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· 8 min read
Lea Anthony

It's here!

Today marks the release of Wails v2. It's been about 18 months since the first v2 alpha and about a year from the first beta release. I'm truly grateful to everyone involved in the evolution of the project.

Part of the reason it took that long was due to wanting to get to some definition of completeness before officially calling it v2. The truth is, there's never a perfect time to tag a release - there's always outstanding issues or "just one more" feature to squeeze in. What tagging an imperfect major release does do, however, is to provide a bit of stability for users of the project, as well as a bit of a reset for the developers.

This release is more than I'd ever expected it to be. I hope it gives you as much pleasure as it has given us to develop it.

What is Wails?

If you are unfamiliar with Wails, it is a project that enables Go programmers to provide rich frontends for their Go programs using familiar web technologies. It's a lightweight, Go alternative to Electron. Much more information can be found on the official site.

What's new?

The v2 release is a huge leap forward for the project, addressing many of the pain points of v1. If you have not read any of the blog posts on the Beta releases for macOS, Windows or Linux, then I encourage you to do so as it covers all the major changes in more detail. In summary:

  • Webview2 component for Windows that supports modern web standards and debugging capabilities.
  • Dark / Light theme + custom theming on Windows.
  • Windows now has no CGO requirements.
  • Out-of-the-box support for Svelte, Vue, React, Preact, Lit & Vanilla project templates.
  • Vite integration providing a hot-reload development environment for your application.
  • Native application menus and dialogs.
  • Native window translucency effects for Windows and macOS. Support for Mica & Acrylic backdrops.
  • Easily generate an NSIS installer for Windows deployments.
  • A rich runtime library providing utility methods for window manipulation, eventing, dialogs, menus and logging.
  • Support for obfuscating your application using garble.
  • Support for compressing your application using UPX.
  • Automatic TypeScript generation of Go structs. More info here.
  • No extra libraries or DLLs are required to be shipped with your application. For any platform.
  • No requirement to bundle frontend assets. Just develop your application like any other web application.

Credit & Thanks

Getting to v2 has been a huge effort. There have been ~2.2K commits by 89 contributors between the initial alpha and the release today, and many, many more that have provided translations, testing, feedback and help on the discussion forums as well as the issue tracker. I'm so unbelievably grateful to each one of you. I'd also like to give an extra special thank you to all the project sponsors who have provided guidance, advice and feedback. Everything you do is hugely appreciated.

There are a few people I'd like to give special mention to:

Firstly, a huge thank you to @stffabi who has provided so many contributions which we all benefit from, as well as providing a lot of support on many issues. He has provided some key features such as the external dev server support which transformed our dev mode offering by allowing us to hook into Vite's superpowers. It's fair to say that Wails v2 would be a far less exciting release without his incredible contributions. Thank you so much @stffabi!

I'd also like to give a huge shout-out to @misitebao who has tirelessly been maintaining the website, as well as providing Chinese translations, managing Crowdin and helping new translators get up to speed. This is a hugely important task, and I'm extremely grateful for all the time and effort put into this! You rock!

Last, but not least, a huge thank you to Mat Ryer who has provided advice and support during the development of v2. Writing xBar together using an early Alpha of v2 was helpful in shaping the direction of v2, as well as give me an understanding of some design flaws in the early releases. I'm happy to announce that as of today, we will start to port xBar to Wails v2, and it will become the flagship application for the project. Cheers Mat!

Lessons Learnt

There are a number of lessons learnt in getting to v2 that will shape development moving forward.

Smaller, Quicker, Focused Releases​

In the course of developing v2, there were many features and bug fixes that were developed on an ad-hoc basis. This led to longer release cycles and were harder to debug. Moving forward, we are going to create releases more often that will include a reduced number of features. A release will involve updates to documentation as well as thorough testing. Hopefully, these smaller, quicker, focussed releases will lead to fewer regressions and better quality documentation.

Encourage Engagement​

When starting this project, I wanted to immediately help everyone who had a problem. Issues were "personal" and I wanted them resolved as quickly as possible. This is unsustainable and ultimately works against the longevity of the project. Moving forward, I will be giving more space for people to get involved in answering questions and triaging issues. It would be good to get some tooling to help with this so if you have any suggestions, please join in the discussion here.

Learning to say No​

The more people that engage with an Open Source project, the more requests there will be for additional features that may or may not be useful to the majority of people. These features will take an initial amount of time to develop and debug, and incur an ongoing maintenance cost from that point on. I myself am the most guilty of this, often wanting to "boil the sea" rather than provide the minimum viable feature. Moving forward, we will need to say "No" a bit more to adding core features and focus our energies on a way to empower developers to provide that functionality themselves. We are looking seriously into plugins for this scenario. This will allow anyone to extend the project as they see fit, as well as providing an easy way to contribute towards the project.

Looking to the Future

There are so many core features we are looking at to add to Wails in the next major development cycle already. The roadmap is full of interesting ideas, and I'm keen to start work on them. One of the big asks has been for multiple window support. It's a tricky one and to do it right, and we may need to look at providing an alternative API, as the current one was not designed with this in mind. Based on some preliminary ideas and feedback, I think you'll like where we're looking to go with it.

I'm personally very excited at the prospect of getting Wails apps running on mobile. We already have a demo project showing that it is possible to run a Wails app on Android, so I'm really keen to explore where we can go with this!

A final point I'd like to raise is that of feature parity. It has long been a core principle that we wouldn't add anything to the project without there being full cross-platform support for it. Whilst this has proven to be (mainly) achievable so far, it has really held the project back in releasing new features. Moving forward, we will be adopting a slightly different approach: any new feature that cannot be immediately released for all platforms will be released under an experimental configuration or API. This allows early adopters on certain platforms to try the feature and provide feedback that will feed into the final design of the feature. This, of course, means that there are no guarantees of API stability until it is fully supported by all the platforms it can be supported on, but at least it will unblock development.

Final Words

I'm really proud of what we've been able to achieve with the V2 release. It's amazing to see what people have already been able to build using the beta releases so far. Quality applications like Varly, Surge and October. I encourage you to check them out.

This release was achieved through the hard work of many contributors. Whilst it is free to download and use, it has not come about through zero cost. Make no mistakes, this project has come at considerable cost. It has not only been my time and the time of each and every contributor, but also the cost of absence from friends and families of each of those people too. That's why I'm extremely grateful for every second that has been dedicated to making this project happen. The more contributors we have, the more this effort can be spread out and the more we can achieve together. I'd like to encourage you all to pick one thing that you can contribute, whether it is confirming someone's bug, suggesting a fix, making a documentation change or helping out someone who needs it. All of these small things have such a huge impact! It would be so awesome if you too were part of the story in getting to v3.

Enjoy!

‐ Lea

PS: If you or your company find Wails useful, please consider sponsoring the project. Thanks!

· 5 min read
Lea Anthony

I'm pleased to finally announce that Wails v2 is now in beta for Linux! It is somewhat ironic that the very first experiments with v2 was on Linux and yet it has ended up as the last release. That being said, the v2 we have today is very different from those first experiments. So without further ado, let's go over the new features:

New Features​


There were a lot of requests for native menu support. Wails has finally got you covered. Application menus are now available and include support for most native menu features. This includes standard menu items, checkboxes, radio groups, submenus and separators.

There were a huge number of requests in v1 for the ability to have greater control of the window itself. I'm happy to announce that there's new runtime APIs specifically for this. It's feature-rich and supports multi-monitor configurations. There is also an improved dialogs API: Now, you can have modern, native dialogs with rich configuration to cater for all your dialog needs.

No requirement to bundle assets​

A huge pain-point of v1 was the need to condense your entire application down to single JS & CSS files. I'm happy to announce that for v2, there is no requirement to bundle assets, in any way, shape or form. Want to load a local image? Use an <img> tag with a local src path. Want to use a cool font? Copy it in and add the path to it in your CSS.

Wow, that sounds like a webserver...

Yes, it works just like a webserver, except it isn't.

So how do I include my assets?

You just pass a single embed.FS that contains all your assets into your application configuration. They don't even need to be in the top directory - Wails will just work it out for you.

New Development Experience​

Now that assets don't need to be bundled, it's enabled a whole new development experience. The new wails dev command will build and run your application, but instead of using the assets in the embed.FS, it loads them directly from disk.

It also provides the additional features:

  • Hot reload - Any changes to frontend assets will trigger and auto reload of the application frontend
  • Auto rebuild - Any changes to your Go code will rebuild and relaunch your application

In addition to this, a webserver will start on port 34115. This will serve your application to any browser that connects to it. All connected web browsers will respond to system events like hot reload on asset change.

In Go, we are used to dealing with structs in our applications. It's often useful to send structs to our frontend and use them as state in our application. In v1, this was a very manual process and a bit of a burden on the developer. I'm happy to announce that in v2, any application run in dev mode will automatically generate TypeScript models for all structs that are input or output parameters to bound methods. This enables seamless interchange of data models between the two worlds.

In addition to this, another JS module is dynamically generated wrapping all your bound methods. This provides JSDoc for your methods, providing code completion and hinting in your IDE. It's really cool when you get data models auto-imported when hitting tab in an auto-generated module wrapping your Go code!

Remote Templates​


Getting an application up and running quickly was always a key goal for the Wails project. When we launched, we tried to cover a lot of the modern frameworks at the time: react, vue and angular. The world of frontend development is very opinionated, fast moving and hard to keep on top of! As a result, we found our base templates getting out of date pretty quickly and this caused a maintenance headache. It also meant that we didn't have cool modern templates for the latest and greatest tech stacks.

With v2, I wanted to empower the community by giving you the ability to create and host templates yourselves, rather than rely on the Wails project. So now you can create projects using community supported templates! I hope this will inspire developers to create a vibrant ecosystem of project templates. I'm really quite excited about what our developer community can create!

Cross Compilation to Windows​

Because Wails v2 for Windows is pure Go, you can target Windows builds without docker.


In Conclusion​

As I'd said in the Windows release notes, Wails v2 represents a new foundation for the project. The aim of this release is to get feedback on the new approach, and to iron out any bugs before a full release. Your input would be most welcome! Please direct any feedback to the v2 Beta discussion board.

Linux is hard to support. We expect there to be a number of quirks with the beta. Please help us to help you by filing detailed bug reports!

Finally, I'd like to give a special thank you to all the project sponsors whose support drive the project in many ways behind the scenes.

I look forward to seeing what people build with Wails in this next exciting phase of the project!

Lea.

PS: The v2 release isn't far off now!

PPS: If you or your company find Wails useful, please consider sponsoring the project. Thanks!

· 6 min read
Lea Anthony

Today marks the first beta release of Wails v2 for Mac! It's taken quite a while to get to this point and I'm hoping that today's release will give you something that's reasonably useful. There have been a number of twists and turns to get to this point and I'm hoping, with your help, to iron out the crinkles and get the Mac port polished for the final v2 release.

You mean this isn't ready for production? For your use case, it may well be ready, but there are still a number of known issues so keep your eye on this project board and if you would like to contribute, you'd be very welcome!

So what's new for Wails v2 for Mac vs v1? Hint: It's pretty similar to the Windows Beta 😉

New Features​


There were a lot of requests for native menu support. Wails has finally got you covered. Application menus are now available and include support for most native menu features. This includes standard menu items, checkboxes, radio groups, submenus and separators.

There were a huge number of requests in v1 for the ability to have greater control of the window itself. I'm happy to announce that there's new runtime APIs specifically for this. It's feature-rich and supports multi-monitor configurations. There is also an improved dialogs API: Now, you can have modern, native dialogs with rich configuration to cater for all your dialog needs.

Mac Specific Options​

In addition to the normal application options, Wails v2 for Mac also brings some Mac extras:

  • Make your window all funky and translucent, like all the pretty swift apps!
  • Highly customisable titlebar
  • We support the NSAppearance options for the application
  • Simple config to auto-create an "About" menu

No requirement to bundle assets​

A huge pain-point of v1 was the need to condense your entire application down to single JS & CSS files. I'm happy to announce that for v2, there is no requirement to bundle assets, in any way, shape or form. Want to load a local image? Use an <img> tag with a local src path. Want to use a cool font? Copy it in and add the path to it in your CSS.

Wow, that sounds like a webserver...

Yes, it works just like a webserver, except it isn't.

So how do I include my assets?

You just pass a single embed.FS that contains all your assets into your application configuration. They don't even need to be in the top directory - Wails will just work it out for you.

New Development Experience​

Now that assets don't need to be bundled, it's enabled a whole new development experience. The new wails dev command will build and run your application, but instead of using the assets in the embed.FS, it loads them directly from disk.

It also provides the additional features:

  • Hot reload - Any changes to frontend assets will trigger and auto reload of the application frontend
  • Auto rebuild - Any changes to your Go code will rebuild and relaunch your application

In addition to this, a webserver will start on port 34115. This will serve your application to any browser that connects to it. All connected web browsers will respond to system events like hot reload on asset change.

In Go, we are used to dealing with structs in our applications. It's often useful to send structs to our frontend and use them as state in our application. In v1, this was a very manual process and a bit of a burden on the developer. I'm happy to announce that in v2, any application run in dev mode will automatically generate TypeScript models for all structs that are input or output parameters to bound methods. This enables seamless interchange of data models between the two worlds.

In addition to this, another JS module is dynamically generated wrapping all your bound methods. This provides JSDoc for your methods, providing code completion and hinting in your IDE. It's really cool when you get data models auto-imported when hitting tab in an auto-generated module wrapping your Go code!

Remote Templates​


Getting an application up and running quickly was always a key goal for the Wails project. When we launched, we tried to cover a lot of the modern frameworks at the time: react, vue and angular. The world of frontend development is very opinionated, fast moving and hard to keep on top of! As a result, we found our base templates getting out of date pretty quickly and this caused a maintenance headache. It also meant that we didn't have cool modern templates for the latest and greatest tech stacks.

With v2, I wanted to empower the community by giving you the ability to create and host templates yourselves, rather than rely on the Wails project. So now you can create projects using community supported templates! I hope this will inspire developers to create a vibrant ecosystem of project templates. I'm really quite excited about what our developer community can create!

Native M1 Support​

Thanks to the amazing support of Mat Ryer, the Wails project now supports M1 native builds:


You can also specify darwin/amd64 as a target too:


Oh, I almost forgot.... you can also do darwin/universal.... 😉


Cross Compilation to Windows​

Because Wails v2 for Windows is pure Go, you can target Windows builds without docker.


WKWebView Renderer​

V1 relied on a (now deprecated) WebView component. V2 uses the most recent WKWebKit component so expect the latest and greatest from Apple.

In Conclusion​

As I'd said in the Windows release notes, Wails v2 represents a new foundation for the project. The aim of this release is to get feedback on the new approach, and to iron out any bugs before a full release. Your input would be most welcome! Please direct any feedback to the v2 Beta discussion board.

And finally, I'd like to give a special thank you to all the project sponsors, including JetBrains, whose support drive the project in many ways behind the scenes.

I look forward to seeing what people build with Wails in this next exciting phase of the project!

Lea.

PS: Linux users, you're next!

PPS: If you or your company find Wails useful, please consider sponsoring the project. Thanks!

· 9 min read
Lea Anthony

When I first announced Wails on Reddit, just over 2 years ago from a train in Sydney, I did not expect it to get much attention. A few days later, a prolific tech vlogger released a tutorial video, gave it a positive review and from that point on, interest in the project has skyrocketed.

It was clear that people were excited about adding web frontends to their Go projects, and almost immediately pushed the project beyond the proof of concept that I had created. At the time, Wails used the webview project to handle the frontend, and the only option for Windows was the IE11 renderer. Many bug reports were rooted in this limitation: poor JavaScript/CSS support and no dev tools to debug it. This was a frustrating development experience but there wasn't much that could have been done to rectify it.

For a long time, I'd firmly believed that Microsoft would eventually have to sort out their browser situation. The world was moving on, frontend development was booming and IE wasn't cutting it. When Microsoft announced the move to using Chromium as the basis for their new browser direction, I knew it was only a matter of time until Wails could use it, and move the Windows developer experience to the next level.

Today, I am pleased to announce: Wails v2 Beta for Windows! There's a huge amount to unpack in this release, so grab a drink, take a seat and we'll begin...

No CGO Dependency!​

No, I'm not joking: No CGO dependency 🤯! The thing about Windows is that, unlike MacOS and Linux, it doesn't come with a default compiler. In addition, CGO requires a mingw compiler and there's a ton of different installation options. Removing the CGO requirement has massively simplified setup, as well as making debugging an awful lot easier. Whilst I have put a fair bit of effort in getting this working, the majority of the credit should go to John Chadwick for not only starting a couple of projects to make this possible, but also being open to someone taking those projects and building on them. Credit also to Tad Vizbaras whose winc project started me down this path.

WebView2 Chromium Renderer​


Finally, Windows developers get a first class rendering engine for their applications! Gone are the days of contorting your frontend code to work on Windows. On top of that, you get a first-class developer tools experience!

The WebView2 component does, however, have a requirement to have the WebView2Loader.dll sitting alongside the binary. This makes distribution just that little bit more painful than we gophers are used to. All solutions and libraries (that I know of) that use WebView2 have this dependency.

However, I'm really excited to announce that Wails applications have no such requirement! Thanks to the wizardry of John Chadwick, we are able to bundle this dll inside the binary and get Windows to load it as if it were present on disk.

Gophers rejoice! The single binary dream lives on!

New Features​


There were a lot of requests for native menu support. Wails has finally got you covered. Application menus are now available and include support for most native menu features. This includes standard menu items, checkboxes, radio groups, submenus and separators.

There were a huge number of requests in v1 for the ability to have greater control of the window itself. I'm happy to announce that there's new runtime APIs specifically for this. It's feature-rich and supports multi-monitor configurations. There is also an improved dialogs API: Now, you can have modern, native dialogs with rich configuration to cater for all your dialog needs.

There is now the option to generate IDE configuration along with your project. This means that if you open your project in a supported IDE, it will already be configured for building and debugging your application. Currently VSCode is supported but we hope to support other IDEs such as Goland soon.


No requirement to bundle assets​

A huge pain-point of v1 was the need to condense your entire application down to single JS & CSS files. I'm happy to announce that for v2, there is no requirement to bundle assets, in any way, shape or form. Want to load a local image? Use an <img> tag with a local src path. Want to use a cool font? Copy it in and add the path to it in your CSS.

Wow, that sounds like a webserver...

Yes, it works just like a webserver, except it isn't.

So how do I include my assets?

You just pass a single embed.FS that contains all your assets into your application configuration. They don't even need to be in the top directory - Wails will just work it out for you.

New Development Experience​


Now that assets don't need to be bundled, it's enabled a whole new development experience. The new wails dev command will build and run your application, but instead of using the assets in the embed.FS, it loads them directly from disk.

It also provides the additional features:

  • Hot reload - Any changes to frontend assets will trigger and auto reload of the application frontend
  • Auto rebuild - Any changes to your Go code will rebuild and relaunch your application

In addition to this, a webserver will start on port 34115. This will serve your application to any browser that connects to it. All connected web browsers will respond to system events like hot reload on asset change.

In Go, we are used to dealing with structs in our applications. It's often useful to send structs to our frontend and use them as state in our application. In v1, this was a very manual process and a bit of a burden on the developer. I'm happy to announce that in v2, any application run in dev mode will automatically generate TypeScript models for all structs that are input or output parameters to bound methods. This enables seamless interchange of data models between the two worlds.

In addition to this, another JS module is dynamically generated wrapping all your bound methods. This provides JSDoc for your methods, providing code completion and hinting in your IDE. It's really cool when you get data models auto-imported when hitting tab in an auto-generated module wrapping your Go code!

Remote Templates​


Getting an application up and running quickly was always a key goal for the Wails project. When we launched, we tried to cover a lot of the modern frameworks at the time: react, vue and angular. The world of frontend development is very opinionated, fast moving and hard to keep on top of! As a result, we found our base templates getting out of date pretty quickly and this caused a maintenance headache. It also meant that we didn't have cool modern templates for the latest and greatest tech stacks.

With v2, I wanted to empower the community by giving you the ability to create and host templates yourselves, rather than rely on the Wails project. So now you can create projects using community supported templates! I hope this will inspire developers to create a vibrant ecosystem of project templates. I'm really quite excited about what our developer community can create!

In Conclusion​

Wails v2 represents a new foundation for the project. The aim of this release is to get feedback on the new approach, and to iron out any bugs before a full release. Your input would be most welcome. Please direct any feedback to the v2 Beta discussion board.

There were many twists and turns, pivots and u-turns to get to this point. This was due partly to early technical decisions that needed changing, and partly because some core problems we had spent time building workarounds for were fixed upstream: Go’s embed feature is a good example. Fortunately, everything came together at the right time, and today we have the very best solution that we can have. I believe the wait has been worth it - this would not have been possible even 2 months ago.

I also need to give a huge thank you 🙏 to the following people because without them, this release just wouldn't exist:

  • Misite Bao - An absolute workhorse on the Chinese translations and an incredible bug finder.
  • John Chadwick - His amazing work on go-webview2 and go-winloader have made the Windows version we have today possible.
  • Tad Vizbaras - Experimenting with his winc project was the first step down the path to a pure Go Wails.
  • Mat Ryer - His support, encouragement and feedback has really helped drive the project forward.

And finally, I'd like to give a special thank you to all the project sponsors, including JetBrains, whose support drive the project in many ways behind the scenes.

I look forward to seeing what people build with Wails in this next exciting phase of the project!

Lea.

PS: MacOS and Linux users need not feel left out - porting to this new foundation is actively under way and most of the hard work has already been done. Hang in there!

PPS: If you or your company find Wails useful, please consider sponsoring the project. Thanks!