From the Couch of Ben Johnson

Father, Principal Engineer at Prodigy Education, serial hyperbolist.

1Password 8

1Password’s major rationale for moving from AppKit to Electron has been speed of development. They want to ship fast, and they don’t want the cost of supporting another native platform in AppKit. Allen Pike has a great rundown on this argument:

Slow is a dangerous place for a product company to be. Slow product teams tend to be outcompeted by fast ones. We complain about how Figma and Slack don’t feel native, but why are most of us using Figma and Slack? We’re using them because they outbuilt and outcompeted their native competitors. There are so many things that could improve in these products, but they’re the best tools yet built for their purposes.

The major downside, of course, is bloat. More memory and bigger binaries are not ideal for an app that tends to run in the background all the time. And we all have examples of Electron apps that felt big and bloaty.

I figured I’d give the beta a shot when I installed 1Password on my new MacBook Pro. And, I gotta say, I like it better. 1Password was an app that always had a lot of custom UI. They made that UI work with AppKit, but the Electron version feels more solid. It feels less like the ground is going to shift from underneath you. It’s possible (likely?) that this is the result of quality design work and not solely because of the framework, but if we needed to sacrifice to the Electron gods to get this design, I think it’s worth it.

I haven’t noticed any performance lag. Of course, it helps that this MacBook Pro is a ridiculous machine.

My biggest annoyance with it continues to be what is also the most obvious characteristic of Electron apps: immovable modals. Preferences modals are always locked in the middle of the primary window with some custom dimming going on behind them. This is when it feels the most like a non-native web app.

But, I’ll take that tradeoff for a serious design improvement to an app I use every day.