What is a React Native for Windows app?
A RNW app is a Universal Windows Platform app (aka UWP or Windows 10 app).
The Universal Windows Platform allows you to access a set of common functionality on all Windows devices via the Windows Runtime (WinRT). WinRT APIs can be accessed from C++ (via C++/WinRT), or via .NET C#.
WinRT support in .NET
The current publicly supported version of .NET (.NET UWP) has built-in support for WinRT.
Win32 Desktop apps vs. RNW apps
Whether you are new to Windows development, or you are a Win32 desktop app veteran, the following FAQs should answer some common questions.
When you add Windows support to a react native app via the steps described in the Install the windows extension section, the react-native-windows CLI will create a UWP app for you.
Note: By default the
react-native-windows-initcommand creates a C++ app, however you can choose to create a C# app instead. The choice of language can impact your performance and your capacity to consume native modules, so if either of those issues are important to you, it's highly recommended that you read Choosing C++ or C# for native code.
Regardless of the language of your app RNW apps are UWP apps and therefore have the following characteristics:
The set of APIs these app can access are a subset of all Windows APIs (i.e. those accessible via WinRT). See:
- Win32 and COM APIs for UWP apps
- CRT functions not supported in Universal Windows Platform apps
- Alternatives to Windows APIs in Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps
The app runs inside of an app container - a type of sandbox. This provides apps with a secure way to install, access system resources like the filesystem, and lets the system manage their lifetime (e.g. suspending the app when it isn't on the foreground). This means that by default an RNW app cannot access arbitrary filesystem locations, start arbitrary processes, etc. UWP apps that need to access these kinds of capabilities may be able to do so via App capability declarations.
React Native Windows apps are signed and packaged. Packaging is a mechanism through which an app and its dependencies acquire an identity, which is used to determine whether API calls that require system capabilities (e.g. filesystem access) should succeed or not.
React Native Windows apps can be distributed, installed and updated in the following ways:
- via the Microsoft Store.
- via your private Store if you are a business or educational organization. See also Distribute LOB apps to enterprises.
- using App Installer.
It's worth noting that you cannot just "copy an EXE" as the app package contains more than just the main executable, including an app manifest, assets, dependent framework libraries, etc.
In addition, the Store submission process has these requirements:
- UWP apps submitted to the store must pass Windows App Certification Kit (WACK) validation.
- UWP apps written in C# or other managed languages submitted to the store must be built using the .NET Native toolchain. This is the default when building C# apps in Release mode, but not in Debug, so apps built in Debug will be rejected by the Store.
Use of non-WinRT libraries
Any libraries you use should be built as WinRT components. In other words, you cannot easily link libraries built for Win32 desktop apps without additional work.
- C++/CX is a dialect of C++ that allows writing UWP apps, however this is not supported for writing a RNW app. The article How to use existing C++ code in a Universal Windows Platform app talks about how to consume non-WinRT libraries in a WinRT context using C++/CX, but most of the content should be applicable to using C++/WinRT which is the supported way to write RNW apps.
- See also the guide for moving from C++/CX to C++/WinRT.
- Libraries built for .NET desktop framework cannot be directly accessed by UWP. You can create a .NET Standard library that calls into the .NET framework one, and call from the UWP app into the .NET Standard middleware.
Local testing and inner loop
For internal development, you can deploy your app for test purposes by side-loading and deploying via loose-file registration. When building in Debug mode (which is the default),
npx react-native run-windows performs loose-file registration of your app in order to install it locally. When running
npx react-native run-windows with the
--release switch, the CLI will install the real package onto your local machine. This requires the app to be signed and for the certificate it uses for signing to be trusted by the machine the app is going to be installed on. See Create a certificate for package signing and Intro to certificates.