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Packaging Your Application

Learning goals

In this part of the tutorial, we'll be going over the basics of packaging and distributing your app with Electron Forge.

Using Electron Forge

Electron does not have any tooling for packaging and distribution bundled into its core modules. Once you have a working Electron app in dev mode, you need to use additional tooling to create a packaged app you can distribute to your users (also known as a distributable). Distributables can be either installers (e.g. MSI on Windows) or portable executable files (e.g. .app on macOS).

Electron Forge is an all-in-one tool that handles the packaging and distribution of Electron apps. Under the hood, it combines a lot of existing Electron tools (e.g. electron-packager, @electron/osx-sign, electron-winstaller, etc.) into a single interface so you do not have to worry about wiring them all together.

Importing your project into Forge

You can install Electron Forge's CLI in your project's devDependencies and import your existing project with a handy conversion script.

npm install --save-dev @electron-forge/cli
npx electron-forge import

Once the conversion script is done, Forge should have added a few scripts to your package.json file.

package.json
  //...
"scripts": {
"start": "electron-forge start",
"package": "electron-forge package",
"make": "electron-forge make"
},
//...
CLI documentation

For more information on make and other Forge APIs, check out the Electron Forge CLI documentation.

You should also notice that your package.json now has a few more packages installed under your devDependencies, and contains an added config.forge field with an array of makers configured. Makers are Forge plugins that create distributables from your source code. You should see multiple makers in the pre-populated configuration, one for each target platform.

Creating a distributable

To create a distributable, use your project's new make script, which runs the electron-forge make command.

npm run make

This make command contains two steps:

  1. It will first run electron-forge package under the hood, which bundles your app code together with the Electron binary. The packaged code is generated into a folder.
  2. It will then use this packaged app folder to create a separate distributable for each configured maker.

After the script runs, you should see an out folder containing both the distributable and a folder containing the packaged application code.

macOS output example
out/
├── out/make/zip/darwin/x64/my-electron-app-darwin-x64-1.0.0.zip
├── ...
└── out/my-electron-app-darwin-x64/my-electron-app.app/Contents/MacOS/my-electron-app

The distributable in the out/make folder should be ready to launch! You have now created your first bundled Electron application.

Distributable formats

Electron Forge can be configured to create distributables in different OS-specific formats (e.g. DMG, deb, MSI, etc.). See Forge's Makers documentation for all configuration options.

Packaging without Electron Forge

If you want to manually package your code, or if you're just interested understanding the mechanics behind packaging an Electron app, check out the full Application Packaging documentation.

Important: signing your code

In order to distribute desktop applications to end users, we highly recommended for you to code sign your Electron app. Code signing is an important part of shipping desktop applications, and is mandatory for the auto-update step in the final part of the tutorial.

Code signing is a security technology that you use to certify that a desktop app was created by a known source. Windows and macOS have their own OS-specific code signing systems that will make it difficult for users to download or launch unsigned applications.

If you already have code signing certificates for Windows and macOS, you can set your credentials in your Forge configuration. Otherwise, please refer to the full Code Signing documentation to learn how to purchase a certificate and for more information on the desktop app code signing process.

On macOS, code signing is done at the app packaging level. On Windows, distributable installers are signed instead.

package.json
{
//...
"config": {
"forge": {
//...
"packagerConfig": {
"osxSign": {
"identity": "Developer ID Application: Felix Rieseberg (LT94ZKYDCJ)",
"hardened-runtime": true,
"entitlements": "entitlements.plist",
"entitlements-inherit": "entitlements.plist",
"signature-flags": "library"
},
"osxNotarize": {
"appleId": "felix@felix.fun",
"appleIdPassword": "this-is-a-secret"
}
}
//...
}
}
//...
}

Summary

Electron applications need to be packaged to be distributed to users. In this tutorial, you imported your app into Electron Forge and configured it to package your app and generate installers.

In order for your application to be trusted by the user's system, you need to digitally certify that the distributable is authentic and untampered by code signing it. Your app can be signed through Forge once you configure it to use your code signing certificate information.