Cross-platform solutions use different approaches to render a desktop app on many platforms, including the Cross-Compilation approach, Virtual Machine approach, and Web-Based approach. They have replaced traditional heavy and specialised programming with lighter and shorter development cycles that are uniformly functional across platforms with a single codebase. 

Some of the many useful benefits of developing cross-platform desktop apps are quicker development time and cost control as the code can be reused. At least 1/3rd of developers in the app development ecosystem use some kind of cross-platform framework. How do you decide which cross-platform is ideal for you to use? The deciding factors are many; price, time, reputation, community support, the complexity of the app, performance as close as native apps, and faster time to market, among others. Here’s a list of global top cross-platform desktop app development tools.

  1. React Native

From extensive community support, pre-built components, modular architecture, and high-performance app-building functions. React Native is one of the most popular cross-platform app development tools in the world currently. 90% of its code can be reused while cutting down costs in half. The ‘Live Reload’ feature lets you see the changes instantly on another screen. The tool has a responsive UI design, doesn’t need HTML and CSS, and supports the integration of third-party libraries seamlessly. It’s also easy to use and install, making it ideal for beginners as well. 

  1. Flutter

The best features of Flutter are the same UI and Business Logic across platforms which makes the app experience similar to native apps. It doesn’t need platform-specific components for UI and offers the “hot reload” feature to implement changes faster while offering a great variety of ready to use widgets. These widgets which you can choose according to the platform and geographical location, help build more user-friendly and interactive apps. Its Dart programming capabilities allow for developers to virtually see the effects of any changes made without affecting the actual current state of the application. There are many choices for customisation within the design that can render unique brand looks to your overall app. 

  1. Xamarin

A tool that can provide high standard visual appeal across platforms, its core features are native platform integration, single language (C+) for all platforms, with native libraries wrapped in the .Net layer for cross-platform app development. Maintenance and updates are easier to carry out since changes are simultaneously applied on iOS and Android. Its special advantage is that it uses Forms Technology to enable developers to share UI layout and design across platforms with NET cross-platform UI toolkit. Another highly sought after benefit of Xamarin is that up to 95% of its code can be reusable. 

  1. Qt

Written in C++, this cross-platform framework is used for native embedded, desktop, and mobile applications using GUI widgets and quick modules using QML language. C++ is a backend and QML (QtQuick 2) is a frontend side. Its meta-object compiler runs before the build. Qt can be used in several programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and others due to language bindings. It has its own IDE called Qt Creator with a GUI layout feature built-in. This is the most mature and rich framework as it has been around for two decades. 

  1. Native Script

NativeScript doesn’t require Angular or Vue.js but works better when used together for cross-platform app development. This runtime framework implements JavaScript, its superset TypeScript and Angular Native, and can render a variety of apps, be they gaming, streaming, geolocation, or chat apps. The user interface is in XML and CSS. A single, reusable codebase can be applied across platforms with access to native APIs, plugins, samples, and templates for faster development. Another simplification it offers is that iOS and Android APIs are directly fed into JavaScript Virtual Machines while the bridge module does the translation, rendering native experience in each platform. 

  1. Appcelerator

One of the top choices for cross-platform development, Appcelerator has high approval ratings from developers because it lets you reuse up to 90% code across platforms. Experienced JavaScript developers prefer Appcelerator since its source code is available for access at all times. Business owners choose it because of its Titanium framework which is cost-effective. Its Hyperloop feature allows using third party libraries without making major changes and creating animations without lags, while its interface offers quick drag and drop functionality along with efficient code modules to reduce the time from zero-to-app from a single JavaScript SDK. 

  1. Ionic

Ionic is great for developing stunning, hybrid apps with HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and Angular but requires a Cordova wrapper. It comes equipped with beautiful preloaded simple, declarative design components for elegant UX/UI. Ionic allows for customisation through web components APIs, capacitor for calling Native SDKs from web code, tooling for Live Reload, deployments, integrations, and quick building for production-ready mobile apps and PWAs. Code is run through JIT compilation for Android and WKWebView which on iOS supports JIT. Cordova executes the native part of the application. 

  1. Sencha

Sencha Ext JS is great to build desktop apps across platforms with the model-view-controller architecture (also MVVM) and modern UI. Its key features include a flexible layout manager that manages multiple screens and browsers, the functionality to pull up data from any backend, a powerful data package, and customisable user interface design. It boasts 140+ pre-built UI components. The framework is well-documented, feature-rich with lots of samples, choice of widgets, and accessible source code. Theming can be maintained with elaborate grids, pivot grids, forms, charts, trees, grate grids/views, combo, tag fields, etc. There’s no need for HTML or to rely on third-party integrations. Efficient code organization helps keep the code file under 100 lines. 

  1. Electron

Electron.js is compatible with a variety of frameworks, libraries, access to hardware-level APIs and chromium engine, and Node.js support. Electron Fiddle feature is great for experimentation as it allows developers to play around with concepts and templates. Simplification is at the center of Electron because developers don’t have to spend unnecessary time on the packaging, updates, crash reports, notification, etc, and focus on core tasks. It works across Windows, Linux, and macOS without the need to build multiple codebases and lets you use any code editor and Chrome Developer Tools. Other vital tools include Electron binaries for command-line use using npm, packaging the files and distributing in your app, and auto compile tools. 

  1. Node.js

NW.js is a widely adopted tool and works on a single-threaded model with event looping functionality, allowing developers to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript with correlation on both client and server-side programming. Made on the JavaScript Chrome V8 engine, it’s especially highly effective when building apps involving real-time actions and updates as its libraries excel at fast execution. Its Node Package Manager arms developers with the best productivity tools and users can call Node.js modules directly from the DOM and Web Workers. It uses Chromium engine UI and is designed for seamless integrations. 

Each of the frameworks mentioned here come with their own specific pros and cons. Developers should conduct a comparative analysis to determine which tool works the best based on the needs of the project, budget, and resources.