Progressive web app technology, that’s how

Take a look at the video below.  It shows our Cx (construction commissioning) web app running without an internet connection on the Chrome browser in a Windows 10 partition running in the Parallels virtual machine on a MacBook Pro laptop.  In the video below, you can see how I can fill out a form, sign a row in a table grid, and even take a picture of myself from the laptop’s camera.  All while fully offline with no internet connection.

Try that with CxAlloy, FacilityGrid, or BlueRithm.  Not even remotely possible on those older platforms.

This is possible on XForms because it uses Capacitor, the latest and greatest framework within Ionic with progressive web app underpinnings.  

Confusion?

When I told a few of my friends about the ability to run XForms in a web browser in offline mode, it mostly confused them and prompted questions like the following:

Why would you want to run a browser without internet access?

But don’t you have to have an internet connection to use Chrome?

What’s the point of using a browser in airplane mode?

Browsers don’t work without an internet connection, right?

Your browser is not just a web browser…it’s an app that you downloaded, just like all your other apps

We’ve been using web browser technology for so long as our gateway to the internet that we assume a browser has to have a live connection to the internet.  But with progressive web apps, that’s not true anymore.  You have to think of your Chrome/Safari/Firefox/Edge browser as any other app that you have downloaded before. And it’s probably the one app you use most widely for nearly everything.

Over the next few years, you are going to start seeing web apps behaving more and more like native apps because of this technology.  Here’s a good summary article about PWAs and all the parts that make this technology possible: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/Progressive_web_apps/Introduction

What are the benefits of a PWA?

In addition to a user experience that more closely resembles a native application in terms of responsiveness, speed, load times, and usability, here’s some benefits of a progressive web app:

  • No need to download an app from an app store. Means no admin rights issues on company-issued hardware. No need to even ask the IT department for anything because your device already has a modern browser installed on it.
  • Use any device (laptop, desktop, tablet, phone) to access ALL of an application’s functions, even in offline mode.  Unlike some web applications that provide a limited subset of a native application’s features, you can access ALL of the same features and functions of a native application, even the offline features.  This is because it’s the same application.  It’s not a different application. 
  • Access a device’s camera and geolocation, just like a native application can, even if your hardware is an older laptop and even a desktop.  Older web technology could not—for example—access a device’s camera or GPS card.  While that limitation was resolved some time ago for smartphones and tablets, accessing a laptop’s camera or geolocation was not something that was easy to do.  Therefore, most web apps, when accessed from a laptop or desktop computer, would disable the camera and geolocation features.  Not so with progressive web apps.  
  • If the native app can run in offline mode, so too can the progressive web app.  You are not limited to using a native app to complete your work. Just launch Safari, or Chrome, or FireFox, and perform the same things as you would on the native app.  

Over the next few years, progressive web app technology will become almost ubiquitous, where users will expect web apps to perform as well as native apps, without having to download anything new.  This is just the beginning of all this, and hence why some people get confused when I mention running a web browser in offline mode to run an application.  But that confusion will eventually fade, as PWAs become the norm. 

XForms was built using this technology under the hood. We’re confident that this is the future of applications and something that your organization can benefit from now, while the rest of the industry takes years to catch up.

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