This tutorial will guide you through the process of developing a desktop application with Electron and distributing it to end users.
Electron is a native wrapper layer for web apps and is run in a Node.js environment. Therefore, this tutorial assumes you are generally familiar with Node and front-end web development basics. If you need to do some background reading before continuing, we recommend the following resources:
You will need a text editor to write your code. We recommend using Visual Studio Code, although you can choose whichever one you prefer.
Throughout the tutorial, we will ask you to use various command-line interfaces (CLIs). You can type these commands into your system's default terminal:
- Windows: Command Prompt or PowerShell
- macOS: Terminal
- Linux: varies depending on distribution (e.g. GNOME Terminal, Konsole)
Most code editors also come with an integrated terminal, which you can also use.
Git and GitHub
Git is a commonly-used version control system for source code, and GitHub is a collaborative development platform built on top of it. Although neither is strictly necessary to building an Electron application, we will use GitHub releases to set up automatic updates later on in the tutorial. Therefore, we'll require you to:
We recommend that you create a local Git repository and publish it to GitHub before starting the tutorial, and commit your code after every step.
GitHub Desktop will install the latest version of Git on your system if you don't already have it installed.
Node.js and npm
To begin developing an Electron app, you need to install the Node.js runtime and its bundled npm package manager onto your system. We recommend that you use the latest long-term support (LTS) version.
To check that Node.js was installed correctly, you can use the
-v flag when running the
npm commands. These should print out the installed versions.
$ node -v
$ npm -v
Although you need Node.js installed locally to scaffold an Electron project, Electron does not use your system's Node.js installation to run its code. Instead, it comes bundled with its own Node.js runtime. This means that your end users do not need to install Node.js themselves as a prerequisite to running your app.
To check which version of Node.js is running in your app, you can access the global
process.versions variable in the main process or preload script. You can also reference the list of versions in the electron/releases repository.