Why do we need Kotlin Native for cross-platform application development?



November 23, 2021

Kotlin is a powerful, simple, and versatile language created by Jetbrains. The language allows you to avoid many obstacles that you will face in Java development. It saves a lot of development time so that developers can focus on more important tasks. 

Kotlin Multiplatform programming reduces the time spent on writing and maintaining the same code for different platforms while retaining the flexibility and benefit of native programming. In simple words, common Kotlin code works on all platforms.

Kotlin/Native is the part of Kotlin Multiplatform and it is one of three possible targets (Kotlin/ Native, Kotlin/JS, and Kotlin/ JVM). For mobile application development(Android/iOS), Kotlin Native is what we needed to work on. 

What is Kotlin Native?

“Kotlin/Native is a technology that compiles Kotlin code to native binaries, which can run without a virtual machine. It is an LLVM based backend for the Kotlin compiler and native implementation of the Kotlin standard library”- Kotlin Documentation

It is specifically designed to allow the compilation for the platform where virtual machines are not possible. For example, embedded devices or iOS.  With a native approach, developers can produce a self-contained program that does not require a virtual machine.

Kotlin/ Native supports the following platform:

Kotlin supports the following target platforms, 

  • macOS
  • iOS, watchOS, tvOS
  • Linux
  • Windows(Min GW)
  • Android(NDK)

The full list of supported platforms is here

Kotlin/ Native interoperability

Kotlin/Native supports two-way interoperability. The compiler creates,

  •  an executable code for multiple platforms
  •  a static or dynamic library with C headers for C/C++ projects, and
  •  an Apple framework for Swift and Objective-C projects. 

Additionally, it supports interoperability to use existing libraries directly from Kotlin/ Native, static or dynamic C libraries and C, swift and Objective C frameworks. 

You can include a compiled Kotlin code into existing projects written in C, C++, Swift, Objective-C, and other languages with ease. 

How  to use IntelliJ IDEA for creating Kotlin / Native applications

The following steps demonstrate how to use IntelliJ IDEA for creating a Kotlin/Native application. First, you need to install the latest version of IntelliJ IDEA.  

  1. Create a new Kotlin/Native project in IntelliJ IDEA:

To create an IntelliJ IDEA navigate to the File → New → Project, then from the left panel select Kotlin. Here, you need to enter the project name, select the project template as Native Application, and click Next. 

By default, the project will use Gradle with Kotlin DSL as a build system. Apply the default configuration and click on finish. 

It will create the main.kt file by default with the code that prints “Hello, Kotlin/ Native!” to the standard output. The build.gradle.kts file contains the project settings. 

  1.  Run the application:

You can start the application by clicking the Run Next to the run configuration. 

IntelliJ IDEA opens the Run tab and shows the output as shown below.

  1. Updating the application:

Here, we will update an application to count the number of letters in your input name. Following are the steps to update your application, 

  • Open the file main.kt in src/<your_app_name> Main/kotlin. The file main.kt includes sample code that prints "Hello, Kotlin/Native!".  
  • Updated the code as shown in the code snippet below.
fun main() {
    // Read the input value.
    println("Hello, enter your name:")
    val name = readLine()
   // Eliminate the whitespaces  and Count the letters in the name.
    name?.replace(" ", "")?.let {
        println("Your name contains ${it.length} letters")
    } ?: error("Error while reading input from the terminal: the value can't be null.")


Enter the name and see the output,

Advantages of Kotlin/Native

Here is the list of advantages of using Kotlin /Native 

  1. It is easy to develop GUI, sensors, notifications, and everything that is unique and specified to each device in the native language without restriction.
  2. Enable you to share code easily as compared to the other cross-platform tools. 
  3. Thus, helps you in cross-platform application development.

Summing Up

In this article, we have discussed what is Kotlin/Native, what platforms it supports, its interoperability, how to create Kotlin /Native applications using IntelliJ IDEA, and its advantages. 

From the discussion, we can conclude that Kotlin / Native is a modern type-safe language for cross-platform application development. 

If you want to build a cross-platform application with Kotlin/Native Try DhiWise - The world’s first ProCode platform for web and mobile application development supporting technologies such as Kotlin, Node.js, and React.js(more technologies are in the pipeline). 

It supports Kotlin/ Native application development so that you can efficiently build a cross-platform application with ease.
Have fun exploring Kotlin/Native with DhiWise! Sign up today to start building your next app!