Flutter is an open-source and free UI (user interface) framework of Google for designing native mobile applications. Introduced in 2017, it permits developers to create mobile applications with just one codebase and programming language. As a result, it becomes faster and simpler to design both Android and iOS apps.
The Flutter framework comprises both an SDK (software development kit) and widget-oriented UI library. Further, this library includes various reusable UI elements namely, text inputs, buttons, and sliders.
It is also an extremely popular tool for cross platform app development.
Read on to learn more about this application.
Background of Flutter
Sky was the foremost version of Flutter, and it ran on the robust Android operating system. This was introduced at the Dart Developer Summit of 2015 with the intention that it would be able to render routinely at 120 frames each second.
In September 2018 in Shanghai, during the Google Developer Days (developer keynote), the company declared the version 2 of Flutter Release Preview. It was the last big release prior to Flutter 1.0. The Flutter Live released Flutter 1.0 on 4th December 2018, marking the first steady version of it. Further, Flutter Interactive released Flutter 1.12 on 11th December 2019.
Simultaneously, on 6th May 2020, Flutter 1.17.0 and Dart SDK 2.8 were released. This offered assistance for the Metals - Application Programming Interface (API), which enhances performance by 50% on iOS devices.
During a Flutter Engage event on 3rd March 2021, Google launched Flutter 2. This update offered official assistance to web-based applications through web-specific widgets and an innovative CanvasKit renderer. It also brought desktop application support (early access) for Linux, macOS, and Windows and improved APIs.
On 8th September 2021, Google released Flutter 2.5 and Dart 2.14. This update improved the latest version of Material Design from Google (namely Material You) and the full-screen mode of Android. At present, the version of Dart is 2.17.3, while the Flutter version is 3.0.2.
About Cross platform app development
Cross-platform apps are mobile applications designed to function on various mobile platforms. Such applications are stable with both Android and iOS.
With cross platform mobile app development, software architects can create apps that can operate on various platforms with only one code system. This means that companies can launch better quality products faster. The applications have the potential to reach a wider audience. Additionally, they are cost-effective, have less turnaround time, and rapid development makes them suitable for startups.
Here is how Flutter supports with cross-platform app development.
Mechanisms of Flutter
Flutter is a strong layered system consisting of the framework, platform-specific embedders, and the engine. Developers have created Flutter applications using Dart, an object-based programming language of Google. The Flutter engine is primarily written in C/C++. The Skia library forms the foundation of the graphics capabilities of Flutter.
Dart is the backbone for multiple performance advantages of Flutter. This language supports both JIT (just-in-time) and AOT (ahead-of-time) compilations. JIT facilitates the hot reload capability of Flutter, which minimizes development time. AOT-compiled code helps the apps to perform better and faster.
Besides, Dart complies directly with Intel x64 code or native ARM, reducing performance variations between Flutter applications and the native applications. Flutter’s framework makes it quick or simple to accommodate nascent users or add functionality. It is highly scalable and extensible.
Reasons to Choose Flutter
- The app logic and UI do not alter based on the platform.
- It facilitates faster and simpler code development. It also provides a declarative API to design UI, drastically improving performance.
- The performance of Flutter is relative to or better than that of native applications.
- It features a separate rendering engine and has the potential for enormous UI customizations.
- Flutter is suitable for any platform. It reduces the losses and risks for businesses.
- It does not rely on platform-specific components.
The top apps designed with the Flutter framework are Google Ads, Pay N Park, LTB Operations, Xianyu by Alibaba, Reflectly, KlasterMe, BeerCert, Meritec Digital Learning, Cryptograph, Watermaniac, and Lunching.
Key Highlights of Flutter
Flutter stands out from its alternatives because of the following features:
1. Open source
Flutter from Google is an efficient open-source platform. Developers can explore various design options to develop Flutter applications. They can create user-friendly apps with Cupertino widgets and Material Design.
Flutter Form is a community where Flutter enthusiasts come together to solve queries related to Flutter. Notably, Flutter has in-depth documentation and is cost-free.
2. Native Performance
In this framework, developers provide platform-specific widgets for iOS, Android, and Google Fuchsia. They can integrate such widgets into the powerful Flutter application to utilize the various platform-dependent functionalities. Interestingly, they can use Objective-C codes, Swift, and existing Java to manage native features like geolocation and camera. Hence, Flutter can conveniently incorporate APIs and third-party integrations.
3. Widget Library
Anything in Flutter is a widget, which can be a menu, padding, or color. Flutter has the capacity to design complex widgets that are customizable as per the need of the application. Additionally, there are built-in widgets for usage. For instance, Material Design and Cupertino pack comprise sets of useful widgets that offer a glitch-free experience.
4. Cross-platform Development
Flutter allows developers to prepare code that runs on various platforms. This means that two different apps may utilize the same codebase. Besides sharing the user interface code, the user interface itself can also be shareable.
5. Hot Reload
Hot reload helps developers to experiment, add features, and build user interfaces. It operates by injecting source code files (updated) into the running VM (Dart Virtual Machine). With this, developers can quickly witness the variations in the code. They can rectify errors and save effort and cost.
Key Flutter Layout Concepts
The primary layout concepts of Flutter are:
1. Row and Column
Column and Row are classes that comprise widgets. Such widgets inside a Column or a Row are termed children, while Column and Row are known as parents. Row and Column lay out the widgets horizontally and vertically, respectively.
Column and Row occupy separate main axes. The main axis of a Column is vertical, while the main axis of a Row is horizontal. The mainAxisSize decides how much space a Column and Row may occupy on the main axes.
When one sets mainAxisSize to MainAxisSize.max, Column and Row can lay out their widgets with additional space. As such, the mainAxisAlignment decides how Column and Row may position their widgets in that additional space.
The crossAxisAlignment decides how Column and Row may position their widgets on the cross axes. Notably, the cross axis of a Column is horizontal, while the cross axis of a Row is vertical.
5. Flexible and Expanded Widgets
At first, Column and Row layouts were fixed-sized widgets. Notably, widgets of fixed size are inflexible since they cannot be resized after having laid out. A Flexible widget can wrap a widget such that the widget turns resizable. Similarly, an Expanded widget wraps a widget allowing it to fill additional space.
6. SizedBox and Spacer Widgets
SizedBox widget wraps a widget to resize it using the width and height properties. When SizedBox does not wrap any widget, it makes use of the width and height properties to form empty space. In an equivalent way, a Spacer widget forms space between widgets.
7. Text, Icon, and Image Widgets
A Text widget highlights text and may be customized for diverse colors, sizes, and fonts. An Icon widget highlights a graphical symbol, representing a facet of the user interface.
On the other hand, an Image widget illustrates an image. Developers may reference images through a URL, or they may add images to their app package.
Roles of a Flutter Developer
Following are the key responsibilities of a Flutter developer:
- Designing and shipping powerful apps to iOS/Android devices by way of a single database.
- Writing clear and readable code using Dart. The same will be documented for upgrades and future use.
- Learning basic concepts of UI designs to create user-friendly applications.
- Brainstorm ideas and share feedback with teams to upgrade the development process.
- Being aware of the latest technologies.
Top Flutter Development Tools
Take a quick look at the best Flutter mobile app development tools in the market:
- Panache: It is an editor tool that enables developers to build material themes for their Flutter apps. With this, they can customize the design, shapes, colors, and other characteristics.
- Supernova: Developers can import their user interface designs to the innovative Supernova. Next, they can export these designs to Flutter for creating natively compiled, responsive, and beautiful applications.
- Count.ly: It is a product analytics solution with which developers can enhance and determine customer journeys in desktop, web, and mobile applications. This tool allows developers to track KPIs and fundamental KPIs metrics that indicate their apps’ performance and growth.
- Test Magic: It ensures the deployment and testing of iOS and Android applications. It permits developers to deploy and download CI/CD pipelines on connected gadgets.
- Codemagic: This solution helps developers deliver, evaluate, and build mobile apps quickly. It facilitates continuous and seamless integration and delivery of application projects conducted on Flutter.
Flutter offers an exceptional framework to design applications in a purely platform-independent way. It facilitates a relevant and rich user interface for iOS and Android and top-notch performance in the mobile application.
Developers can easily and quickly make creative UX/UI designs for their applications using multiple enriching widgets. With simplicity in the app development procedure, Flutter will help new developers to create feature-full and high-performance applications in the coming years.
To learn more about the Flutter framework, one can access the available resources, such as detailed documents, YouTube videos, and Codelabs. However, if you wish to become a successful flutter developer, then joining a recognized full stack development program can be more helpful.
Hero Vired brings an advanced certificate program in full stack development with MERN and cloud computing to make aspirants job-ready. It also offers other exclusive courses in the fields of mobile and web development and cloud engineering to upskill software enthusiasts.