Learn to code by coding - try our free CS courses

Automatic Cross-Platform Deployments with Electron on a CI Server (Travis)

This is a tutorial on how to set up an Electron app on Travis CI, so that new versions are deployed to Github Releases with a simple pull request.


I created a boilerplate repo that has all the necessary configuration to deploy a minimalistic app to Github releases. If you get lost during the tutorial you can look to that as an example. Also, if you don’t have an electron app yet and just want to start with it as an example feel free.

Electron Builder

We need a package that will handle packing the app into an executable and deploying to Github releases. Electron Builder is a fantastic npm package that handles building, signing, notarizing, and deploying an electron app on all three operating systems. Add it using yarn (recommended by Electron Builder):

yarn add electron-builder --dev
Code language: Bash (bash)

Electron Builder uses your app’s package.json file for most configuration.

{ "name": "{APP_NAME}", "version": "{VERSION_NUMBER}", "description": "A minimal Electron application that deploys on CI servers", "main": "main.js", "scripts": { "start": "electron .", "release": "electron-builder", "test": "echo success" }, "repository": "https://github.com/{USER_NAME}/{REPO_NAME}", "keywords": [ "electron", "ci", "travis", "tutorial", "demo" ], "author": "{USER_NAME}", "build": { "appId": "{APP_ID}", "publish": "github", "dmg": { "contents": [ { "x": 110, "y": 150 }, { "x": 240, "y": 150, "type": "link", "path": "/Applications" } ] }, "appImage": { "license": "LICENSE" }, "nsis": { "createDesktopShortcut": "always", "license": "LICENSE" } }, "devDependencies": { "electron": "^4.0.1", "electron-builder": "^21.2.0" } }
Code language: JSON / JSON with Comments (json)

Replace all the configuration variables with your own values. The configuration variables are all caps in {BRACKETS}.

You should have a license file named LICENSE at the root of your directory, as well as a copy called license_en.txt in your build folder (build/license_en.txt). Electron builder uses those licenses as the license agreement for the installers.

Good practice for an appId is a reverse domain name. For example, ours is io.qvault.app.

You can setup your test script to actually run tests if you want, the above just prints “success” to the screen. We will configure Travis to run those tests on the CI server.

At this point you should be able to run

yarn release --publish never
Code language: Bash (bash)

which will build and package your app locally into the dist directory. However, it will only build the package for your local operating system, which is expected.

Travis CI

travis ci

Navigate to https://travis-ci.org/ and sign up using your Github account. Once signed in you should be able to select which repository you want to connect to Travis.

Copy this code into .travis.yml at the root of your repository:

language: node_js node_js: - '11.6.0' # Always run two parallel builds: one on mac and one on linux # the linux build will use wine to be able to build windows and # linux apps matrix: include: - os: osx osx_image: xcode10.2 language: node_js node_js: "11.6.0" env: - ELECTRON_CACHE=$HOME/.cache/electron - ELECTRON_BUILDER_CACHE=$HOME/.cache/electron-builder - os: linux dist: trusty sudo: required services: docker language: generic notifications: email: false # cache some files for faster builds cache: yarn: true directories: - node_modules - $HOME/.cache/electron - $HOME/.cache/electron-builder # add git lfs for large file support before_install: - | if [ "$TRAVIS_OS_NAME" == "osx" ]; then mkdir -p /tmp/git-lfs && curl -L https://github.com/github/git-lfs/releases/download/v2.3.1/git-lfs-$([ "$TRAVIS_OS_NAME" == "linux" ] && echo "linux" || echo "darwin")-amd64-2.3.1.tar.gz | tar -xz -C /tmp/git-lfs --strip-components 1 export PATH="/tmp/git-lfs:$PATH" fi before_script: - git lfs pull # on PRs and merges to master and prod run tests and build the app script: - | if [ "$TRAVIS_OS_NAME" == "linux" ]; then docker run --rm \ -v ${PWD}:/project \ -v ~/.cache/electron:/root/.cache/electron \ -v ~/.cache/electron-builder:/root/.cache/electron-builder \ electronuserland/builder:wine \ /bin/bash -c "yarn --link-duplicates --pure-lockfile && yarn test" else yarn test fi # only deploy to github on a merge to the prod branch deploy: provider: script script: bash deploy.travis.sh skip_cleanup: true on: branch: prod before_cache: - rm -rf $HOME/.cache/electron-builder/wine # only run this script on pull requests and merges into # the 'master' and 'prod' branches branches: only: - master - prod
Code language: YAML (yaml)

The comments in the above file should explain what each step does, but the basic idea is to yarn test on each pull request to verify that a pull request doesn’t break the app. Then, once code is merged into the prod branch, we trigger the following deploy script to build and push our code to Github Releases:

Copy this file to deploy.travis.sh

#! /bin/bash if [ "$TRAVIS_OS_NAME" == osx ]; then # deploy on mac yarn release else # deploy on windows and linux docker run --rm -e GH_TOKEN -v "${PWD}":/project -v ~/.cache/electron:/root/.cache/electron -v ~/.cache/electron-builder:/root/.cache/electron-builder electronuserland/builder:wine /bin/bash -c "yarn --link-duplicates --pure-lockfile && yarn release --linux AppImage --win" fi
Code language: Bash (bash)

In order for your .travis.yml script to have permission to upload code to Github Releases, then you will need to set an environment variable that contains an API token.

In Github Navigate to your personal settings / Developer Settings / Generate New Token. Then go to your repository settings in Travis and you can add an environment variable. The variable name is GH_TOKEN and the token is the one you created on Github. Make sure to keep the variable private (the default) on Travis so that it won’t print the token in the logs.


Now all pull requests to master and prod should run tests, and all code merged into the prod branch should trigger a new release. The released assets and downloadable installers will be published to your Github repository under the releases tab.

The release will be a draft so after each deployment you need to go in manually and convert from a draft to a published release, which is just the click of a button.


If you get lost feel free to keep looking back at the working example repo and also make sure to look at the logged errors in Travis. If you have questions I am available on our discord server at the following: https://discord.gg/EEkFwbv

Also, if you are looking for more advanced options take a look at the Qvault code. It uses this method along with support for code signing, auto-updates, and notarization.

Have questions or feedback?

Follow and hit me up on Twitter @q_vault if you have any questions or comments. If I’ve made a mistake in the article, please let me know so I can get it corrected!

2 thoughts on “Automatic Cross-Platform Deployments with Electron on a CI Server (Travis)”

Comments are closed.