Google created a free and open-source mobile UI framework called Flutter and released it in May 2017. Flutter allows the developers to create a native mobile application with just one codebase.
In other words, the developers can use one programming language and one codebase for creating different apps (for iOS and Android apps). The two major components of Flutter are:
- SDK (Software Development Kit)
SDK is nothing but a collection of tools that will help you develop your mobile application with ease. It comprises of the tools that will compile your code into native machine code.
- A framework
It consists of a bunch of reusable UI elements such as buttons, text inputs, sliders, and many others. The developers can customize them based on their preferences and requirements.
Why should you choose Flutter for building your application?
- Faster coding
Flutter allows faster and more dynamic mobile application development to the developers. They can easily implement changes in the code and find them straight away in the app. It is generally called the Hot reload that usually takes around (milli)seconds to add features or fix bugs.
On the other hand, in native app development, the developer has to rebuild the project which becomes time-consuming. They have to wait for every single change to take place in the mobile app.
- Enhanced time-to-market speed
The Flutter development framework works faster than its alternatives. In majority of the situations, a developer can expect a Flutter app to require at least two times fewer man-hours in contrast to the same app developed separately for Android and iOS.
The basic reason behind this speed that a developer does not have to write any platform-specific code to get the required visuals in the app. Flutter allows you to implement any 2D-based UI without having to interact with a native application counterpart.
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Along with that, the developers also get a declarative API for building the UI. This feature is extremely helpful for enhancing performance.
Dart is a simple yet powerful object-oriented language that is quite similar to Java or C++ in terms of syntax. Dart allows support for both strong and weak typing styles. It has made it a good pick up for the beginners. Dart is the reason behind some of the crucial features of Flutter.
- No XML files needed
In the case of Android development, the work is separated into two parts – layout and code. The layout part is written in XML as Views that are later referenced into the Java code. On the other hand, Dart takes the responsibility of keeping the layout and code at a single place. As everything in Flutter is a widget, the layout of the app can also be created using the Dart.
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Drawbacks associated with Flutter
Flutter platform is still growing and evolving, and therefore, there are certain flaws in Flutter. Let’s have a quick overview of each one of them.
Flutter is only confined to mobile applications and does not support the web browsers. If you are looking for maximizing the device flexibility, then perhaps, Flutter is not the right pick for you.
- Limited libraries
Flutter is supported by Google and there are numerous useful libraries provided for the developers. But, since the framework is not very old, you may not find every functionality you need for your app.
On the other hand, native apps have got everything in their SDKs such as Stripe, Twilio, and streaming services such as WoWza and UStream. In case of Flutter, a developer is required to build these libraries on their own, which is an extremely time-consuming task.
- Continuous integration
In case of native Android and iOS apps, you will get various ready-made solutions that allow you to work with CI platforms such as Travis and Jenkins. Flutter has also got ready-made solutions for CI platforms such as Travis or Circle. However, in case of Flutter, a developer is required to set up the toolkit before using them.
- Limited TV support
In case you are assuming that the Android or iOS apps built using this platform are capable of running on Android TV or Apple TV, then you are wrong! As of now, Flutter does not provide any support for Android TV as well as Apple TV.
Pre-Requisites for building your mobile application on Flutter
There are certain tools that needed to be installed before using Flutter. Here are the prerequisites you must check-mark before building your app on Flutter:
- First of all, you need to install Git, Android Studio, and Xcode on your system. The Android SDK is used for building Android applications and Xcode is used for iOS applications.
- Now, you are required to install IntelliJ Idea. Though this is not a mandatory step, it is helpful while building the app. After installing, add the Dart and Flutter plugins to it.
- Lastly, you need to install Flutter. After that, retrieve the official git repository of Flutter. Add a new path to the bin folder of the repository.
You are all set to use the Flutter tool on your system. If you wish, you can also re-verify the installation process from the Flutter’s official documentation.
Certain tips to follow before you start using Flutter
- Do not forget to cancel your stream subscription
Even if any of your widgets is not alive, the stream subscription still is! It could pose a problem of process overloading when a widget is re-created multiple times. To avoid this issue, you can use a StreamBuilder to manage the state of its child depending on the stream provided.
- Want to go to the current Navigator state?
When a user gets a notification, the developer needs to push a view corresponding to the notification. It might create an error if you don’t have access to any BuildContext object.
This problem can be solved by creating an instance of the GlobalKey and then store it in some global variable anywhere across the code. You can not get access to the current Navigator state with the help of the GlobalKey.
- Use Final variables
The developers often opt to instantiate non-final variables in the stateless widgets. This is not a good practice to be followed. It must be avoided as the stateless widgets are immutable, that means, they are not supposed to be modified at all.
If you think that you might need a non-final variable, you can try using the Stateful widgets in place of the Stateless widgets.
- Create reusable widgets
At times, Flutter can be extremely verbose, and ask to you write the same code again and again. Rather than doing copy – paste with your code, try to create re-usable widgets. It will help you save your time and you will get a more maintainable piece of code.
Flutter is an innovative platform that is still growing and evolving. It has got an active community of developers across the world who are constantly working on it and providing support to others.
With its amazing feature-set, it has a great potential of becoming the go-to option of mobile app developers in the near future.