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The Hidden Potential of Flutter Embedder: Revealing its Advantages

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Nidhi Sorathiya

September 14, 2023

Nidhi Sorathiya

September 14, 2023

The era of cross-platform mobile development has been revolutionized by the Flutter framework, hailed by developers for its speedy development, expressive user interface, and native performance. Flutter's versatility spans past mobile platforms, extending its reach to web development and the world of desktop and embedded devices. One of the core features making Flutter remarkable for creating software across these multiple platforms is Flutter Embedder.

The Flutter Embedder is the code part of the Flutter engine that communicates with host operating systems and manages the lifecycle of the Flutter app, which runs through the referenced engine. It is effectively responsible for Rectangle window creation in different operating systems and allows Flutter to interact with external devices.

Understanding the Role of Flutter Embedder

Flutter Embedder is instrumental for enabling Flutter apps to run on diverse embedded systems, from Raspberry Pi to Automotive Grade Linux to lightweight embedded Linux distributions, by providing a shell for running on these systems. In essence, Flutter Embedder kickstarts the Flutter engine and enables it to run Flutter applications on multiple platforms, including more niche embedded platforms.

Thanks to the Flutter Embedder, developers can write Flutter apps with the same flexible Screen and User Interface (UI) design functionalities on desktop Linux or an embedded Linux system as they would typically do for Android or web applications.

This lightweight, portable code can run beautifully on mobile devices and robust embedded systems, truly showcasing the power of Flutter embedding.

Flutter Embedder serves as a bridge between the Flutter engine and the native platform, facilitating Flutter's engine embedder API to interact with the host system. This functionality makes it possible to run Flutter on Raspberry Pi and other embedded devices.

Deeper Dive into Flutter's Architecture

Flutter's architecture remains a core feature contributing to its popularity among developers. The architectural design ensures effective functioning across different platforms, including mobile, desktop, and embedded devices. For web developers and enthusiasts transitioning into app development, understanding the underlying Flutter architecture can prove useful.

The Flutter architecture is primarily composed of four components: Dart platform, Flutter Engine, Foundation library, and Design-specific widgets. At the core of this setup lies the Dart programming language which encompasses a plethora of libraries and tools.

Elements of Flutter Architecture

The Dart platform, characterized by its efficiency, makes Flutter apps capable of achieving 60 frames per second (fps) performance or even 120 fps performance on devices compatible with such high update rates. The Flutter Engine, written mostly in C++, implements Flutter's core libraries, graphic rendering using Skia, and host platform interaction through the embedder.

The Foundation library, written in Dart, offers a range of basic classes and functions that Dart's Design-specific widgets use to communicate with the Flutter Engine.

In the subsequent section, we discuss another vital segment of Flutter, termed as 'embedding', and how it facilitates embedding Flutter apps into different devices with various operating systems. Embedded systems make the versatility of the Flutter framework more apparent.

The Concept of Flutter Embedding

Flutter Embedding corresponds to the process where the Flutter framework becomes a part of another existing application. The embedded Flutter module will act as a constituent of the general application, enabling you to create views that can incorporate Flutter's capabilities.

Moreover, embedding makes it plausible to implement Flutter on embedded systems involving Raspberry Pi and other similar electronics. Flutter embedded has been tested on Raspberry Pi models 3B, 3B+, 4, and Zero with Linux, being the underlying operating system for the embedded systems.

The fantastic support from the Flutter team and the Flutter community ensures that Flutter embedding for such devices becomes efficient and hassle-free in line with Flutter's philosophy of being beautiful, fast, productive, and open.

Explanation of Flutter's Embedded Systems

Embedded systems are integral spaces in the world of Flutter. They act as standalone systems that carry out specific tasks or functions within a larger system. From home appliances to large-scale machines like aircraft, embedded systems are omnipresent.

With the advent of Flutter Embedder, it's now an exhilarating experience to deploy applications built with Flutter on a wide array of embedded devices, a notable example being the Raspberry Pi.

Running Flutter on such devices as a Raspberry Pi, allows you to not only enjoy the visualization of the Flutter creations on larger screens but also interact with various hardware aspects of the embedded device, thanks to the onset of Flutter embedding.

The above code will, when deployed on a Raspberry Pi device, run Flutter in the Flutter Engine, and the text "Hello, Raspberry Pi!" will be displayed on the device's screen.

The embedder API gives an efficient way to communicate with the host system from the Flutter framework. It's crucial to note that the Flutter team does not directly support all embedders, but they function via contributions from the Flutter community. However, the variety of embedders available indicates the vibrancy of the community support.

Flutter Embedder's Interaction with Platform Messages

Platform messages hold a crucial place in the Flutter architecture. They are responsible for the exchange of data and commands between the Flutter platform and the Dart code. Diving further into these platform messages is an exciting journey on its own!

Breaking Down Platform Messages

In Flutter embedding, platform messages play a vital role. They facilitate the interaction between the embedded system and the Flutter engine. For example, accessibility details, raw keyboard events, and lifecycle events are part of platform messages.

Flutter Embedder's User Interface (UI) Interactions

Every Flutter application boasts of its eye-catching user interface. How is this achieved? Through the rich interaction between the Flutter Embedder and the User Interface (UI).

The Flutter Embedder aids in creating visual elements, managing user interactions, and updating the display. It becomes predominantly vital with embedded systems like Raspberry Pi, where the UI is often authored natively and vernacular to the device in use.

This snippet, when executed in a Flutter app, generates an elevated button labeled "Click Me!". This simple UI instance demonstrates how intuitively Flutter UI can be structured. The button response to user interactions can be programmed as needed using native code.

UI Development with Flutter

Making UIs with Flutter Embedder is streamlined, fast, and intuitive. Developers can customize the UI to a great extent with the availability of a wide range of widgets.

All the UI components of a Flutter app like buttons, text fields, layouts, and more, are built using widgets. The ability to reuse widgets and create complex GUIs with minimal code is what sets Flutter apart.

The Embedder and Flutter Engine Communication

One fundamental aspect of Flutter's architecture is the communication between the Flutter Embedder and the Flutter Engine. The engine, predominantly written in C++, hosts a variety of core technologies such as Skia (for rendering) and Dart runtime (for executing Dart code).

The Flutter Embedder implements a specific version of the embedder API from the Flutter project that establishes the handshake between application code and the underlying hardware, which in our discussions, is often an embedded device.

This code snippet demonstrates a simple Flutter application that, once compiled and run, communicates with the Flutter engine to display the message "Hello, from the Flutter Engine!" in the device center.

Understanding Flutter Engine

The Flutter Engine is responsible for rasterizing composited scenes whenever a new frame needs to be painted and plays an integral part in determining how text is shaped and rendered by the Skia.

The engine is mainly compiled with the embedder API (for embedder consumption), but it also comes with a few default embedders, including one for Android and another for iOS.

Configuring and Using Flutter Embedder

Configuring and using Flutter Embedder can seem quite a task for beginners, but the process is straightforward once you understand the steps. In this section, we'll guide you through setting up Flutter Embedder.

The configuration process differs marginally depending on the host system's operating system. Subsequently, we'll take a systematic approach to start incorporating Flutter into your development journey—installing the Flutter SDK, setting up an editor (like Visual Studio Code), and creating a simple Flutter app.

Installation of Flutter Embedder

The following command installs Flutter on Ubuntu (18.04 and above), but you can also find instructions for other platforms in Flutter's official documentation.

Implementing Flutter Embedder for Raspberry Pi is more complex and involves cross-compiling Flutter for ARM devices. You need to obtain the engine source code from the engine repository in GitHub, install additional dependencies, and use the Engine Embedder to build the Flutter Shell for ARM devices.

Common Problems and Troubleshooting

Though Flutter is developed meticulously to ensure easy setup, certain issues might arise during the installation. It helps favorably to have some debugging skills while facing these obstacles.

If you encounter any problems while installing or running Flutter, a good starting point is to run Flutter Doctor. This command checks your environment and displays a report of the status of your Flutter installation.

The Future of Flutter Embedder

The future of Flutter and, by extension, the Flutter Embedder, appears to be quite promising. With each passing day, more and more developers are realizing the opportunities that Flutter embedding provides in the space of embedded systems.

Potential areas of expansion could include support for more embedded platforms, performance optimizations for specific hardware configurations, and further continuity in the development workflow. The goal is to make running Flutter on embedded devices, such as Raspberry Pi, as simple as running it on mobile platforms like Android or iOS.

Following such a trend, the number of devices and platforms that can run Flutter is expected to expand, with more emphasis on embedded Linux systems. This expansion will provide developers with even more opportunities to capitalize on the advantages Flutter brings to application development.

Moreover, the Flutter team and the Flutter community prioritize improving Flutter's desktop support, which leverages the same Flutter Embedder API. Desktop platforms, such as Linux, Mac, and Windows, could open a whole new user base area in the near future. Flutter's customization and fast development ethos match beautifully with the far-reaching capabilities of the desktop Linux and embedded Linux platform to create unique and efficient desktop applications.

This simple program will run on a desktop computer like any other application, demonstrating the potential that Flutter holds.

Running Flutter on Various Embedded Systems

The power of the Flutter Embedder shines when we consider its compatibility with various embedded systems. Let's explore two popular use cases: the Raspberry Pi and automotive-grade Linux systems.

Flutter on Raspberry Pi

One of the most popular single-board computers on the market, the Raspberry Pi, can easily run Flutter apps. You can deploy rich, full-featured applications on this compact device, all made possible by the flexibility of the Flutter Embedder.

Moreover, Flutter Pi, a project that enables you to run Flutter on Raspberry Pi, is a testament to the community's active interest in this application. This evolving project provides an excellent way to run Flutter applications on bare metal Raspberry Pi.

This simple app displays the message "Running Flutter on Raspberry Pi" in the center of the screen when run on a Raspberry Pi board.

Flutter for In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems

Another interesting Flutter application made possible by the Embedder is the use of Flutter in automotive systems. Flutter can be employed to develop sophisticated and intuitive in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems.

Utilizing the power of the Wayland backend, Flutter is the ideal choice for designing aesthetically pleasing and responsive IVI systems for Automotive Grade Linux and other automotive operating systems.

This code represents a simple in-vehicle infotainment system interface with three options: Music Player, GPS Navigation, and Vehicle Settings.

The Flutter Embedder's ability to facilitate running Flutter on such diverse hardware significantly contributes to Flutter's versatility and makes it an attractive choice for developers.

Create beautiful Flutter applications for embedded systems!

Bringing an end to this guide, we find ourselves having revealed the power and potential of Flutter Embedder. From understanding the integral role it plays in the architecture of Flutter to enabling Flutter embedding, this exploration offered a nuanced understanding of the power of Flutter.

As we find ourselves amid a tech ecosystem where developers seek tools to build apps more efficiently without compromising on performance or quality, Flutter cements its place as one of the most viable solutions. Its ability to create apps that run smoothly on multiple platforms, from mobiles to embedded systems, is undeniably impressive.

Indeed, the amalgamation of Flutter and the power of embedded systems, escorted by the diligent Flutter team and the supportive Flutter community, holds a promising future, potentially reshaping how we perceive app development.

Are you ready to capitalize on this power and make beautiful Flutter applications for embedded systems? The future of Flutter embedding awaits you!

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

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