Six Questions for Eric Windmill, author of Flutter in Action

By Frances Lefkowitz, Development Editor, Manning Publications

Eric Windmill is a Dart developer at AppTree, a PaaS company in Portland, Oregon. He writes frequently about his favorite programming technologies, including Flutter, an SDK from Google for building cross-platform mobile apps with Dart. You can find his articles at Flutter By Example, CSS Tricks, and EricWindmill.com. He also has his Sommelier certification and has worked in bourbon distilleries in his home state of Kentucky.


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When and why did you first start using Flutter?
 

In September 2017 I started my current job at AppTree in Portland. I had never heard of Flutter, but was hired to help rewrite our iOS and Android clients in Flutter—which was still in beta then. In retrospect, this isn’t as crazy as it sounded to me at the time, because conceptually Flutter is similar to ReactJS, Vue and other modern, reactive front-end programming.

 

Was Flutter your introduction to building mobile apps, or had you experimented with other SDKs?
 

I’m a web developer. Flutter turned me into a mobile developer overnight. I had built one app with some friends in React Native in the past, but all I learned from that experience was to avoid XCode like the plague. It wasn’t until Flutter and AppTree that I really dug into mobile as a platform.

 

Who should read your book?
 

The book is probably best suited for someone who’s written apps before, be it web or mobile, but if you have just six months of experience, and understand the foundations of app development, you’ll enjoy the book. At the same time, if you’re a seasoned developer that just wants to know about Flutter and Dart specifically, you’ll find value here, too. I’m taking measures to section off the book in a way that lets you work at your pace and from your skill level, wherever that may be. For example, I have a section about Object Oriented Programming that’s fairly in-depth, but right from the start of the section I warn readers that if they’re coming from Java or some other object-oriented language, they should skip the section.

 

What would you say to someone using one of the other app-building tools, to convince them to give Flutter a try?
 

React Native is the hottest thing out there, and it’s a great option for JavaScript and web developers, because it’s just writing ReactJS. But there are two reasons that I think Flutter is the future compared to other options. First, the whole SDK has truly been executed very well. The environment and developer experience is second to none. Unlike React Native, everything works. Debugging your build in XCode—one of the most frustrating things about building mobile apps—isn’t something you have to worry about. It’s unbelievably easy to get started and be productive. If that wasn’t enough, the second selling point is that it out performs all other mobile SDKs. It compiles ahead-of-time to native code for both platforms, unlike other options, so the apps run smooth as butter.

 

What kinds of apps is Flutter best suited to building?
 

The one thing it doesn’t do is 3D rendering, so you probably aren’t going to reach for it to build a game (though some simpler puzzle games have been made with it). Other than that, it’s ideal for making any app. I see it used a lot for branded apps: Posse has made some beautiful apps for SixPoint Brewing and Hamilton. But also, Hookle made a social media management app with Flutter, and Google uses it for AdWords. At my work, our core platform is on Flutter. We have many clients with many different needs, including managing time cards and calendars, shopping carts, and municipalities’ physical departments working out in the field. My boss loves to use the example that many of our users are literally down in manholes, so our app has to work offline, so even when our clients are very computing heavy, Flutter works for us.

 

Since you’re a sommelier, I have to ask: red or white?
 

Impossible to choose. I drink more red, but certain foods and situations call for white. If I had to choose one thing to drink for the rest of my life, it’d be Champagne. It’s the only wine that you can pair with anything and nothing at all just as well. And it’s delicious.