Google has announced that Flutter, its open source UI development kit for building cross-platform software from the same codebase, is finally available for Windows apps in alpha.
For the world’s leading desktop operating system with some 1 billion installations of Windows 10 alone, this has been a long time coming. Flutter’s alpha incarnation was initially launched at Google’s I/O developer conference back in 2017, before arriving in beta less than a year later. In its original guise, Flutter was designed for Android and iOS app development, but it has since expanded to cover the web, MacOS, and Linux, which are currently available in various alpha or beta iterations.
Developers have had to consider unique platform-specific factors when designing for the desktop or mobile phones, such as different screen sizes and how people interact with their devices. On smartphones, people typically use touch and swipe-based gestures, while keyboards and mice are commonly used on PCs and laptops. This means Flutter has had to expand its support to cover the additional inputs.
Leveraging Google’s own Dart programming language, Flutter enables developers to build apps that feel native to each platform they run on, sharing as much code as possible to avoid duplicating efforts and “embracing differences where they exist,” as Google puts it.
Flutter — like other cross-platform frameworks — encourages developers to think about what they want to build, rather than which device they’re building for. This is arguably more pertinent for smaller companies or independent developers without the resources to target multiple platforms individually, although it also allows larger companies to streamline and consolidate their development processes.
A recent report from JetBrains, a software development company that makes integrated development environments (IDE), found Flutter’s popularity had increased by 9 percentage points in the past year and was second only to Facebook’s React Native among the cross-platform mobile frameworks.
According to Google, Flutter has been used to build more than 100,000 apps for Android on the Google Play Store alone, including from big-name companies such as eBay. As it continues to open support to more form factors, its uptake should rise accordingly. Google said its own data shows that more than half of all Flutter developers use Windows already, so offering native desktop support for Microsoft’s omnipresent operating system makes a great deal of sense.
Flutter supports Windows 7 devices and above, and Google said it will continue to “stabilize” Flutter for Windows in the coming months.