It means you can manage these apps more easily from the taskbar (Windows), dock (macOS), or shelf (Chrome OS). Installing PWAs also means the notifications from these apps can be managed at the operating system level, and treated differently from the notifications coming from your browser. They’ll be found on the main application list, and you don’t need to have your browser open to use them.
Essentially, these PWAs aim to bring together the slickness and simplicity of web apps with the traditional format of desktop apps—it’s a bit of a best-of-both-worlds approach. If you think about the load that gets placed on your browser every day, and the number of tabs you typically have open, moving some key apps to separate windows can help to reduce the clutter.
That’s not to say you’ll want to go for the PWA rather than the browser option every time it’s available, though. It really depends on how you use your apps. But you can see at a glance which websites support the PWA format and which don’t.
For online apps that aren’t PWA-compatible, you can still create shortcuts from your desktop—in Chrome, for example, choose More tools and Create shortcut from the main browser menu, which puts a link to the current site on your desktop. To get the full experience and all the benefits though, you need to install the progressive web app.
Installing and Using PWAs
As we’ve said, not all web apps can be installed as PWAs—but if you’re on a website that is packaged in this way, you’ll see an icon that looks like a downward arrow by a computer (in Chrome) or a plus sign by a grid (in Microsoft Edge), just to the right of the URL in the address bar. At the moment, you can’t set up PWAs as desktop apps using Safari or Firefox.
Hover over the icon for the browser you’re using, and you’ll see the text Install (in Chrome) or App available (in Edge). If you then click the icon and confirm the action on the dialog prompt that pops up, you’ll find the app adds itself to the taskbar, dock, or shelf (depending on which operating system you’re on).