Flutter is a super-fast, portable, and delightful framework used to build natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. It leverages the power of Dart, a modern, reactive programming language. Flutter has gained substantial popularity among developers and is extensively used for app development around the world. So, the question is, how do we run a Flutter app in VS Code?
To start with, you need to have Visual Studio Code installed on your machine. You can download it from the official website. Once you have the installer, proceed with the installation. Execute the setup file, follow the instructions, and soon your Visual Studio Code will be installed and ready to create magic. Remember to check your system type before you download VS Code, as it supports both 32-bit and 64-bit systems.
Next, you need to set up Flutter on your machine. Navigate to the Flutter website and choose the appropriate Flutter SDK version for your Operating system. Download and extract the zip file into an appropriate location on your computer. Feel free to refer to the Flutter install instructions for a comprehensive guide on your respective OS.
To create Flutter apps in VS Code, you need to install two extensions from the Visual Studio Marketplace. Open VS Code and navigate to the extensions area, either by clicking on the extension's icon on the left sidebar or using the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+X. Search for ‘Flutter’ and ‘Dart’ extensions using the search bar and install them.
After your environment is set up, creating your first Flutter project is straightforward. Open VS Code, and from your status bar, select Flutter. Open the command palette using Ctrl+Shift+P and type Flutter: New Project. Confirm the new Flutter project's location in your file system and select Flutter's version from the dropdown menu if asked.
The new project will generate some default code. Using the default emulator, or any other target device, you can run and test the application.
Flutter development with VS Code offers a lot of features to speed up your development process. It comprises a handy set of tools, extensions, and commands that make every step easy, from creating a new project and adding new widgets to debugging and deploying the application.
Flutter Inspector is a powerful tool that allows you to explore a tree hierarchy of your Flutter widget. It can be accessed in VS Code from the command palate by searching for Flutter: Open DevTools. Once there, you can select the Inspect Widget button. Hovering your cursor over different parts of your code will highlight them in the running app.
One of the great features of Flutter development is Hot Reload and Hot Restart. The hot reload feature enables you to inject updated source code into a running Dart Virtual Machine (VM). During development, you can use hot reload for instantaneous updates in your app, without needing to completely restart it. The hot restart, although slightly slower than the hot reload, loads your entire application afresh in the virtual machine, reflecting larger changes in your code.
Debugging is an integral step in the process of Flutter app development. Understanding and rectifying errors is much easier with the powerful features VS Code offers. Let's explore some of them:
Setting breakpoints is quite simple. Clicking the space to the left of the line number in the code editor where you want to pause execution will set a breakpoint. When the app hits it while running in debug mode, it will stop allowing you to inspect the problem.
The Debug Console in VS Code can be accessed by searching for Debug: Open Debug Console in the command palette or using a shortcut, Ctrl + Shift + Y. It shows details about the breakpoints, exception points, and any messages logged by your program using the print() method.
Dart DevTools is a suite of debugging and performance tools. It includes features like a source-level debugger, a widget inspector that provides a way to browse the widget tree, and many more. You can open Dart DevTools by searching for Flutter: Open DevTools in the command palette.
The combination of VS Code's simplicity and Flutter's flexibility provides a smooth experience for the app development lifecycle. This guide just scratches the surface of your journey of creating Flutter apps in VS Code. So explore, play around, and discover the joy of bringing your ideas to life with Flutter and VS Code.