Desktop App for Google Messages

Despite the thread title, I remain a Republic Anywhere holdout. Though Republic no longer actively develops it, Anywhere continues to do what I need a text messaging app to do and I’ve grown very fond of being able to use it on devices other than my phone.

The above said, Republic has announced new plans are coming and will provide details in December. Given Anywhere relies upon Republic’s patented WiFi calling and text messaging technology, that Republic has stated new plans will not be using that patented technology and, let’s face it, for many members Anywhere no longer meets their needs, perhaps, now is the time to consider alternatives?

The obvious alternative is Messages by Google. It is possible to use Messages by Google on devices other than one’s phone, however, doing so requires use of a web browser. Some might, like me, prefer Anywhere’s approach of client apps. Therefore, I set out to find a way to use Messages by Google as if it were a separate client app rather than used via a web browser.

I’ve settled on using Nativefier. Nativefier is a set of command line tools that takes already existing web apps and creates “native apps” for Windows, Mac and Linux by wrapping them in Electron. As an aside, I believe Anywhere desktop clients are Electron apps. Nativefier’s command line tools may be installed on Windows, Mac or Linux (and no doubt other *NIX) computers. In theory, Nativefier created “native apps” may be generated for any supported platform from any supported platform. In reality, experience tells me, it’s best to create “native apps” for a specific target device using that specific target device. For example, a Nativefier created “native app” intended for use on Windows is best generated using Nativefier on a Windows device.

So, fellow Ambassadors and Experts, what do you think about a Community effort to create “native” Messages by Google apps for Windows, Mac and, perhaps, Linux?

Links to Member Contributed “Native Apps”

The following links point to member contributed apps built with Nativefier. When downloading from Drive, Google will advise the files are too large to scan for viruses. All links point to the contributing member’s personal Google Drive and are safe.

Messages by Google for Windows contributed by @louisdi (confirmed working)
Messages by Google for Mac contributed by @rolandh (confirmed working)
Messages by Google for Linux contributed by @rolandh (not tested)

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I’ve used this one, which sounds like what you’re describing, for several years. It has performed quite well, in my opinion, and I believe it auto-updates.

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Yes, I’m aware of that one. When I just installed what purports to be the latest Mac binary; I was greeted with an old build warning, so I’m uncertain about the auto-update part.

Anyway, I previously installed Nativefier’s command line tools on my Mac and built the app myself. I’m curious if anyone else thinks apps built by Community members rather than downloaded from elsewhere on the Internet adds value? It’s OK if others don’t think so.

I’m also going to look at Pulse SMS. And, there’s always Pushbullet and MightyText.

None of these “solutions” is a perfect replacement for Anywhere. The elegance of Anywhere is that its just another endpoint connected directly to the server with no need to deal with potential flakiness introduced by mirroring the phone.

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Here’s one resounding yes … great idea … go for it!!

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You all may be overestimating my ability to “go for it” on my own. Nativefier works best when the app one wants to build is built on its native platform (e.g. Windows, Mac, Linux). I have a working Mac build.

Theoretically, one can build for other platforms (e.g. Windows and Linux apps can be built on a Mac.) I’ve attempted builds for Windows and Linux but, minimally, would need someone to test them. If anyone is interested:

Messages by Google for Windows:

Messages by Google for Linux:

I’m happy to chip on a Windows Version if there are issues or in case you want a co-conspirator.

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I’d be interested to know if the Windows app I built runs. Otherwise, I’m of the opinion co-conspirator’s building on platforms they have access to would be superior.

Perhaps, @Burusutazu would be able to contribute a Linux app?

My not terribly imaginative conversation between a Moto G Stylus using nativefied Messages for Web and a Galaxy Note20 using Republic Anywhere:

Actually, the messages were sent and received on my Mac but appear on their respective phones also.

I’ll fire up a Gnome Box and check out the Linux version. For Linux I recommend packaging it as a Flatpak.

You would either have to explain that to me. Or, better yet, build the Linux “app” using Nativefier or equivalent tool and do so.

Built on Windows 11: Messages_Windows.zip - Google Drive

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Flatpak is a relatively new way of packaging applications on Linux, it’s meant to be distribution agnostic and allow sandboxing.

Once built as a Flatpak it can be published on Flathub and be used pretty much anywhere with a 1-2 step install process.

I’ve never built for Flatpak (Or Linux in general) so it would be a new process for me. I can look into it.

Interesting, since so many Anywhere users asked for it to be browser-based, but y’all appear to be having fun, and I think this is a fabulous Community project.

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Something that might be good to point out is that with Windows 11 eventually getting native Android app support this might become more trivial. Linux already supports running Android apps natively through Anbox as well.

I’m not sure any of that helps with an app like Messages by Google? Can one instance of Messages by Google for Android running under Windows or Linux mirror another instance of Messages by Google running on an Android phone? I’m not aware of any such capability. For what it’s worth, I had RingTo’s Android app running under Chrome on my Mac circa 2014-2015 prior to RingTo introducing its short-lived web app.

If one is on Google Fi, it’s possible to use Messages by Google on other platforms by signing into one’s Google account but this is both beta and, to the best of my knowledge, unavailable outside of Fi. For Fi, Google is mimicking Apple’s Messages app ability to work on Apple devices other than iPhone, which works because one signs in using their Apple ID. It’s also what Republic did with Anywhere. Anywhere clients work on other devices precisely because one signs into their Republic account.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Those of us who prefer an app already had Anywhere clients and, therefore, no need to ask for our preference.

This seems to be human nature. I joined Republic in December of 2014 when 1.0 plans were still offered. The chatter in Community about plans at the time was largely from $10 t&t users who wanted to purchase “buckets of data”. When Republic moved to 2.0 (essentially “buckets of data”), those who liked the 1.0 approach began complaining because, at first, 1.0 plans weren’t intended to be grandfathered indefinitely.

Likewise, prior to 3.0’s launch, complaints surrounding coverage were all about how Republic needed a better cellular network partner than Sprint. Then, 3.0 launched initially as GSM only and we heard from those for whom T-Mobile’s network was inferior to Sprint’s.

I don’t want to oversell Nativefier. It’s not building an app from source then distributing. Nativefier takes an existing web app and creates a “native app” by wrapping it in Electron.

I’m not opposed to using Flatpack as a distribution method per se but am hesitant about sharing beyond Community links to trusted sources provided by Community members. We’re not creating our own client to replace Messages by Google. Rather, we’re taking Google’s existing web app and repurposing it. I do not want to create any potential intellectual property issues with Google.

Thank you sir! I presume this would be backwards compatible with Windows 10 and, perhaps, earlier?

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I have tried it on Windows 10 with no issue. I do not have a Windows 7, Vista, XP or 3.1 machine to test with.

Let me see if I can get Anbox up on my system and I’ll report back.

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Anbox was a bust, couldn’t get it running.

I’m happy to build a Linux app using Nativefier on my Ubuntu system if there’s a need.

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For this particular project, I think an emulator (I think Anbox is an emulator) probably isn’t the best approach. In researching Anbox after your mention of it, I did come across a derivative that might interest you. Are you aware of Waydroid?

It’s not an emulator, which is why it can be tough to get working correctly. It requires some kernel level stuff to be present and in the newest versions of Ubuntu it seems it just does not work at all.

Waydroid needs Wayland (display manager), which my system does not use (yet).

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