Frameworks & Tools to Develop Cross-Platform Desktop Apps – Best of
Cross-platform software development is the need of the hour because of increasing demand for cost-efficient and short-timeline software projects. Such development process saves lots of efforts and allows writing a single codebase to create apps for multiple platforms.
As an open-source, high-level, and multi-platform programming toolkit, Haxe‘s single code-base creates applications or games for numerous target platforms. As a compiler, it compiles the source code for various desktop platforms, and the compilation is done source to source, i.e. its compiler produces equivalent source code in different language(s) for different platform(s).
It’s a full pack of a language, a compiler, a set of libraries, useful tools, and Haxe-based frameworks or tools.
It’s much faster than other similar compilers like Flash or Flex
Its bytecode is much faster than the equivalent produced by others
It’s a simple language allows the programmer to go as far as they like
Its platform can communicate smoothly with other platforms using ORM
Cons: Programs with native AS3 libraries are not yet fully supported by Haxe. Beside this, debugging difficulties increase after language translation of the source code, hence building something with Haxe requires high coding standards.
It relies entirely on web standards that almost every web developer already knows, allowing them to write desktop software
It allows developers to focus on the core functionality of the applications by already taking care of the hard parts in software development
For desktop apps, it provides various core functionalities like auto-update, crash reporter, installer creator and system-specific features
Cons:No built-in MVC is provided by Electron, and platforms for Chrome are not fully supported as yet. Beside these, it’s also not as feature-rich or mature as NW.js.
It has an impressive list of demo applications and video games
It provides great community support with easily searchable answers
Some of its functions are more feature-rich and mature than those of Electron
Cons: Some hard work features that are available in Electron, such as auto-updater and crash-reporting, don’t comes built-in with NW.js. That said, building with NW.js requires more efforts and extra modules – unlike other solutions.
8th lets developers write code and produce applications for various target operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Android as well as iOS. Its primary focus is providing cross-platform compatibility as well as security in the final software products or distributions.
It comes with support for various essential libraries, which minimizes the dependency on external libraries
It lets you add features or fix bugs in just one place, and the changes are automatically updated on all the supported platforms
It provides enhanced protection by packing the applications in an encrypted container, making it tamper-resistant as well as difficult to crack
Cons: Business applications are the primary focus of this framework, and so far less support is provided to games. Besides, it is very costly, as it requires you to opt for its paid subscriptions for its full functionality.
B4J is more of an IDE than a cross-platform framework for developing applications that run on Windows, Mac OS & Linux systems and ARM boards (like Pi) as well. This solution lets you write code in B4X language, a modern version of Visual Basic. Your application is built for all the supported platforms and per people’s remarks, they work pretty well on the popular desktop platforms.
It builds apps with more performance and less overhead in mind
Its IDE is more like Visual Studio, allowing VB developers feel as at home
It also allows building web apps wherein business logic resides at server-side
Cons: This framework doesn’t provide full support for an obfuscator. Though very popular in the past, Visual Basic is not as popular as Java & other languages nowadays, and finding Visual Basic developers might be a tough task.
Kivy is an open-source Python GUI framework to build multi-touch applications for desktop as well as mobile platforms. Using this framework, software using the same code can run on all the supported platforms, i.e. Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android and iOS. These cross-platform apps are coded in Python, but their GUI is built using the Kivy APIs which provides various layouts and widgets.
It provides built-in graphics library for creating rich UIs
It has an intermediate language to design custom widgets easily
It claims to give better performance than HTML/CSS/JS applications
Cons: The Kivy framework needs large amount of disk space for the development environment, and works or builds more smoothly on Linux development platforms. Besides this, Kivy requires a few minutes to start up on some devices.
Xojo is a programming environment available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. With its Xojo IDE, it provides an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop UI builder, and its own language for coding your application. The IDE also allows testing the app immediately, and when it’s ready, it converts this app to run on multiple platforms.
It provides support for building apps for desktop, web, iOS and Pi
It supports over 40 built-in UI components that work on multiple platforms
It offers built-in support for graphics, database servers and various protocols
Cons: Sometimes, dealing with databases in Xojo is difficult and the programmer has to install some additional tools to facilitate the same. Moreover, the long term usage of its IDE asks for a commercial license, that’s not free, sadly.
It allows creating re-usable modules called components, and structures the whole project in these small modules
Cons: This framework doesn’t provide support for IE8. Enyo is not as easy to develop as its competitors like Haxe and Electron, that can be owed to their bigger communities.
WINDEV Express is an IDE combined with framework for building cross-platform software. This framework allows developing applications for numerous platforms including Windows, Mac OS, Linux and more. It offers its own language called WLanguage to create the cross-platform apps using its IDE.
It provides its own integrated UI builder for creating rich user interfaces
It offers support for numerous databases including Oracle, MySQL and more
It allows using multiple modern UI features such as ribbons, workflow controls
Cons: WINDEV is more complicated than other frameworks because of its French releases and the incomplete translation of guidelines for every feature.