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Get things done quickly with app shortcuts

Get things done quickly with app shortcuts

App shortcuts give quick access to a handful of common actions that users need frequently.

Updated
Appears in: Progressive Web Apps

To improve users' productivity and facilitate re-engagement with key tasks, the web platform now supports app shortcuts. They allow web developers to provide quick access to a handful of common actions that users need frequently.

At the time of writing, app shortcuts are available on Android (Chrome 84) and Windows (Chrome 85 and Edge 85).

This article will teach you how to define those app shortcuts. Additionally, you'll learn some associated best practices.

About app shortcuts

App shortcuts help users quickly start common or recommended tasks within your web app. Easy access to those tasks from anywhere the app icon is displayed will enhance users' productivity as well as increase their engagement with the web app.

The app shortcuts menu is invoked by right-clicking the app icon in the taskbar (Windows) or dock (macOS) on the user's desktop, or long pressing the app's launcher icon on Android.

Screenshot of an app shortcuts menu opened on Android
App shortcuts menu opened on Android
Screenshot of an app shortcuts menu opened on Windows
App shortcuts menu opened on Windows

The app shortcuts menu is shown only for Progressive Web Apps that are installed on the user's desktop or mobile device. Check out What does it take to be installable? to learn about installability requirements.

Each app shortcut expresses a user intent, each of which is associated with a URL within the scope of your web app. The URL is opened when users activate the app shortcut. Examples of app shortcuts include the following:

  • Top-level navigation items (e.g., home, timeline, recent orders)
  • Search
  • Data entry tasks (e.g., compose an email or tweet, add a receipt)
  • Activities (e.g., start a chat with the most popular contacts)

Big thanks to the folks at Microsoft Edge and Intel for designing and standardizing app shortcuts. Chrome depends on a community of committers working together to move the Chromium project forward. Not every Chromium committer is a Googler, and these contributors deserve special recognition!

Define app shortcuts in the web app manifest

App shortcuts are optionally defined in the web app manifest, a JSON file that tells the browser about your Progressive Web App and how it should behave when installed on the user's desktop or mobile device. More specifically, they are declared in the shortcuts array member. Below is an example of a potential web app manifest.

{
"name": "Player FM",
"start_url": "https://player.fm?utm_source=homescreen",

"shortcuts": [
{
"name": "Open Play Later",
"short_name": "Play Later",
"description": "View the list of podcasts you saved for later",
"url": "/play-later?utm_source=homescreen",
"icons": [{ "src": "/icons/play-later.png", "sizes": "192x192" }]
},
{
"name": "View Subscriptions",
"short_name": "Subscriptions",
"description": "View the list of podcasts you listen to",
"url": "/subscriptions?utm_source=homescreen",
"icons": [{ "src": "/icons/subscriptions.png", "sizes": "192x192" }]
}
]
}

Each member of the shortcuts array is a dictionary that contains at least a name and a url. Other members are optional.

name

The human-readable label for the app shortcut when displayed to the user.

short_name (optional)

The human-readable label used where space is limited. It is recommended that you provide it, even though it's optional.

description (optional)

The human-readable purpose for the app shortcut. It is not used at the time of writing but may be exposed to assistive technology in the future.

url

The URL opened when a user activates the app shortcut. This URL must exist within the scope of the web app manifest. If it is a relative URL, the base URL will be the URL of the web app manifest.

icons (optional)

An array of image resource objects. Each object must include the src and a sizes property. Unlike web app manifest icons, the type of image is optional.

SVG files are not supported at the time of writing, use PNG instead.

If you want pixel-perfect icons, provide them in increments of 48dp (i.e. 36x36, 48x48, 72x72, 96x96, 144x144, 192x192 pixel icons). Otherwise, it is recommended that you use a single 192x192 pixel icon.

As a quality measure, icons must be at least half of the device's ideal size on Android, which is 48dp. For example, to display on an xxhdpi screen, the icon must be at least 72 by 72 pixels. (This is derived from the formula for converting dp units for pixel units.)

Test your app shortcuts

To verify your app shortcuts are setup correctly, use the Manifest pane in the Application panel of DevTools.

Screenshot of app shortcuts in DevTools
App shortcuts shown in DevTools

This pane provides a human-readable version of many of your manifest's properties, including app shortcuts. It makes it easy to verify that all of the shortcut icons, if provided, are loading properly.

DevTools support for app shortcuts is available in Chrome 84 and Edge 84 and later.

App shortcuts may not be available right away to all users because Progressive Web App updates are capped to once a day. You can find more details in this article.

Best practises

Order app shortcuts by priority

You are encouraged to order app shortcuts by priority, with the most critical app shortcuts appearing first in the shortcuts array as the limit on the number of app shortcuts displayed varies depending on the platform. Chrome and Edge on Windows for instance limit the number of app shortcuts to 10 while Chrome for Android only takes the first 4 app shortcuts into account.

Use distinct app shortcut names

You should not rely on icons to differentiate app shortcuts as they may not always be visible. For instance, macOS doesn't support icons in the dock shortcuts menu. Use distinct names for each app shortcut.

Measure app shortcuts usage

You should annotate app shortcuts url entries like you would do with start_url for analytics purposes (e.g. url: "/my-shortcut?utm_source=homescreen").

Browser support

App shortcuts are available on Android (Chrome 84) and Windows (Chrome 85 and Edge 85). More desktop platform support will follow.

Trusted Web Activity support

Bubblewrap, the recommended tool to build Android apps that use Trusted Web Activity, reads app shortcuts from the web app manifest and automatically generates the corresponding configuration for the Android app. Note that icons for app shortcuts are required and must be at least 96 by 96 pixels in Bubblewrap.

PWABuilder, a great tool to easily turn a Progressive Web App into a Trusted Web Activity, supports app shortcuts with some caveats.

For developers integrating Trusted Web Activity manually into their Android application, Android app shortcuts can be used to implement the same behaviors.

Sample

Check out the app shortcuts sample and its source.

Last updated: Improve article