will have no config.json.
yarn run fetch --noverify --cfgdir ''

...or if you'd like to use GPG to verify the downloaded package:

# Fetch the Element public key from the web server over a secure connection and import
# it into your local GPG keychain (you'll need GPG installed). You only need to to do this
# once.
yarn run fetch --importkey
# Fetch the package and verify the signature
yarn run fetch --cfgdir ''

...or either of the above, but fetching a specific version of Element:

# Fetch the prebuilt release Element package from the element-web GitHub releases page. The version
# fetched will be the same as the local element-desktop package.
yarn run fetch --noverify --cfgdir '' v1.5.6

If you only want to run the app locally and don't need to build packages, you can provide the webapp directory directly:

# Assuming you've checked out and built a copy of element-web in ../element-web
ln -s ../element-web/webapp ./

[TODO: add support for fetching develop builds, arbitrary URLs and arbitrary paths]


Now you have a copy of Element, you're ready to build packages. If you'd just like to run Element locally, skip to the next section.

If you'd like to build the native modules (for searching in encrypted rooms and secure storage), do this first. This will take 10 minutes or so, and will require a number of native tools to be installed, depending on your OS (eg. rust, tcl, make/nmake). If you don't need these features, you can skip this step.

yarn run build:native

On Windows, this will automatically determine the architecture to build for based on the environment (ie. set up by vcvarsall.bat).

Now you can build the package:

yarn run build

This will do a couple of things:

  • Run the setversion script to set the local package version to match whatever version of Element you installed above.
  • Run electron-builder to build a package. The package built will match the operating system you're running the build process on.

If you're on Windows, you can choose to build specifically for 32 or 64 bit:

yarn run build32


yarn run build64

This build step will not build any native modules.

You can also build using docker, which will always produce the linux package:

# Run this once to make the docker image
yarn run docker:setup

yarn run docker:install
# if you want to build the native modules (this will take a while)
yarn run docker:build:native
yarn run docker:build

After running, the packages should be in dist/.


If you'd just like to run the electron app locally for development:

# Install electron - we don't normally need electron itself as it's provided
# by electron-builder when building packages
yarn add electron
yarn start


If you'd like the packaged Element to have a configuration file, you can create a config directory and place config.json in there, then specify this directory with the --cfgdir option to yarn run fetch, eg:

mkdir myconfig
cp /path/to/my/config.json myconfig/
yarn run fetch --cfgdir myconfig

The config dir for the official Element app is in If you use this, your app will auto-update itself using builds from


To run multiple instances of the desktop app for different accounts, you can launch the executable with the --profile argument followed by a unique identifier, e.g element-desktop --profile Work for it to run a separate profile and not interfere with the default one.

Alternatively, a custom location for the profile data can be specified using the --profile-dir flag followed by the desired path.

User-specified config.json

  • %APPDATA%\$NAME\config.json on Windows
  • $XDG_CONFIG_HOME\$NAME\config.json or ~/.config/$NAME/config.json on Linux
  • ~/Library/Application Support/$NAME/config.json on macOS

In the paths above, $NAME is typically Element, unless you use --profile $PROFILE in which case it becomes Element-$PROFILE, or it is using one of the above created by a pre-1.7 install, in which case it will be Riot or Riot-$PROFILE.

Report bugs & give feedback

If you run into any bugs or have feedback you'd like to share, please let us know on GitHub.

To help avoid duplicate issues, please view existing issues first (and add a +1) or create a new issue if you can't find it. Please note that this issue tracker is associated with the element-web repo, but is also applied to the code in this repo as well.


Something missing? Edit this app.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Key Action
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Esc Focus the search bar and cleans it
Select the next search result
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Enter Open the selected search result
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