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InfoQ Homepage News Microsoft's Chromium-Based WebView2 Supports Hybrid Windows Web Apps

Microsoft's Chromium-Based WebView2 Supports Hybrid Windows Web Apps

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Microsoft recently announced a preview release of WebView2, a Chromium-based control to host web content within native Windows applications.

Limin Zhu, a Microsoft program manager for WebView, explains the benefits of WebView2:

This hybrid approach lets you to share code with similar controls on other platforms or with your websites, to inject dynamic content into your native apps, and to leverage the rich and growing ecosystem of tools, frameworks, and talent around web technologies, among other benefits.

The WebView team plans a range of apps and use cases, such as supporting a Microsoft Office Add-ins experience powered by WebView2.

A primary goal of the WebView team is to provide a consistent foundation for web apps on all Windows platforms. Developers building applications that support Chromium-based browsers will get the same benefits when building hybrid applications with WebView. To prevent the past challenges of the WebView version in Office being tied to a specific Office release, WebView2 by default gets powered by the up-to-date version of Microsoft Edge. The WebView team hopes this will reduce fragmentation and give developers access to the latest web APIs.

Microsoft has a history of supporting a specific version, and they plan a "bring-your-own mode" to allow the bundling of a redistributable version of the browser with a WebView2 app without automatic updates. Developers choosing this approach must manage updates for WebView to get security updates and new browser platform capabilities.

Many developers have invested significant efforts in previous generated Windows web technologies like EdgeHTML, MSHTML, and WMA/HWA/PWA on top of the UWP platform. Microsoft plans to maintain support for older approaches. This compatibility suggests that Microsoft will include Internet Explorer and non-Chromium Edge source code indefinitely to support legacy features.

Justin Willis, program manager for PAX Web at Microsoft, explains some of the benefits of WebView2 via Twitter for creating Progressive Web Apps:

I was thinking about this and got really excited when I saw the Office add-ins section. You could potentially have chromium powered PWAs inside of an Office app. That's epic imo.

The WebView 2 preview is currently limited to an initial set of Win32 C++ APIs on Windows 10. Support for other Windows versions such as Windows 7+ and Windows Server 2012 R2+, UWP, WFP, and WinForms will occur in a future release. The WebView team plans to release updates to the WebView SDK roughly every six weeks. Most recently, updates to WebView2 include supporting 32-bit WebView on 64-bit machines, and options to disable features such as DevTools and the status bar.

Developers looking to get started with WebView 2 should review the WebView2 getting started tutorial and read the WebView2 documentation. The WebView team encourages feedback to improve future WebView releases.

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