Jump into the PWA Revolution. What's a PWA and why do they matter?

Updated: May 24

There's a massive change brewing in the world of smartphone apps. It's called PWA. In this article, I'm going to tell you what PWA's are, and why they matter, using TaskAngel To Do List as a working example.


If you're an App developer, PWA's are going to change your life forever. For the rest of us, it means we are going to get the apps we always dreamed of. Reliable apps that run on all our devices, and keep themselves up to date. We are going to break free from the restrictions of the tech platforms and the app stores.





What's a PWA?


PWA stands for Progressive Web Application. Here's what that means.


It's a kind of web app. A very smart web page. And it's 'progressive'. That just means it looks and feels like a standalone app on your smartphone. It's the best of both worlds - it feels like your favourite app, and it's connected to everything.



TaskAngel To_Do List is an excellent PWA to manage your busy life


What do I need to get started?


If you have a smartphone, or a desktop computer, and an internet connection, you have everything you need.


It's a very smart web app, so you need a good browser. The best ones to use are Safari, Chrome, and Edge. (But keep clear of Microsoft Internet Explorer. It hasn't kept up with the latest web standards that PWA's need.)



We recommend these browsers:



​Device

​Browser

​iPhone

​Safari

​iPad

​Safari

​Android

​Chrome

​Mac

​Chrome

​Windows

​Edge or Chrome


How to install a PWA


Let's take TaskAngel To-do List as a working example. Install one of the recommended browsers, then follow this web link to get started:


app.taskangel.com


TaskAngel pops up right away. No waiting.


You start by looking at a login screen. Identify yourself with an email address, and give a password, so TaskAngel can keep your information safe and secure. (There's a 30 day free trial, so trying it out won't cost you anything.)


But it still looks just like a web page! It's framed by the browser stuff - address bar, bookmarks and so on. There's another step to take, to install it as a PWA and get rid of all that browser clutter.



Install PWA on iPhone or iPad with Safari

  1. On your iPhone or iPad, open Safari and browse to the app link (e.g. app.taskangel.com)

  2. Tap on the share button and then choose 'Add to Home Screen'. The next popup lets you change the name of the icon if you want, then you tap Add to put it on your home screen.

  3. Close the page on Safari, then open the PWA by tapping its icon on your home page.


Install PWA on Android using Chrome

  1. On your Android device, open Chrome and browse to the app link.

  2. Tap Install

  3. Follow the on-screen instructions.

After installation, a shortcut appears on the home of your device.


Install PWA on Mac or Windows using Chrome

  1. On your Android device, open Chrome and browse to the app link.

  2. At the top right of the address bar, click Install

  3. Follow the on-screen instructions.

After installation, a shortcut appears on the dock, just like any other app.


Install PWA on Windows using Edge

  1. On your Windows PC, open Edge and browse to the app link.

  2. Click on the three-dot menu button at the top right corner. Select Apps, then click Install this site as an app.

  3. Follow the on-screen instructions.

After installing the PWA, a shortcut appears on the app list in your Windows Start menu. You can pin it to your Start menu and your Taskbar, just like any other app.



What if I don't have a good Internet connection?


PWA's can run when you are disconnected from the Internet. In Airplane mode, for example

PWA's like TaskAngel are designed to work when you are disconnected. So you can switch your smartphone to Airplane Mode, or just go anywhere without mobile data coverage, and the PWA will still work.


When you next get an internet connection, the PWA syncs with its data hub. Then it carries on as if the connection had always been there.


What if I make changes on other devices?


PWA's like TaskAngel keep themselves up to date across all your devices

A good PWA keeps all its copies in step with each other, using an online data hub. When one of your devices changes something, all your other connected devices update themselves. With TaskAngel, it works just like magic. Add, change or complete a task on your iPhone, and the task lists on your tablets or desktop computers are updated immediately.


What about security?


A PWA must protect any information it has access to. This means guarding it against attackers on your smartphone or computer, and in its online hub, and in the messages that pass between them.


Your PWA prevents unauthorised access, using a username and password. This is your first line of defence, but it's going to be the first line of weakness if your password is easy to guess. You might want to try a password manager like Dashlane to generate strong passwords and remember them for you.


TaskAngel keeps your tasks and notes in a secure online hub. The hub automatically encrypts all data before it is written to disk. It is automatically and transparently decrypted when you read it.


PWA's use the https protocol to communicate. This encrypts all communication, making sure your information is protected against eavesdropping and tampering. It keeps the hackers away.


PWA's provide secure access to your data

Are they reliable?


PWA's work by running scripts in the browser you choose. So they are as reliable as the PWA script and the browser. PWA technology is now sufficiently well developed to build highly reliable apps.


All new software has errors, but software writers can minimise them by conforming to standards, by building on robust and reliable frameworks, and by thorough testing.


PWA's improve their reliability by continuously tracking down errors and eliminating them. The update process is much quicker than for traditional apps. A bug can be reported, analysed, and fixed in the space of an hour or two, depending on its complexity. Fixes are deployed into the released product in a matter of minutes.





How will I get updates?


PWA's can update themselves automatically. A signal goes out from the host site and the PWA knows to load the new code.


When this happens, TaskAngel pops up a question to you, asking if you want to do the update now or later. If you are in the middle of making changes that you haven't saved yet, just say 'Later'. When you say yes, the update happens immediately in a few seconds.


The way forward


PWA's are powerful, and lightning fast, and you can run them on any smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. They have the look and feel of a traditional app, always connected. The best of both worlds.


To learn more about TaskAngel To-Do List, and its new PWA version, please visit www.taskangel.com/online.


Author


Andrew Boswell, author of TaskAngel, the new to-do list PWA

Andrew Boswell is the author of TaskAngel To-Do List. He spent many years as a project manager in high-tech programmes in the UK, rolling out Internet technology and new customer service systems.


Andrew is also the IT Director of Iconic Project Management Limited, which delivers outstanding construction projects across the commercial sector.


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