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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).

You'll also to need to make sure you've built the native modules for the same architecture as your package, so for anything more advanced than just building the modules and app for the host architecture see 'Other Architectures'.

If you don't need these features, you can skip this step.

To just build these for your native architecture:

yarn run build:native

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.

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

Other Architectures

Building the native modules will build for the host architecture (and only the host architecture) by default. On Windows, this will automatically determine the architecture to build for based on the environment. Make sure that you have all the tools required to perform the native modules build

On macOS, you can build universal native modules too:

yarn run build:native:universal

...or you can build for a specific architecture:

yarn run build:native --target x86_64-apple-darwin


yarn run build:native --target aarch64-apple-darwin

You'll then need to create a built bundle with the same architecture. To bundle a universal build for macOS, run:

yarn run build:universal

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

yarn run build:32


yarn run build:64

Note that the native module build system keeps the different architectures separate, so you can keep native modules for several architectures at the same time and switch which are active using a yarn run hak copy command, passing the appropriate architectures. This will error if you haven't yet built those architectures. eg:

yarn run build:native --target x86_64-apple-darwin
# We've now built & linked into place native modules for Intel
yarn run build:native --target aarch64-apple-darwin
# We've now built Apple Silicon modules too, and linked them into place as the active ones

yarn run hak copy --target x86_64-apple-darwin
# We've now switched back to our Intel modules
yarn run hak copy --target x86_64-apple-darwin --target aarch64-apple-darwin
# Now our native modules are universal x86_64+aarch64 binaries

The current set of native modules are stored in .hak/hakModules, so you can use this to check what architecture is currently in place, eg:

$ lipo -info .hak/hakModules/keytar/build/Release/keytar.node 
Architectures in the fat file: .hak/hakModules/keytar/build/Release/keytar.node are: x86_64 arm64 


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.


To add a new translation, head to the translating doc.

For a developer guide, see the translating dev doc.


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
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