I use Notion and Mastodon every day, and Ubuntu has been my desktop of choice for the last few years. I prefer dedicated apps for my daily drivers so I’ve had to use the browser to access Notion and Mastodon for now.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who thought Linux faced a dearth of dedicated apps. And someone managed to do something about it. Nativefier takes a URL and wraps it into an Electron app running Chromium under the hood for Windows, Mac, or Linux. And using Nativefier is as simple as that.

Installing Nativefier

Installing Nativefier is as simple as running:

npm install -g nativefier


On my Ubuntu, I had to upgrade my NodeJS. Nativefier requires NodeJS >= 12.9. Once installed, you can check your version of Nativefier.

nativefier --version
45.0.4


Running nativefier --help will list all options the app supports. I’m going to be using these to create apps for Notion and Mastodon below. Before we create our apps, I’m going to create a new folder called ~/NativeApps. This will help me keep the the apps nice and organised.

mkdir ~/NativeApps
cd ~/NativeApps

Creating an app for Notion

We’ll start by creating the app for Notion. The command is as follows:

nativefier -n Notion -p linux -a x64 --width 1024 --height 768 --tray --disable-dev-tools --single-instance https://notion.so


The CLI options above do the following:

  • -n Notion sets the app name to Notion.

  • -p linux -a x64 sets the app’s platform to Linux and architecture to x64.

  • --width 1024 --height 768 set the apps dimensions on launch.

  • --tray creates a tray icon for the app.

  • --disable-dev-tools disables Chrome dev tools.

  • --single-instance only allows one instance of the app.

Running that single command will show us the following output:

Preparing Electron app...

Converting icons...
Packaging... This will take a few seconds, maybe minutes if the requested Electron isn't cached yet...
Packaging app for platform linux x64 using electron v13.4.0
Finalizing build...

App built to /home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Notion-linux-x64, move to wherever it makes sense for you and run the contained executable file (prefixing with ./ if necessary)

Menu/desktop shortcuts are up to you, because Nativefier cannot know where you're going to move the app. Search for "linux .desktop file" for help, or see https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Desktop_entries


As shown in the output, the files will be in /home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Notion-linux-x64. cd into this folder and you’ll see a file named Notion. This is the main executable to launch our app. We’ll need to give it the appropriate permissions.

cd Notion-linux-x64
chmod +x Notion


Now, execute ./Notion and your Linux app should launch!

Notion on Ubuntu 20.04 as a native Linux app.

Creating the app for Mastodon

Just like Notion, we’ll create the app for mastodon.technology.

Mastodon.technology on Ubuntu 20.04 as a Linux app.

Use the command:

nativefier -n Mastodon -p linux -a x64 --width 1024 --height 768 --tray --disable-dev-tools --single-instance https://mastodon.technology

cd Mastodon-linux-x64
chmod +x Mastodon

Creating app for ayushsharma.in

For funzies, I’m going to create an app for this website as well. What good is having a tech blog if there’s no Linux app for it :)

ayushsharma.in on Ubuntu 20.04 as a native Linux app.

Use the command:

nativefier -n ayushsharma -p linux -a x64 --width 1024 --height 768 --tray --disable-dev-tools --single-instance https://ayushsharma.in

cd ayushsharma-linux-x64
chmod +x ayushsharma

Creating app for findmymastodon.com

And finally, I’ll create an app for my pet project, findmymastodon.com.

findmymastodon.com on Ubuntu 20.04 as a native Linux app.

Use the command:

nativefier -n findmymastodon -p linux -a x64 --width 1024 --height 768 --tray --disable-dev-tools --single-instance https://findmymastodon.com

cd findmymastodon-linux-x64
chmod +x findmymastodon

Creating Linux desktop icons

With our apps created and the executables ready-to-go, we can create desktop icons as well.

First, download the icons for Notion, Mastodon, ayushsharma.in, and findmymastodon.com. Place each icon in its Nativefier app directory as icon.png. Then, create the following .desktop files.

Notion.desktop

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=Notion
Path=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Notion-linux-x64
Exec=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Notion-linux-x64/Notion
Icon=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Notion-linux-x64/icon.png

Mastodon.desktop

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=Mastodon
Path=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Mastodon-linux-x64
Exec=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Mastodon-linux-x64/Mastodon
Icon=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/Mastodon-linux-x64/icon.png

ayushsharma.desktop

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=ayushsharma
Path=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/ayushsharma-linux-x64
Exec=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/ayushsharma-linux-x64/ayushsharma
Icon=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/ayushsharma-linux-x64/icon.png

findmymastodon.desktop

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=findmymastodon
Path=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/findmymastodon-linux-x64
Exec=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/findmymastodon-linux-x64/findmymastodon
Icon=/home/my-linux-user/NativeApps/findmymastodon-linux-x64/icon.png


You can now move the .desktop files to your Linux desktop and see your linux apps all lined up :)

Linux app icons for Notion, Mastodon, ayushsharma.in, and findmymastodon.com.

Conclusion

Well wasn’t that fun :) Nativefier might be the tool we’ve all been looking for. I know I have. My favourite feature is that once I log in to Notion or Mastodon I don’t have to log in again! Nativefier runs Chromium underneath. So it’s able to remember your session and works like it would in a regular browser. I have no idea if this is true or not. But at least that’s how I think it works, which is enough for now :)

Special thanks to the Nativefier team for taking my Ubuntu one step closer to perfection :)