Making a native ProtonMail "app" [mini how-to]

asked 2018-11-23 17:29:54 +0200

depscribe gravatar image

updated 2018-11-24 21:20:50 +0200

Like I suppose at least some others, I adopted SFOS because with it there's some hope of security and privacy. With iThings we're at the mercy of Apple, and Googledroid is a public bazaar of our information. Even local ISPs are getting into the act, harvesting email, browsing, and other online activities for whatever they can sell.

It was this concern, too, that led me to ProtonMail, the secure Swiss-based email provider. Unfortunately, the encryption, ports, and protocols employed by ProtonMail prevent it being just popped in to any old email client, such as the native SFOS one. ProtonMail does provide its own home-made client apps for IOS and Googledroid, and the latter can be used on Sailfish via aliendalvik.

To me this was an uncomfortable choice, because for anyone interested in security or privacy, anything Android is not wanted. Still, I needed email on my phone (in fact, I'd still be on my Blackberry Q10 if there were a way to access ProtonMail on it. There isn't.), so I paid the money and got the commercial Sailfish X, then installed fdroid and the Yalp store, then the ProtonMail Android app.

Which was disappointing. The app was all the time saying that it wouldn't work without Google Play Services or whatever they're called (though it did work, at least to some extent). I spent a lot of time in an unsuccessful effort to get notifications to work. Sometimes the Android app simply wouldn't update, causing missed email. If only there were a native SFOS ProtonMail app.

Turns out, there is, sort of.

It's found in the much-reviled SFOS browser.

The ProtonMail webmail page displays nicely in the browser. You can instruct the browser to save your username and password, if you don't mind the risk. (ProtonMail seems to think it's okay, because its Android and IOS apps store those data, too.)

Now, to make your native "app": Navigate, using the stock browser, to to get to the login screen. Enter your login information. You'll be asked if you want the browser to store these data. Do so or not, your choice, but if you choose not to, you'll need to enter the information every time you go there, obviously. Bookmark the page.

Then go to the bookmarks and long press on the one you just made. A menu will pop up and among the choices is "Add to app grid." This will spawn a child window with a title for your "app" and its URL. You may safely edit the title -- the default is really long -- but leave the URL alone. Tap "Save."

And you're done. You now have an icon that when tapped will open to the ProtonMail login screen. If you saved your login information, the fields will be populated. Otherwise, enter your info. Either way, you can then tap Login and voila, you're there!

Now, this seems a little kludgy, and it is. But it's also actually better than the Android version, both in how it functions and the system resources used. (Sadly, there are no notifications with either.)

After I got this working, I deleted fdroid, Yalp store, the ProtonMail Android app, and, finally, the Android support (from the Jolla store). And I wished I had known earlier that this could be done, because if I had I would have used the community edition on my Xperia X rather than spend a bunch of money for something I don't want and now don't need.

One important caveat: this works only with the standard SFOS browser. I have not been able to log in to ProtonMail with either WebCat or Web Pirate -- in both cases an error is thrown saying that incorrect login info was entered, even though the login info is in fact correct. So it's the native browser alone, at least until something changes.

I've seen that the lack of a native ProtonMail app has been the source of annoyance to some here -- myself among them. While this isn't strictly a dedicated application for SFOS, it's the next best thing.

edit retag flag offensive close delete


By any chanse, did you check this:

I know that currently the Sailfish browser/OS doesn't support PWAs as they should, but the PWA web pages work quite nicely as "apps".

raketti ( 2018-11-23 17:52:13 +0200 )edit

I've just now taken a look and will look further. I'm not sure that there's any improvement I need other than notifications, and I don't think that any current SFOS browser supports those -- that's part of the anger over SFOS 3 not providing a new and better webkit.

Update: Having looked at the PWA page, it seems to do essentially what my recipe above does, though not especially for SFOS.

depscribe ( 2018-11-23 18:24:14 +0200 )edit

I took a quick look at PWAs and it seems that Crome (mobile and desktop) and Firefox (mobile) supports PWAs properly. No idea about how they work on SFOS. Can't test yet since the XA2 doesn't have Android support yet.

raketti ( 2018-11-23 19:14:02 +0200 )edit

@raketti But, see, that's kind of the problem I was solving -- the elimination of the need for Android support in using ProtonMail in SFOS. And what you get by my recipe above is an improvement on the Proton-supplied Android app, anyway. If you follow the steps above with the SFOS browser, you don't need Android support for ProtonMail. That was the whole point!

depscribe ( 2018-11-23 19:50:34 +0200 )edit

Yeah, I got it. Just pointed out the current (poor) situation with Sailfish Browser.

I too want to get rid of as much droid as possible.

raketti ( 2018-11-23 20:25:25 +0200 )edit