WhatsApp is rewriting its Electron-powered Mac app from scratch in Catalyst

The Meta-owned WhatsApp messaging software will provide a new Mac app in the future, rewritten in Catalyst to be faster and user-friendlier on macOS.

An illustration with a WhatsApp logo in white set against a green background
  • WhatsApp has provided desktop apps for macOS, Windows and Linux for years. Being Electron-based, they don’t feel native on their respective platforms.
  • This may change soon because a new WhatsApp desktop app is currently under development, powered by Apple’s own Catalyst framework for porting iPad apps.
  • The fact that an upcoming macOS app from WhatsApp is Catalyst-based strongly suggests that WhatsApp could very well be also working on a native iPad app.

WhatsApp is working on a native Mac app

An upcoming app doesn’t include any new outward-facing new user features, but rewriting it from scratch should enable the Meta-owned company to implement new features on desktop platforms more easily and faster than before. According to WABetaInfo, which first reported that WhatsApp is working on a new macOS app:

We can also announce that the company has improved some details of the user interface of the app, so it will be easier to use WhatsApp on your Mac and it is a native app built with Mac Catalyst.

This Catalyst app reportedly allows you to link WhatsApp for Android to WhatsApp for macOS. This isn’t possible today and could indicate that people might be able to use WhatsApp on both their iPhone and Android devices at the same time in the future. Read: How to send short videos or Live Photos as GIFs on WhatsApp

The problem with the current WhatsApp desktop app

WhatsApp’s desktop app was released back in 2016, but it was clear right from the start that it was an Electron-powered piece of software, not a native one. The Electron software is commonly used to repackage a web app as a desktop app. It saves developers from maintaining different versions of apps for different platforms such as macOS, Windows and Linux. Electron takes all that pain away, but at a huge cost—Electron apps are slow, clunky and bad platform citizens.

Why WhatsApp being an Electron app is bad

You can clearly witness that yourself by downloading today’s Electron-powered desktop app from WhatsApp on your Mac. Just a few clicks around the app should be enough to make you realize that some of its user interface conventions and solutions do not feel native at all. An upcoming Catalyst app should make using WhatsApp on your Mac much more convenient than today’s Electron app.

Catalyst is Apple’s framework for porting iPad apps over to the Mac with minimal effort. Like Electron, Catalyst is an intermediary layer. Because Catalyst is Apple’s software, it’ll make an upcoming macOS app perform faster and feel more native. Some of Apple’s open stock macOS apps like TV and Music use Catalyst, giving you a good indication of what to expect from WhatsApp’s upcoming Catalyst app.

A native WhatsApp iPad app could be in the works, too

Catalyst is good for what it does but WhatsApp could make one hell of a desktop app by rewriting it from scratch in Swift. There are no indications that WhatsApp is working on a Sift-powered desktop app as of yet, but one thing stuck out for us: If a Catalyst app is in the works, then that could mean that an iPad version might be in development, too. Read: How to check if a phone number is on WhatsApp

How to download WhatsApp for desktop

A Catalyst-powered WhatsApp is currently under development. It’s unavailable to download from the official WhatsApp website nor can you grab it from the App Store at the moment. The project will probably spend a couple of weeks, or even months, in development until it’s ready for prime time. And when it does launch, you’ll be able to download it from the App Store or via whatsapp.com/download. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled as we’ll be making sure to keep you in the loop.