Web technologies are advancing at a fast pace in the last few years. One of those technologies gaining major traction are the Progressive Web Apps (also known as PWA). While the PWAs have been around for a while (Google engineers Alex Russel and Frances Berriman introduced the term back in 2015), and the time for embracing this technology has come.
The Gravit Designer team always strives to be on the top of the tech wave, so it was time for us to go through this technology and find a way to leverage the power of PWA, aiming to give our users the best experience they deserve.
What is PWA?
The Progressive Web Application is, in technical terms, the combination of modern web APIs with conventional progressive enhancement strategy, creating a mix of the very best of web and desktop apps.
To put it simply, PWAs provide you the look and feel of a native application along with a much better operating system integration. On top of that, this technology keeps the benefits of being fast and always up-to-date, like any website.
These are the key benefits that PWAs bring to our users:
- They can be used with limited connectivity or even offline. Everybody struggles with slow or unreliable networks from time to time. Thanks to “Service Workers”, all needed resources are cached locally and you can rely on uninterrupted app usage, no matter what your network conditions are.
- Instantaneous loading time. Again, thanks to smart caching strategies, the loading time of a Progressive Web App is very short.
- Access to native functions like the local file system, pushing notifications, device sensors, to name a few.
- Security. All the traffic used by the PWA must be served through “https”, which means that the connection is safe and prevents security hazards, such as “man-in-the-middle” attacks.
- Effortless updates. Contrary to regular native apps, the PWAs don’t require manual update procedures or meddling with app stores. Some updates can even be made without disturbing the users at all. That means that you are always using an up-to-date version of the app, with all the bug fixes, improvements and new features delivered instantly.
- Platform independent. PWAs can be used in any platform where you have compatible browsers installed. Besides, once it’s developed, the Progressive Web App can be distributed on multiple platforms and devices without any further modifications.
- Refined development. As a cross-platform solution, the PWA allows the development team to focus on the core of the product and deliver a better solution, even faster.
The PWAs have been very successful already, mainly within the mobile field. Companies like Twitter, Forbes, Starbucks, Spotify, Tinder and Pinterest rely on PWA to reach a larger amount of audience while retaining and even enhancing their user experience and engagement.
Many consider PWAs as mainly targeted to mobile web, but that is far from the truth. While the first success stories are mobile-related, PWAs are perfectly suitable for full-blown desktop experiences as well, especially in the light of recent improvements in the desktop browser field, allowing even better integration with the native operating system.
Since Gravit Designer is built on web technologies, the PWA seemed like the natural next step for us. We are proud to be among the pioneers in bringing this advancing technology to desktop users, especially in the graphic design ecosystem.
So how does all of this work for Gravit Designer?
Last week, Gravit Designer 2020-1.2 was successfully released, and along with great improvements and bug fixes, came Gravit’s very own Progressive Web Application which you can start using right away! Load the web application at designer.gravit.io and click the “Install” button on the dialog that pops after you log in.
This prompt won’t be shown every time you access your account, so if you missed the first opportunity, you can always install Gravit’s PWA by accessing the menu File and simply clicking “Install to Desktop”.
You will notice that there is no long or annoying installation process, just click “Install” and a shortcut will be placed on your desktop that will point to Gravit Designer’s PWA. That’s all! You can start using it as any other app installed on your machine.
Which version is appropriate for me?
Now that we have 3 versions of Gravit Designer available to choose from, let us help you make the proper decision. Each version comes with a set of advantages and some limitations.
Web Browser version
- The application is always up to date – it receives the latest codebase every time it is loaded.
- No installation required, just navigate to designer.gravit.io.
- Works on every desktop OS with a compatible web browser (Google Chrome, MS Edge, Safari, or Mozilla Firefox).
- Can take some time to load (especially if assets are up to 200Mb), even longer on slower networks (like 3G and lower).
- It is loaded inside the browser frame, so there are some possibly distracting and space-hogging elements, such as address and bookmark bars, browser tabs, and browser plugins.
- Some of the integrations with the OS are not supported:
- Saving files locally (you can download the files instead, or store them on the Gravit Cloud);
- Using local system fonts (you can still use custom fonts by simply importing them to Gravit);
- Linking images (you can still import images to the file as usual).
- Newest versions are enhanced by the PWA caching system
You should choose this option if you use Gravit Designer occasionally, or if you can’t (or don’t want to) install software on the computer you are using, in an educational environment or for public machines, for example.
Installable Desktop version
- Works on macOS (High Sierra or later), Windows (10 or later), Linux (Ubuntu and Linux Mint are officially supported) and Chrome OS (Chrome v8 engine 7.2.502 or later);
- Fast loading time because all assets are already saved on your hard disk drive;
- All the features are available, along with complete system integration.
- Every available update needs to be downloaded and installed manually.
- You should use this version if you want to have full access to all the functionalities available on Gravit Designer, or if you are a frequent user and need tighter integration with your OS (to use features like opening .gvdesign files with a double click, working with files saved locally, linking images to the design instead of importing them, using system fonts regularly, etc). Download the desktop version of Gravit Designer.
Progressive Web Application:
- Fast loading due to the smart assets caching;
- Instant updates without any interruptions (automatically done in the background when new files appear on the server);
- No app store approval delays, which means you get the latest version right away;
- Native application look and feel;
- Full access to the native OS functionality -> Currently in development. The same restrictions as the Web Browser version apply here, for now.
You should choose this version if you want the best of both worlds!
This is only the beginning of our love story with the PWA. We are already working on several improvements in our current implementation which will give you full access to your system, bringing all the currently missing features from the desktop app.
Combined with the upcoming touch-optimized interface and other advanced features for designers, we will soon see Gravit Designer accessible to a much wider audience, including not only desktop users, but tablet users as well.
Stay tuned as the sky’s the limit!