A simplified introduction to Dart and Flutter
In 2011, Xamarin, which now is under the banner of Microsoft came up with an innovative idea for a solution for hybrid mobile applications. They released their signature product, Xamarin SDK with C#. This in turn set up a stage for a revolution for products of such domain. Ionic which had its outburst in 2013 assisted web developers by holding on to their own craft while simultaneously using it to develop mobile applications. Similarly, in 2015, Facebook used React.js and completely reinvented it for mobile app developers and gave the industry the gift of React Native.
All these inventions paved the way for google to come up with its own framework for hybrid mobile application development with Flutter.
Dart: An overview
The programming language that Google developed, and which is used to code Flutter apps is given the name Dart. Google released a version 2.1 of Dart first before they launched Flutter in November. Considering that it is only in the initial phases, the community is not as far reached and extensive like other hybrid frameworks like React, Ionic etc.
Google has a separate section on their documents for Flutter (and Dart) for developers that want to move from React Native. Dart in its essence has much similarity with the C language and is of an object-oriented nature, so developers that have good skills in C or in Java will find no problems when they decide to move on to Dart with Flutter.
Dart is widely accepted and standardized by the ECMA-408 and can be used to design and develop almost every type of application on web servers, desktops and especially on mobile, so it can be termed as a global programming language instead of just operating in the mobile app domain.
How do you code in Dart?
- The main() method is the entry point of a class in Dart, this method is also used as an entry point in Flutter apps as well.
- Null is the default value of majority data types in Dart.
- Only single inheritance is supported in Dart, in addition there can only be one superclass for a particular class although it can have multiple implementations of interfaces.
- As is the case in all programming languages, flow of control statements like the for loop or switch cases, break and continue statements are the same.
- Abstraction is another pillar of OOP that works in the same nature with abstract classes and interfaces.
- There is a type interface in Dart. There is no need to explicitly declare a variable as Dart has the capability of infer what it is.
- Including numbers, all data types in Dart are objects which means that if they are not initialized with a user input value, their default value will be a null.
- In the method signature, return type is not required.
- Type num can declare any numeric element.
- The super() function call is only at the end of a subclass’s constructor.
- “new” keyword is used before the constructor for object creation.
- Method signatures can comprise a default value to the parameters passed. So, if one is not included in the method call, the method uses the default values instead.
- It has a new inbuilt data type called Runes, that deal with UTF-32 code points in a string. For a simple example, see emojis and similar icons.
How to use Dart in Flutter?
Flutter contains more app-specific libraries, they are more often found on user interface elements which can include:
Widgets: Text, ListView or other common elements.
Material: this section contains elements following Material design, like FloatingActionButton.
Cupertino: this section contains elements following current iOS designs, like CupertinoButton.
Hot Reloading Feature in Flutter
This is an innovative feature which lets the developer make alterations to the code at the back-end in real-time and they do not even have to save the file, the changes to the code will be automatically integrated at the same time as well.
For developers that have a good skillset on Java, Dart is the language for them to pursue their app development skills, especially if they want to try out development of mobile applications. The community for Dart with Flutter is rapidly increasing and soon it might overtake React Native as the leading framework for mobile app development.