How to Open a Progressive Web App on Startup

Progressive Web Apps on Startup
Progressive Web Apps on Startup

Many applications provide the option of opening on startup. This is a feature of the operating system. You can designate any application to start when the machine boots.

For many, having a set of productivity applications automatically opening is a productivity feature. It saves them from having to open each application one by one.

Often businesses will create images and global policies to designate these open on boot applications as well.

This feature has been limited to applications and not websites.

This is changing with both Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome introducing the ability to designate an installed progressive web application (PWA) to open on startup.

The PWA on startup feature is available on Windows and version 85 of Chrome OS. So this will be a feature of both popular desktop platforms.

I am particularly happy to see the feature available to Chrome OS because I am an advocate of a browser based operating system. The more PWAs are promoted on Chrome OS the better.

For now this feature requires enabling in the Canary versions of Edge and Chrome. It is not enabled by default, even in this early channel.

You need to open either edge://flags or chrome://flags then search for PWA run on OS start or some variation. You should be able to find the flag by searching for PWA.

From there you can enable the feature.

This will require the browser be restarted before you see this option. You will also need to reboot the machine to launch any enabled PWAs.

Who Needs a PWA to Launch on Startup

Some conversations I have had around this feature raise questions of who would want to use this feature?

Having any application open on startup is typically a workflow hack. In other words you do not need to go through the motions of opening a set of applications each time you reboot are start your computer.

Common applications are Outlook, Skype, Slack and other messaging tools used in businesses. You may also open Word or Excel and other productivity tools.

As more applications migrate to progressive web applications it only makes sense this feature is added. It further levels the playing field between native and PWAs.

How PWA on Startup Works

After enabling this feature in the Canary versions of the Chromium based browsers (see instructions below), when installing a PWA there is a new checkbox. The checkbox will enable the freshly installed PWA to open on startup.

Install PWA with Option to Open on Startup
Install PWA with Option to Open on Startup

If the PWA is already installed you will need to remove or uninstall it. This 'resets' the PWAs installation state. Without doing that you will not be able to initiate the install workflow.

Which of course means you will not see the option to launch on startup.

To see the PWA on startup happen you will need to reboot the computer. On my Surface Laptop it takes about 30 seconds for enough of the boot processes to complete before the installed PWA opens. So give it a little time to materialize.

From there, everything looks, feels and behaves just like a native application.

Removing a PWA from Launch on Startup

For now, the only way to stop a statup PWA from launching on startup is to uninstall it. No worries you can reinstall the PWA so it is available in the start menu and pinnable.

My hope is as this feature moves toward general release my hope is startup designated PWAs will be included along with native applications to toggle this feature.

You can uninstall a PWA from the 'Settings and more' menu (the 3 horizontal elipses in the top right corner).

PWA Settings With Uninstall Option
PWA Settings With Uninstall Option

In the middle of the menu is the 'Uninstall [app name]' option. This removes the PWA and of course the startup designation.

## How to Enable PWA Run on OS Login in Edge Canary

Modern browsers all have 'back doors' to advanced settings. This includes toggling experimental features.

In Microsoft Edge you can find these settings by entering 'edge://flags' in the address bar.

There are many features listed and you can scroll through them for a while. So there is a search field that will help whittle the list to a small set.

Edge Flags - Enable PWA on Startup
Edge Flags - Enable PWA on Startup

The easiest term I have found is to just enter PWA. All progressive web application features should remain.

You should see 'Desktop PWAs run on OS login' in the list. To the right of the record there is an enable/disable toggle button.

Toggle the feature to enable it. You will need to restart the browser for the change to take affect. There will be a restart button displayed in the bottom right corner.

How to Enable PWA Run on OS Login in Chrome Canary

To enable PWA on startup in Chrome Canary you need to the exact same thing you did in Microsoft Edge.

The difference between the browsers is the address to locate the advanced settings. This time you need to enter 'chrome://flags' in the address bar.

Everything else is the exact same experience.

Takeaways

While this feature is still a few more releases away from general release this is just another big step toward PWAs being on equal footing with native apps.

PWAs a on startup are not 100% baked at the moment. I think there is a key usability enhancements that needs to be added:

Easily toggle an installed PWA to launch on startup

This could be done by adding this toggle to the Windows Settings -> Startup Apps list.

Another option is to add this to the list of site settings in the browser.

It could also be managaged through an API and a native permission prompt. I like this option the best because it make it easier to surface a toggle within the application. Normal people don't know how to find things in the Windows Settings and nose through 'hidden' browser settings.

If you have feedback for this feature you can quickly submit your suggestion through the Microsoft Edge Feedback mechanism. Just look for the icon in the top right corner of Edge to start the process.

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