Flutter Application

Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. In page you will learn how to pack a Flutter desktop project for Linux using the AppImage format.

For the purpose we will be using a simple hello world application which is available at: https://github.com/AppImageCrafters/appimage-builder-flutter-example

Building the flutter app

We will use the linux desktop target of Flutter to generate our application binaries. This target is currently only available in the beta channel therefore we need to enable it. Once it’s enable we can generate the binaries.

# enable desktop builds
flutter channel beta
flutter upgrade
flutter config --enable-linux-desktop

# build desktop release
flutter build linux

Our application binaries should be somewhere inside the build dir, usually build/linux/x64/release/bundle. We will copy this this folder to our work dir as AppDir:

cp build/linux/x64/release/bundle $PWD/AppDir

Generating the recipe

We will use the –generate method to draft an initial recipe for our project. In the process you’ll be prompted with a set of questions that will help the tool to process your project.

Notice that the application must run in order to properly analyse it’s runtime dependencies.

appimage-builder --generate

Basic Information :
? ID [Eg: com.example.app] : com.example.flutter_hello
? Application Name : Flutter Hello
? Icon : utilities-terminal
? Version : latest
? Executable path relative to AppDir [usr/bin/app] : hello_flutter
? Arguments [Default: $@] : $@
? Update Information [Default: guess] : guess
? Architecture :  amd64

Generating the AppImage

At this point we should have a working recipe that can be used to generate an AppImage from our flutter project. To do so execute appimage-builder and the packaging process will start.

After deploying the runtime dependencies to the AppDir and configuring then the tool will proceed to test the application according to test cases defined in the recipe. This will give us the certainty that our app runs in the target system. It’s up to you to manually verify that all features work as expected. Once the tools completes its execution you should find an AppImage file in your current work dir.

appimage-builder --recipe AppImageBuilder.yml

Polishing the recipe

Hooray! You should have now an AppImage that can be shipped to any GLibC based GNU/Linux distribution. But there is some extra work to do. The recipe we have is made to freeze the current runtime which include certain parts of your system (such as theme modules) that may not be required in the final bundle. Therefore we will proceed to remove them from the recipe.

Grab your favourite text editor and open the AppImageBuilder.yml file.

Deploy binaries from the script section

Every time we run appimage-builder we need to first copy the application binaries into the AppDir. This step can be made part of the recipe as using the script section as follows:

 - rm -rf AppDir | true
 - cp -r build/linux/x64/release/bundle $APPDIR

Notice the usage of the APPDIR environment variable, this is exported by appimage-builder at runtime.

Refine the packages include list

In the apt > include section you may find a list of packages. Those packages that are tightly related to your desktop environment (in my case KDE) or to some external system service can be removed in order to save some space but you will have to always validate the resulting bundle using the tests cases. You can even try to boil down your list to only libgtk-3-0 and manually add the missing libs (if any).

Final recipe

After following the tutorial you should end with a recipe similar to this one. It could be used as starting point if you don’t want to use the –generate method.

# appimage-builder recipe see https://appimage-builder.readthedocs.io for details
version: 1
 - rm -rf AppDir || true
 - cp -r build/linux/x64/release/bundle AppDir
 - mkdir -p AppDir/usr/share/icons/hicolor/64x64/apps/
 - mv AppDir/lib/ AppDir/usr/
 - cp flutter-mark-square-64.png AppDir/usr/share/icons/hicolor/64x64/apps/
  path: ./AppDir
    id: org.appimagecrafters.hello-flutter
    name: Hello Flutter
    icon: flutter-mark-square-64
    version: latest
    exec: hello_flutter
    exec_args: $@
    arch: amd64
    allow_unauthenticated: true
    - sourceline: deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ bionic main restricted universe multiverse
    - sourceline: deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ bionic-updates main restricted universe multiverse
    - sourceline: deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ bionic-backports main restricted universe multiverse
    - sourceline: deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu bionic-security main restricted universe multiverse
    - libgtk-3-0
    - humanity-icon-theme
    - hicolor-icon-theme
    - adwaita-icon-theme
    - ubuntu-mono
    - usr/share/man
    - usr/share/doc/*/README.*
    - usr/share/doc/*/changelog.*
    - usr/share/doc/*/NEWS.*
    - usr/share/doc/*/TODO.*
      image: appimagecrafters/tests-env:fedora-30
      command: ./AppRun
      use_host_x: true
      image: appimagecrafters/tests-env:debian-stable
      command: ./AppRun
      use_host_x: true
      image: appimagecrafters/tests-env:archlinux-latest
      command: ./AppRun
      use_host_x: true
      image: appimagecrafters/tests-env:centos-7
      command: ./AppRun
      use_host_x: true
      image: appimagecrafters/tests-env:ubuntu-xenial
      command: ./AppRun
      use_host_x: true
  arch: x86_64
  update-information: guess
  sign-key: None