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Rapid UI development with Flutter for Windows

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Rapid UI development with Flutter for Windows

There’s a lot to be said for tools that make it easy to target multiple platforms from a single codebase, reducing the load on developers and increasing the reach of your applications. Microsoft’s Xamarin is an excellent example of this, extending .NET to iOS and Android. But what of the other direction, where an established mobile development tool adds Windows as a new platform?

It doesn’t happen often, but surprisingly Google’s Flutter mobile development environment is adding a new build target in Windows, alongside its existing support for Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, and the web. With the latest development releases, you can now build Flutter apps for Win32, using the same controls and design tools to deliver desktop code at the same time as you build mobile apps.

Targeting Windows makes sense for Google, as the release blog post notes more than half of Flutter developers use Windows development tools. Flutter’s UI-tooling is native code and as it works with standard Windows API calls, you can use it with new or existing code.

Using Flutter on Windows

Flutter is built around the latest version of Google’s Dart language. It’s a C-like language with a structure reminiscent of both JavaScript and C#. If you’re coming to it from a .NET background there isn’t too much new to learn; the language constructs will be familiar. A low barrier to entry is a good thing, as you should be ready to start coding very quickly.

Flutter’s Windows support is experimental, so you have to make some changes to a standard installation from the command line. First switch to the dev channel and then upgrade to ensure you’re running the latest dev channel build. Finally, use the command line Flutter tools to enable Windows desktop support. Once that’s done, restart any open editors. You can check that Windows support is enabled by checking for connected devices; Windows will show up here. It’s a good idea to run the Flutter doctor utility to check that all the appropriate dependencies are installed, as this will install any missing features as necessary.

Unlike the mobile device versions of Flutter, the desktop version needs Visual Studio 2019, with its C++ desktop development tools. You can still work in Visual Studio Code if you’ve got any existing mobile Flutter apps that you want to bring to the desktop, but desktop Flutter needs to use the Windows C++ compiler to create Windows apps with all the required supporting libraries.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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