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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Is there any way to detect if a user "can go back" in PWAs (desktop PWA most specifically)

Firstly, thanks for the discussion yesterday:

I took the feedback and made a couple PRs:

Add PWA target blank functionality #2921

What type of PR is this? (check all applicable)

  • [ ] Refactor
  • [x] Feature
  • [ ] Bug Fix
  • [ ] Documentation Update


Adds target="_blank" to anchor tags if the page is being rendered by a desktop PWA. It seems like this is the appropriate functionality for a computer device, but touch screens should keep opening in the pseudobrowser.

Quick solution while we experiment with PWA functionality.

Now I'm curious about another PWA feature I haven't been able to track down.

We've implemented navigation buttons right into the DEV desktop PWA like such:

team pink mode 💕

They work easily enough using window.history.back(); but right now, they have no "on/off" state because I'm not sure how to determine of a user "can go back or forward". I know that this is not available in the typical window API but given that we're responsible for the back button ourselves in PWA I was wondering if there is anything exposed that would help determine this?

Top comments (13)

ceresnam profile image
Michal Čerešňa

you can attach custom object when calling history.pushState()

We solved it with storing 'depth' parameter. Each time user goes down we increase it by +1.

Then you can decide if the back button should be on/off with history.state.depth > 0

yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar

I'm not sure this feature would be really helpful since I'm using the PWA in my phone (Android) and I never feel the need to use the back button (and of course, same goes to the desktop website).

If I wanna go back I just press the DEV logo, and that's pretty convenient!

The great part about DEV is that it has a non-dense site map... just the home page which leads to different places (articles, settings, notifications, DMs).

thefern profile image
Fernando B 🚀

Back button does work in Android PWA. Just a habit on Android to use back button lol, is a lot closer to my thumb than the dev button.

stereobooster profile image
stereobooster • Edited

Maybe you are looking for window.history.length? UPD: just double checked, it doesn't subtract the number when you use back button :/

kognise profile image

Maybe there's a way to do some programming magic and get that to work?

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Between that and other persistence like localStorage etc, there is probably a technically possible way to make it happen. We only have to worry about on-site situations because this is for the standalone app.

This is a pretty generalizeable situation so if anyone wanted to build a library for this I'm all for it! 😄

zcdunn profile image
Zack Dunn • Edited

There's a proposal to add field to the Web Manifest to hint that navigation should be shown that would work across devices. Here's a better thread. In the meantime, there is a CSS media query that you could use to determine when to show your navigation.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I might be mistaken, but it seems like minimal-ui mode doesn't work on the desktop. It looks like standalone no matter which I use.

jaakidup profile image

Right now for this issue of deciding whether a user can go back, I essentially hide the back button when the current route is "/" (root)
As I'm assuming the user enters via the root route and then navs forwards, this seems to work.

iamandrewluca profile image
🥑 Andrew Luca • Edited

I had also to add this type of navigation for a site that was used inside an iframe inside of a browser extension.

Check this example. I had to track navigation myself.

okbrown profile image
Orlando Brown • Edited

I have come a across this issue before in another project.

On document.referrer it holds the previous page, if it contains a URL with you can then use window.history.back() (other wise prevent it going back as to not leave the page/app unless required)

Thing I can't remember is, ain't there a history list API that returns back all the previous pages you were at?

aniljoey profile image
Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina

I tried it like so. Seems to work.

luisdanielmesa profile image
Luis Mesa


Don't use standalone or fullscreen if you want navigation buttons.