All about cross-platform desktop app development with PHP

January 11, 2017

PHP has been conventionally used for development of web applications. Though it may sound a bit unthinkable, it is now very much possible to develop cross-platform desktop applications using this versatile language and off course, with the help of PHP-GTK. At present, JAVA and .Net are also using this technology wherein a virtual machine is used that executes code optimization and execution of the code according to the platform used. Desktop applications eliminate the dependency on web browsers and webservers such as Apache and IIS. Also, as compared to the other programming languages, PHP allows more independence of work and better focus for desktop presence and therefore, better ability to build cross platform desktop applications that cater well to your specific business needs.

Reasons to use PHP for cross-platform application development

Having said that, we have listed out a few scenarios, in which you would want to use PHP as a preferred language to develop your cross-platform desktop application:
1. When you want to maintain a good code structure while keeping the syntax easy enough and at the same time you do not want to invest your time and efforts in learning a new language such as ActionScript
2. When you need to build a browser based game or something as simple as a helper app, PHP is perfect for this kind of an application and the good part is that you already know the language.
3. When you want to have your own application meant for only personal use which you could ideally carry in a USB device and plug to run the app with SQLite DB and for which you would hardly like to incur any hosting charges, it can be developed easily on PHP.
4. When you need to embed a browser to your company’s app so as to enable the employees to use this browser as a default one, you can use PHP to develop this web application that opens only in that browser.

Here are some of the most popular and convenient ways to accomplish this using PHP:


Written in Python, Nightrain packager uses PHP’s internal server to host your app. It is compatible with various apps and frameworks of PHP. This requires you to choose SQLite in the database in order to proceed. It is still in an evolutionary phase so the advanced aspects and features can be added on to be able to build robust and complex applications. The only thing to be careful about is that the amateur developers may find it difficult to work with.


Also referred to as ‘wxWidgets for PHP’, wxPHP is a PHP extension encompassing the entire wxWidgets library to facilitate the developers with building multi-platform desktop applications. It is typically installed as a separate program. As you use wxPHP, technically you do not build a website but you basically bring together the different widgets of wx from its library and put them to work and solve the purpose for you. So, this way of developing a cross platform desktop application involves the least amount of technicalities.


This is different from the rest of the two in the sense that it lets you install SDKs for building the app according to the specific needs of each different platform separately. On setting up the app, this lets you get hold of all the helpers required for you to develop and distribute your app with ease. The best thing about building your app using TideSDK is that the distribution of the app is always smooth and in an executable format.