FAQ - How can I make Penpot work offline?

At the moment that would require that you install Penpot locally and so you connect to localhost. Instructions for this using Docker can be found here: 1. Getting Started.

For a simpler approach, more akin to downloading a piece of software and running it on top of your operating system, please wait for our Electron-based app bundle later this year.

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Are there any plans to allow the cloud / hosted instance of Penpot (https://penpot.app) work in offline mode using Service workers?

I think it’s clear we want an offline-mode but we have different uses cases under that same label. So far we have identified:

  • offline mode as in “desktop app”. This is typically a solo-user use case where you want a “native app” experience the likes of other tools like The GIMP or Inkscape. This requires encapsulating Penpot using some technology like Electron.
  • Offline mode as in “unreliable internet connection protected mode”: This could use Service workers or anything similar in different browsers to keep an async consistent state. This would mostly benefit solo-user scenarios since real-time collaboration feature within Penpot could easily lead to destructive actions. You could be on a plane or just having intermittent network issues while other users keep updating that same artboard so how is Penpot going to manage a “visual merge” of all that?
  • Offline mode as in “no third party tools are involved”. This is more to with integrations and the role that some third party plugin could play. This is fine with solo-user and multiple users collaborating. I would call this “incognito mode Penpot”.

I think you’re referring to scenario #2 here and I believe this is the trickiest of all due to inherent collaborative nature of Penpot. Actually, Penpot can handle some intermittent network issues already but I wouldn’t be comfortable if those go too far in time.

Is your use case compatible with approach #1? That is, a non-networked deployment of Penpot that runs locally in your laptop? Or would you absolutely need to share such Penpot instance AND have this offline-mode? Could you please elaborate a bit more your use case? THANK YOU!

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As a solo-user, my perspective was initially limited to approach #2 where I could use Penpot while travelling with a Chromebook, but after reading through your comment I’ve done a bit more digging around to broaden the discussion.

With approach #1, given the plan is to develop a desktop application:

  • having a desktop app certainly makes Penpot more accessible and easier to work with
  • are there plans to expand this further i.e. iPad app with support for the Apple Pencil and similar devices. I think this would have to go beyond Electron, if you’re targeting iPadOS / Android - considering building for Android allows users on Chromebooks to “install” Penpot as an App (alleviating my issue).
  • (related; on a tangent) how about mobile applications, i.e. Figma has a mobile app limited functionality for “previewing”, I’d love for Penpot to have something similar

As long as I’m able to create, edit, view (pre-dowloaded) penpot prototypes offline / on the go, and then share these either to a self hosted or the cloud instance, I’d be more than happy with approach #1.

Understandably, approach number #2 would affect collaboration features, a workaround however could be something as simple as creating a copy of the original project, and in case there are no new changes to the original file, replace it else show the differences (a bit like branch diff with git) and allow the user to resolve any conflicts, this is long winded, but in scenarios where “downloading an app” is just not possible, Penpot would just work seamlessly - given that the user’s browser has cached the service.

I had not considered approach #3 perviously, but now that you mention it my understanding is this is targeted towards enterprise use cases where firewalls / company policies play a huge role.

I’d be happy with approach #1 or #2 or perhaps both personally, as long as the “net is cast as wide as possible” i.e. covering as many scearios and devices as possible, this issue can be mitigated.

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We all recognize that this is not an easy problem to solve. To some extent, I think you have to pass the responsibility to not do harm to users. Here’s a few approaches that might work.

  1. Allow collaboration to be turned off to avoid any problems … but what if they open it across sessions ?
  2. Allow a file to be “locked” to one session … but how do you elegantly “acquire” the lock from an inactive user?
  3. Notify connected users when another user may be editing offline and let them decide if they should proceed … but what about when the off-liner reconnects?

I’ve actually used all three of these solutions in different B2B scenarios and they all have their own risks. But users were grateful to have the online option and in fact it was critical in some markets.

Personally, I liked using #3 the most. When the disconnected user showed up with conflicting changes, we just created a timestamped version and placed a notification in the source file that could be dismissed by the next user there. Evernote has used a similar solution for a long time as well. It’s not perfect, but the trade-off is worth it to give the user control.

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Hey everyone! I’m very excited to share a desktop app I’ve built using ElectronJS, and this can be used offline too!

You can set it to your localhost by pressing Ctrl + . to access the app’s setting and adding your localhost URL to the hostname setting, click Save and restart the app.

The app is currently available at GitHub - KorbsStudio/Penpot-Desktop and this is in alpha stages.
If any issues occur, you can ping me on Twitter(@KorbsStudio) or submit an issue on GitHub.

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I used a local docker version in my desktop for solo work. It works only on my browser in localhost and mostly works well when the wifi is down.

You can find the document here.