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Google Flutter

Google Flutter: Everything You Need to Know

Since it was released in May 2017, Google Flutter has been one of the most popular cross-platform software development kits for creating mobile apps. Despite being a relative newcomer, it already challenges Facebook’s React Native in almost all areas. Google Flutter is a relatively new, but a promising platform, that has attracted a lot of attention from large companies.

It is popular because of its simplicity and speed compared to other developing web applications. In other words, Flutter is slowly conquering the market as THE programming framework for a modern mobile development industry.

Introduction to Google Flutter

Google Flutter is an open-source code framework that is, as the name suggests, created by Google. It can be applied to produce applications for mobile, desktop, and web browsers from a single codebase. It uses Dart, an object-oriented programming language for mobile data terminals that Google launched in 2011. Dart has very handy Flutter strong typing and AOT (Ahead of Time) compilations that make it easier to create fast and user-friendly applications. Strong typing includes the correct data types already in the development phase, reducing the extra work that Facebook’s React Native’s platform might bring. The applications are ultimately set entirely into native code, and the performance ends up being better than a JavaScript bridge while operating identically on all platforms.

High performance and efficiency in Google Flutter are achieved by using the following techniques:

  • Unlike many other popular mobile platforms, Google Flutter does not use JavaScript preferring to operate with Dart as its main programming language. It compiles binary code and runs with the native performance of Objective-C, Swift, Java, or Kotlin.
  • Google Flutter does have native User Interface components. That may sound weird at first. Nevertheless, because components are implemented in Flutter itself, there is no communication layer between the view and your code. Due to this, applications hit the best speed for their graphics out of smartphones. So buttons, text, media elements, background are all delivered from Flutter’s graphics engine.
  • In the way inspired by the React web framework, Google Flutter applies a declarative approach to build its User Interface based on widgets (also called “components”). To get more out of widgets, they are rendered only when requested, usually when their state has been edited.
  • In addition to all of the above, the framework has integrated Hot-reload that “helps you quickly and easily experiment, build UIs, add features, and fix bugs. Hot reload works by injecting updated source code files into the running Dart Virtual Machine (VM). After the VM updates classes with the new versions of fields and functions, the Flutter framework automatically rebuilds the widget tree, allowing you to quickly view the effects of your changes”.

What Makes Google Flutter Special?

Google Flutter appears to be a professional and well-structured programming framework. It has a number of helpful additional tools that add a bonus to it. For instance, it offers a fast code updating option, which means it is possible for you to change a button’s function during implementation and to test it immediately without the need for a long combination process or restarting the app. Another handy service is Flutter Doctor, which helps to spot problems in the installation and maintenance of Flutter as well as any other critical dependencies.

As already mentioned, Dart is a programming language that you use to develop an application in Flutter. Its overall syntax is similar to Java, Swift, or Kotlin languages. Furthermore, the Dart software development kit is equipped with a stand-alone Dart Virtual Machine (VM) that lets you build the code in a command-line interface (CLI) environment, or in case you are not familiar with CLI then you can do the same using the DartPad online editor that provides access to Dart’s API and allows you to set the Dart code.

Here are the most basic features of Dart-based apps:

  • // This is a comment – A single-line comment. (For your information – Dart also supports multi-line and document comments).
  • void – A special type that indicates a value that’s never used. Functions like printInteger() and main() that do not explicitly return a value have the void return type.
  • int – A feature indicating integer. Some additional built-in types are String, List, and bool.
  • 42  – A number literal, kind of compile-time constant.
  • print()  – A great way to display output.
  • ‘…’ (or “…”)  – A string literal.
  • $variableName (or ${expression})  – String interpolation: including a variable or expression’s string equivalent inside of a string literal.
  • main() – The special, top-level function where app execution starts.
  • var – A way to declare a variable without specifying its type. The type of this variable (int) is determined by its initial value.

In addition, any project generated by the Google Flutter framework has the following project structure:

  • lib/ – Package manager that stores all the code
  • pubspec.yml – Stores a list of packages that are required to run the application. Worth noting that in Flutter projects you cannot use pub directly, but instead, you need to use the Flutter command: flutter pub get <package_name>
  • test/ – Flutter test toolkit
  • ios/ & android/ – The code specific for each platform, including app icons and settings where you set what permissions you’ll need to run your application.

Google Flutter is written using C, C++, and Dart languages and additionally, it applies Google’s Skia Graphics Engine for user interface rendering that is used for a number of widely – known products as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Android, and Firefox OS.

What is Flutter Widgets?

In Flutter, the basic building block of the application is a widget. Compared to other frameworks, Flutter does not handle controllers, views, or layouts separately. Almost every process of Flutter development is founded with a unified building block – the widget. A widget can be a structural item (like a menu or button); a concept of the layout or even a stylistic element (like a color scheme or font). The framework has a massive set of widgets and has a great capacity for advancing/customizing complex widgets.  The widget which contains the code for a single screen of the app comes in two types —Stateful and Stateless widgets.

  • Stateless widgets do not request mutable states, meaning they are immutable. To put it simply, Stateless widgets cannot change their mode during the runtime of the app, which means the widgets cannot be withdrawn when the app is in action.
  • Stateful widgets are at a mutable state, meaning they are mutable and can be drawn multiple times within their life course. They are the type that can change their state multiple times and can be withdrawn onto the screen any number of times even if the app is in action.

The most fascinating thing about Flutter is the user interface components that were updated with the latest versions. Google decided to create two sets of widgets, Cupertino (iOS) and Material (Android) that were made responsible for the User Interface and include every item that may be necessary for Android and iOS development. These widgets are not connected with the native API of iOS or Android like in React Native but operate as default Flutter components with relevant performance speed and animation. Users are rarely affected by poor user experience, because of these key selling features of Flutter.

Aside from the core characteristics that were previously mentioned, Flutter delivers the basic architecture that you can utilize for your application and maintain its condition easily. The architecture that is used in Flutter is called the Business Logic Component (BLOC). Fundamentally, it is an event-state-based structure that allows you to manage events and administer state changes based on them. The BLOC is a good point that lets Flutter separate business logic from the user interface and oversees business logic key perspectives through testing. The core objectives that were used for BLOC architecture are clarity, flexibility, and testability, and all these goals were achieved after the BLOC architecture introduction.

According to Unyscape, it takes around 350-400 hours to build an average app for iOS and about 250 hours for Android. However, if you develop such an app in Flutter, it will take about 250 hours on both iOS and Android. Starting off with Flutter has proved to be extremely simple and rewarding for many newbie developers. Because the framework documentation is relatively easy to grasp, and the number of libraries to refer to is continuously growing, developing your first application should be very quick and straightforward.

And even though the toolkit is regarded to be new in the market, the use cases are a few but are rather remarkable. Google itself is using Flutter to track their advertisements, improve campaigns, monitor keywords, and rather statistics. Another great user of Flutter is Alibaba, one of the biggest e-commerce platforms that have chosen Flutter to build their mobile application.

Other famous applications built using Flutter include:

  • Birch Finance, a credit card rewards online finances application.
  • Reflectly, an Artificial Intelligence based magazine application.
  • Coach Yourself, a popular meditation application.
  • SG BusTracker, Singapore based application that provides mapping service and gives estimated time of arrival for public buses.

If you are getting started with mobile app development, Google Flutter is a worthy framework to learn.

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