Progressive Web Applications (PWAs), web applications that can be downloaded, installed, and run as native applications from Google Chrome. Learning how to download or install PWA in Chrome is not a very natural process. Although easy to learn once.
Now, PWAs come with a lot of benefits. Most of them are for developers but it has a knock-on effect on users. Above all, it gives users offline access to information and web-based tools. These act like native apps and can install Chrome on any platform.
For example, Google showed how to replace a web image compressor and editor with its web-based squash app. The company built it as a PWA. So the tool can be used online or off. It works like downloaded software. Users can easily access squash on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebooks, Android or iOS.
Of course, these are not the only basic tools such as a photo editor that can take the form of PWA. Google has showcased drawing tools for PWAs, websites, word editors, chat apps and more.
Opportunities are limited by developers. So the platform has grown significantly since its 2019 introduction. It’s going to get big thanks to the recent team-up between Google and Microsoft aimed at making them even easier. All of this is learning how to install PWA in Chrome is more pressing than ever.
To download PWA in Google Chrome
When it comes time to download or install PWA via Google Chrome, “how” is not really an easy process. In fact, it can be easily summarized in a few steps. Google has stopped throwing in pop-up messages to let users know that a site can be installed as a PWA.
At any rate, it goes without saying that there may be some differences between how different operating systems install PWAs. Or whether they can be installed at all. Installing PWA on Android, for example, does not seem to follow the following procedure at all, at least not yet.
This guide uses the Chromebook, but the UI should be the same for Windows, Mac and Linux – for the Chrome browser. It may be the same on iOS but we will discuss about Android below the steps.
- Open Google Chrome.
- Navigate to the page you want to download as PWA from Google Chrome, using the Omnibox URL. For this example, we use Google’s image compression and light editing app ‘Squash’
- Click or tap on the URL Omnibox after the page loads.
- If the site can be downloaded as PWA, a new “Install” icon will appear on the right side of the omnibox. The Google Install icon is shaped like a ‘plus’ icon inside a circle, usually to the left of the star-shaped bookmark icon. First, the word “install” should also appear briefly there.
- Tap or click the install icon.
- Click or tap “Install” in the resulting pop-up to install PWA.
- Once installed, PWA is displayed in its own native-like window. Chrome keeps the appropriate icon along with other installed apps and software. On Chromebooks, it should be in the app launcher, as shown in the images below, and in the Start menu on Windows.
On Android devices, the current state of affairs is that there is no native Chrome UI that tells users how to install PWA. Instead, web applications should have their own install button. For squash, for example, the ple da-color “Install” button shown in the sample images above also appears on Android. Just like desktop chrome, pressing it brings up a pop-up.
The main difference is that the pop-up asks users to add a squash PWA to their home screen. How the Google app offers users that option when searching for “weather”. Selecting to add Squash PWA to the home screen makes it invisible in the app drawer on Android. It can be seen on the home screen instead.
Keeping PWAs up to date
Now, after installing PWA from Google Chrome, you don’t really have to worry about keeping the app up to date. Not because they do not need to be updated. But, for the most part, PWAs keep themselves fresh. Of course, they will be updated in some way but only when the installed device is connected to the Internet.
For example, the squash app used in our example is not updated as often as regular PWA. Because it’s under the hood, the basic photo editing application. Clearly intended for compressing, resizing and compressing image file sizes. So there is not much in terms of details facing the user that needs to be changed.
Instead, it receives improvements through periodic updates when the installed Chromebook is connected. When that happens, a pop-up will appear telling users that there is a new version. Pressing the Update button restarts the squash as the website reloads.
Things are different when installing a website as PWA, they have a lot of user facing details that need to be updated. For example, a news site will effectively update every time it is opened, as long as a PWA connection is available. It does this in the background as a native app for questionable service. Google has worked to ensure that no user interaction is required. When connected, it pulls the update down when it opens.
All this means that, like a native app, users do not have to do much to keep things up to date, except for a big change in functionality.
Not every site or service is available as a progressive web app
One last note to make in progressive web applications is that not every website or service is available. At least not yet. As mentioned above, Google only introduced PWAs in 2019. Its goal is to get everyone involved and create applications so that sites and services can work on any platform. As a result, it is a ‘create code once, release everywhere’ platform. But not everyone is on board with it. At least not yet.
Similarly, not every company that builds a PWA like Pandora will work with Chrome. Music streaming service allows Pandora to be used as PWA in the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser. For this users need to navigate to Pandora, tap or click on the three-dot context menu, scroll down to the apps, and then select the “Install” option. So not every example of a web application works the same way.
Having said all this, more and more PWAs are being added every day. So, where available, the procedure for installing them in Chrome should remain the same.