Signal Messenger Now Has A Standalone Desktop App

Open Whisper Systems (OWS), the non-profit that develops the Signal messenger and its end-to-end encryption protocol, released a new standalone desktop application that will replace the existing Signal Chrome App. The move comes as Google is preparing to end support for Chrome Apps in its browser.

Deprecating Chrome Apps

A little more than a year ago, Google announced that “Chrome apps,” or web apps that can be packaged to work as regular apps with offline capabilities inside the Chrome browser, would be deprecated.

At the time, the company said that Chrome apps would no longer be shown in the Chrome Web Store, but they will work until early 2018 for users who had already installed them. Google also said that Chrome OS would continue to support these apps “for the foreseeable future.” However, it’s unlikely the OS will support them for more than a year after the Chrome App support ends in the Chrome browser.

Signal’s New Stand-Alone Desktop App

Because Google is deprecating its Chrome Apps, Signal's developers had to find another way to offer their users a desktop application without having to rewrite one from scratch. The group used Electron, an open source framework for creating native applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This way, OWS was able to convert its existing Chrome App code into a standalone Electron application without too many changes.

Although we don’t get a truly native Signal application, there are still some advantages to be gained from this transition. For one, you don’t need to install Chrome anymore, just to be able to use the desktop Signal application. Firefox and Safari users can run the new Signal app separately, just like any other desktop app.

The second advantage is that you no longer need to keep your smartphone around to be able to chat via the desktop app, as you have to do with the desktop version of WhatsApp, for instance. After the initial set-up and linking of your smartphone to the desktop app, the new desktop app can be used independently of a smartphone.

Getting Started With The New Signal Desktop App

If you’ve never used the Signal desktop app before, then you first need to install it from the Signal website. Then you go into the Signal smartphone app’s settings and pair it with the desktop app.

If you’ve used the older desktop app before, then you can export the data to a new folder, and then import it from that folder into the new app.

The new Signal desktop app is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. OWS is encouraging users to go to its forums to talk about the new release, as well as file any bugs they may find to help improve the application for everyone.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.