Flutter as the UX for ASP.NET applications , Confessions of old .NET Developer

John Mcfetridge
Nov 10, 2019 · 7 min read

John Mcfetridge

Oct 31 · 5 min read

In January 2019 a piece of email fluttered into my inbox and I almost blew it away as I thought it was some new photo app. Luckily I opened it and started exploring the Flutter Developer site and what I discovered rocked the world of this old developer. As result I have a couple of confessions I feel compelled to make .

First I must indulge you with a little history and tell you that I am a longtime developer and very experienced in C#, SQL server , Entity Framework(EF) , Javascript(JS) etc. I give new meaning to the term senior developer as have been writing code for 40 years. To me learning and changing is what keeps my mind healthy and writing software is the ultimate brain candy. Most of this has been in Microsoft tools camp and after years of Windows and server development I decided to investigate phone development. Unfortunately, my first move was into the ill-fated Windows Phone arena with Silverlight (yes I am old). Of course the learning curve here was short for us .NET developers but alas the party was not to last as MS threw in the towel after being bashed by Apple and Google. Actually MS had a shot at buying Android but this was one of Bill Gates biggest regrets as you can read here

I then dragged my beaten ass back to the web world with back ends in C# and EF and front end User Experience (UX ) in JavaScript. I developed a few videos on this experience which can be found on my YouTube channel . I realize that these are not the most polished but think there is good information in these that might be helpful to some. They also serve as a reference for myself if I need to revisit a technology as at my age I easily forget things like where my car is parked.

However I was always being tempted to go back into the phone app world but was looking for a cross phone solution. My JS experience lead me to Sencha Touch / PhoneGap. I developed an application called GymPal that I hoped would conquer the fitness world . I think the framework produced a pretty good app but my conclusion was there must be better solutions. I am pretty good in JS but was never totally enamored with the language as I am more comfortable in true Object Oriented (OO )languages like C# and Swift. Yes I know about Typescript! I produced a video on my YouTube channel on using Sencha with .NET. However my interest in GymPal and Sencha faded as I began investigating Xamarin . Now Xamarin is a pretty cool framework and of course is owned by Microsoft . As a C# developer and Visual Studio user there was a short learning curve and this seemed like a match made in heaven so I jumped in. I developed a few apps and you can share some of my experience at. However I became frustrated with the design tool and the limitations of the Forms solution as I was most interested in the cross phone solution. So I decided it was time to go native and jumped into the XCode / Swift world . Now this was a big move for this old Windows hack as of course I had to buy a Mac (OMG!). I sneaked around the Apple store hoping no one would recognize me and when someone did I claimed I walked into wrong store. Actually it turned out to be mostly painless and even fun. Swift is a brilliant language and well , XCode is amazing. I seemed to be on the road to abandoning my cross phone dreams but then along came Flutter and just when I thought a new love was impossible Flutter swept me off my feet ! So my first confession is I have a new love at a very advanced age.

Now you wonder how could this happen to an old C# / JS hack . The first thing I did was go looking for the design tool and after a few hours I realized that there was NONE. Holy cow, how can this be a serious framework without a design tool but then I remembered a JS project that I worked on. It was the TV guide for a few South American countries and there was almost no HTML as the UX was code ! Flutter is much the same and with hot reload there is little need for a design tool. I suspect this might not always be the case as Google probably has a team buried in Siberia working on one. I quickly became comfortable with having a single language for both behavior and layout and do not miss a design tool.

I have another confession to make in that I do not use Visual Studio as my code editor, I prefer using Android Studio and mostly on my Mac ! The end result is a great environment that I love using. I still develop my back ends in ASP.NET using C# and Entity Framework (EF) and here I get to use my Windows 10 machine. Sure there are other great frameworks for back ends out there like Firebase but the above combination of tools is hard to beat especially when one uses EF Code first. I usually deploy these server apps on a shared host like Winhost but have also used Azure. I must add that Azure has some great developer tools such as server side debugging and DOD just awarded a 10 Billion dollar contract to Azure so they must be doing something right .

So I still leverage the skills that I like to believe I acquired after years of experience in .NET for back end. Flutter presents a new and exciting solution to cross phone and Web development for the front end. Now the Web (OK it is only Chrome) is huge to me and the promise that Windows and MAC desktops are not far behind. We then have the hope of a pervasive one stop solution for most UX needs, kind of like the elusive Grand Unifying Theory in Physics. This is so important to small and medium size development teams as we do not have the resources to maintain code for all these different platforms. Now Xamarin and React are good solutions but my money is on Flutter/ Dart. I hope to publish a series of articles on Medium on this great combination of Flutter and .NET.

I will start with a Dart guide for C# developers. I hope I can show you that the learning curve is real short . I have started a blog on Flutter development with .NET back ends where you can find my Dart article. Of course there is much more on this blog including videos. I will add a couple of articles on making secure calls into a ASP.NET service using Identity Services and saving and reading images in SQL databases. However my blog contains videos on these subjects.

So in summary this old C# developer loves Flutter/Dart and has shifted most of my UX development to it using my Mac and Android Studio for my developer tool. I still use my Windows 10 machine and Visual Studio for back end development. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

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