Flutter, Google’s open-source UI development framework, has gained substantial popularity in recent years. However, like any technology, it’s not without its drawbacks. In this article, we’ll explore ten key challenges that developers may face when working with Flutter, ranging from code generation woes to limited media capabilities.
One of the primary issues with Flutter is its reliance on code generation. While code generation is a useful technique for automating tasks like creating data classes and managing state (e.g., using MobX), it can also be a source of frustration. Generating code is essential, but dealing with the available code generators can be cumbersome and immature.
Imagine you want to generate code for an HTTP API client, a common task in app development. Unfortunately, there are no readily available build_runner plugins for this purpose. To generate the code, you must download an external tool like the openapi generator, which may introduce errors into your code.
For example, if you’re using Dio as a network library, the generated code might include incorrect ‘package:openapi/…’ imports. Correcting these errors and ensuring the code compiles can be a tedious process. Additionally, if the API changes, regenerating and updating the code becomes necessary, creating a maintenance headache.
Modular architecture is a fundamental concept in app development, promoting code organization and maintainability. In Flutter, modularization is achieved through packages or plugins, but the framework’s support for managing them is suboptimal.
Running tests for modules separately from the main application can be challenging. Unlike some other development environments, Flutter’s ‘flutter test’ command does not handle submodules’ tests. This limitation requires developers to run tests for each module individually, leading to extra work to consolidate test results.
Dart’s limited support for JSON serialization is a common pain point for Flutter developers. While it’s possible to handle JSON manually with
json.encode, this approach demands substantial effort, especially for complex data structures.
An alternative is to use libraries like built_value/built_collection for serialization. However, these libraries also rely on code generation, potentially compounding the issues discussed earlier. Developers have reported encountering peculiar errors with serializers generated by built_value, further complicating serialization tasks.
Managing multiple application schemes, such as different development environments or feature sets, can be challenging in Flutter. Unlike some other platforms, Flutter lacks official support for this feature, requiring developers to devise their own solutions or workarounds.
Flutter’s tooling, despite Dart’s status as a statically typed language, falls short of expectations. For developers accustomed to the robust tooling available in other languages like Java or Kotlin, Dart’s tooling may be disappointing.
IDE features like autocompletion and context actions are notably lacking in Dart development. Features that should be readily accessible with keyboard shortcuts often require manual intervention, affecting developer productivity.
Despite being labeled as a statically typed language, Dart allows for dynamic behavior through the ‘dynamic’ keyword. This flexibility can lead to code that lacks the expected level of static typing.
To enforce static typing effectively in Dart, developers may need to rely on custom rules or adopt strict Dart style guides like Pedantic. This additional effort is required to ensure the benefits of static typing are realized.
Developing media-rich applications in Flutter can be frustrating due to limited media capabilities. For instance, the video_player package, while useful, has limitations when it comes to custom controls, subtitle support, and video speed adjustments.
Furthermore, the audio recorder plugin imposes restrictions by requiring Android 7.0 and above, limiting compatibility with older devices.
Flutter’s community support is a double-edged sword. While the community can be a valuable resource, issues like incomplete customization in packages and slow response times to pull requests can hinder progress.
Finding qualified assistance within the community can also be challenging, especially for niche or complex problems. Some developers may struggle to locate timely and relevant solutions to their issues.
Testing in Flutter presents multiple hurdles. First, there’s a divide between pure Dart tests and Flutter tests, requiring separate libraries and commands. Second, running tests from submodules within the IDE can be problematic. Third, ‘flutter test’ does not automatically run tests within submodules, necessitating manual intervention. Lastly, achieving test coverage demands additional packages and intricate setup, unlike some other testing frameworks.
Flutter’s use of both StatelessWidget and StatefulWidget can lead to a convoluted class hierarchy for seemingly simple UI components.
Compared to frameworks like Jetpack Compose and React, which emphasize functional components, Flutter’s approach seems unnecessarily complex. Developers must navigate three classes and two class hierarchies for rendering, potentially adding unnecessary cognitive load.
While Flutter holds promise as a technology for cross-platform app development, it’s not without its challenges. The issues highlighted in this article reflect the framework’s relative immaturity in certain areas. Before diving into Flutter development, it’s essential to carefully consider whether these challenges align with your project’s requirements and your team’s expertise.
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