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Initial Thoughts on Flutter

While building an app in React Native, I accidentally stumbled on Flutter. I had heard of, but never used the Dart language and was surprised to learn that Flutter existed as a React Native alternative. Glancing the docs got me excited to try it out, so I wrapped up as much as I could to make my other app “complete” and immediately moved into rebuilding it in Flutter.

I decided to run through a Udemy course (which I highly recommend) called “The Complete Flutter App Development Course” before I started hacking together an app on my own, just to make sure I was building it the “Flutter” way. After getting far enough through that course I started porting over the app. I’m around 35% of the way through and decided to put together a sort of pros and cons list of my findings so far.

Pros:

  • Simple to start a new app.
  • Very simple to debug with additional tools built into Android Studio (inspectors, performance, etc).
  • Dart is basically TypeScript, so the adoption and learning process is smooth if you have experience with it.
  • Testing framework is built-in an easy to get started. No installing additional dependencies and configurations.
  • Laying out and styling the UI is substantially easier. Once you understand how to compose your Widgets, that is.
  • The API documentation for both Dart and Flutter is fantastic.
  • Google introduces a new architecture design pattern called BLoC which seems well suited to Flutter and apps in general.

Cons:

  • Not a lot of worldwide adoption so the ecosystem is much smaller than React Native.
  • While the API docs are great, I found there to be lacking real-world examples here and there.
  • The Dart linter takes direction from a remote server so can be difficult to configure. There was limited documentation on how to customize these lint rules. Other times I encountered errors which said one thing but meant another. Overall this was a very limited and tame issue.
  • Could be a harder “sell” to development teams since it not only requires learning a new framework, but a new language as well. If teams are already using React Native and other JavaScript frameworks, I could see this being an uphill battle.

As a fan of React, it almost disappoints me to say that I found Flutter to be a much better tech stack to build apps with. The amount of configuring and third-party libraries and tools you need to get started in React Native and debugging, is just maddening. I absolutely love just having everything work and tie-in out of the box. Debugging apps on a mac with React Native Debugger sucks!

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