What is Flutter? 8 Things You Need to Know
Since the launch of version 1.0 in December 2018, Flutter has grown from strength to strength, winning the hearts of software developers around the globe. Flutter is now one of the top repositories with over 100K stars on GitHub, and a strong proposition for mobile app development and beyond.
So, what is Flutter, and what makes it so special?
According to the official website:
Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit for building beautiful, natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.
It sounds great on paper, but does Flutter deliver on this promise? And what does it mean for you?
Last Updated November 2020
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This article will help you understand Flutter’s key benefits compared to alternative frameworks, what makes it unique, and why you should consider it for your next project.
1. Flutter provides higher quality for multi-platform development.
Cross-platform development means that you can write your code once and run it across multiple platforms. This is ideal for teams looking to reduce costs and build their products faster.
Cross-platform frameworks, such as Xamarin and React Native, have existed long before Flutter’s introduction — but none of the previous frameworks could deliver the same fidelity and quality as apps built with the native iOS and Android software development kits.
Flutter changes this, in that it controls every single pixel that is drawn on screen.
Unlike other cross-platform frameworks that look and feel the same on every platform, Flutter embraces platform-specific behaviors and conventions. The result is that Flutter apps look and feel native both on iOS and Android. By supporting web and desktop as well, Flutter is uniquely positioned as a strong multi-platform UI toolkit. This means that you don’t need to learn several languages and frameworks to bring your product to multiple platforms.
2. Flutter apps use a single codebase, allowing faster time-to-market.
Compared to native platform development, writing multi-platform apps with a single codebase has many advantages:
- All your business logic and UI code live in one place.
- You can deliver apps with feature parity across all platforms.
- Testing and Q/A becomes simpler.
With Flutter, you can get these benefits and deliver high-quality apps in a fraction of the time that it would take when using native platform development. Or, if you have a fixed budget, you can ship more features for the same price.
3. Flutter allows you to build beautiful apps easily.
Flutter makes it easy to implement beautiful animations that run smoothly on multiple devices.
You can create effects like those shown above with a few lines of code, thanks to Flutter’s powerful yet simple animation APIs. With Flutter, it’s easier for software developers to say “yes” when designers envision complex UIs — leading to apps that are much more polished and refined.
4. Flutter widgets make it easy to build beautiful UIs.
Within Flutter, you build UIs by using widgets and composing them together in a declarative manner. You can think of widgets as UI components that describe what your application looks like.
Flutter offers an extensive set of widgets, closely matching the Material Design specification. The Flutter widget catalog also includes Cupertino widgets, which are high-fidelity replicas of all the UI components found on iOS.
Because Flutter controls every pixel on the screen, you can even create your own widgets to deliver a completely custom experience that delights your users.
5. The Dart programming language is very productive.
Dart is also a very productive language. When you develop Flutter apps, your Dart code is compiled just-in-time. This leads to a fast and productive development process, thanks to hot reload.
When you’re ready to ship your apps, the ahead-of-time compiler is used instead. This produces fast machine code that runs smoothly on your users’ devices.
6. Flutter delivers an excellent developer experience with hot reload.
Hot reload allows you to make changes to your application’s code and see the result immediately. This saves a lot of time when iterating on designs, adding features, and fixing bugs.
Hot reload enables new forms of collaboration, helping teams become even more productive. If you want, you can even sit next to a designer and quickly polish your UI, without waiting for the entire app to recompile.
Of course, a good development experience goes well beyond hot reload — and Flutter elevates the bar. Flutter ships with a selection of great integrations for Android Studio and Visual Studio Code, so you can be productive with your IDE of choice. The top-notch documentation includes detailed examples and videos, showing you how to use the various widgets in practice.
7. Flutter is open source.
Roughly every three months, a new stable Flutter release is published, including thousands of contributions from the community and the Flutter team.
This means that Flutter is constantly improving to meet the developer’s needs.
While Flutter is evolving fast, it remains remarkably stable. Quality and performance have been high since day one, and severe issues are always addressed in a very timely manner. On many fronts, this sets it apart from other cross-platform frameworks.
8. Flutter comes with a mature ecosystem.
Any web or mobile UI framework needs a strong community and a mature ecosystem to thrive. The Flutter team knows this and has been helping the community grow since day one.
Flutter developers have access to a wide range of high-quality packages. These are published on pub.dev, the official package manager for Dart and Flutter. Many of these packages are community-led, with the most important ones listed as “Flutter Favourites” for their high level of quality.
Flutter also has great support for Firebase, an extensive suite of products that help you do more with less effort. Firebase includes features like authentication, a real-time database, cloud storage, and much more. By using Flutter and Firebase together, you can bring your apps to market in record time.
Flutter’s unique advantages make it a very strong UI framework on mobile, web, and desktop.
Flutter aims to deliver high-quality experiences across mobile, desktop, and web platforms.
It already achieves this goal on iOS and Android, where you can build beautiful apps with a single codebase for a fraction of the time.
Flutter web is still evolving and is not yet ready for production use in all apps — but the Flutter team is investing heavily in desktop and web support, and it’s only a matter of time before their full vision is realized.
On top of that: Flutter is fun to learn! If you’re just getting started, there is a wealth of information to help you along the way, from YouTube videos to online courses and active community channels.
Flutter is ready and waiting for you. Are you ready to build beautiful apps in record time?
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