shawn.blais

Shawn has worked as programmer and product designer for over 20 years, shipping several games on Steam and Playstation and dozens of apps on mobile. He has extensive programming experience with Dart, C#, ActionScript, SQL, PHP and Javascript and a deep proficiency with motion graphics and UX design. Shawn is currently the Technical Director for gskinner.

@tree_fortress

Introducing: Flokk – A Desktop App built with Flutter!

After several months of hard work, we’re excited to announce our latest collaboration with Google, Canonical, and the Flutter Team, it’s a cross-platform app called Flokk!

What is it?

Flokk is a Google Contacts Manager, targeting Desktop, that allows you to integrate the Twitter and GitHub activity of your friends and contacts. 

Building Flokk

Flokk was built using the latest master branch of Flutter, and targets Linux, macOS, and Windows (with Web-Support thrown in as a bonus!). We spent a lot of time trying to make it feel like a native Desktop App and are extremely happy with the results. In the end performance was great across all the desktop platforms and rendering was extremely consistent. Flutter Desktop really looks like it could be poised for great things.

We worked closely with the Flutter team throughout the project to identify issues and develop workarounds. We will be posting more in the next couple of weeks about the architecture we used, challenges we faced, and some of the specific solutions we came up with.  

In the meantime you can check out the code right now! The entire project is open-sourced on GitHub at https://github.com/gskinnerTeam/flokk. We’re excited to see what the community does with this project, and encourage you to clone or fork the repository and jump into the code. 

Additionally we’ve posted builds for all operating system and web:

What’s Next?

The current build is in a “production ready” state, but there were still a number of loose ends and features we were hoping to add, including a better narrow-mode menu and animated side-menu. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be posting additional updates, and logging issues in Git for the community to potentially look at.

Flutter: Introducing StatsFl, an FPS monitor for Flutter

As we begin pushing Flutter to more platforms such as Desktop and Web, it is becoming increasingly important to quickly and easily measure performance of your application. While the built-in performance monitor gets the job done, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of readability and flexibility.

As the old school Flash devs we are, we remember the days when virtually every Flash application around would use the hi-res-stats package by mrdoob (yes, that mrdoob). It was extremely helpful to catch performance issues, and make sure your application was smooth (which in those days, was a solid 24fps!).

Currently nothing like that exists in the Flutter community. To help fill this gap, we’ve created StatsFl! Available now on pub.dev: https://pub.dev/packages/statsfl

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Flutter: Create Custom App Themes

There is a lot to like about Flutter, but one area I’m sure no one loves, is taming the Material Theme system! With over 65(!) properties, some of which, like TextTheme, break out into 10 more sub-properties is enough to make you go crazy pretty quick.

Who wants to dive in?

Last week we looked at how you can easily implement TextStyling, and this week we’re going to dive into Color Themes. We’ll take a look at a technique that we use to implement custom app-specific themes, while still providing Material ThemeData to the core Flutter components.

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Flutter: Simplify your PageRoutes

One of the more verbose parts of Flutter is pushing new pages into the Navigator Stack, especially if you want to use something other than the standard Material or Cupertino Routes.

The standard recommendation from Flutter Docs, is to just build your PageRoutes inside your button handlers, and then pass them directly into Navigator from your views. Something like:

Navigator.of(context).push(MaterialPageRoute(builder: (c)=> MyPage()))

This works, but can end duplicated the same code all around your code base replicating the same transitions, violating the core tenant of DRY programming. Additionally if you’re using custom routes, then you’ll be forced to create additional widgets for each type, or worse, copy tons of boilerplate from view to view.

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Flutter: The new ‘animations’ package explained

The Flutter team recently dropped a great new transitions package, based on the new Material 2 design spec, the somewhat ambiguously-named: animations package.

SharedAxis Example

They are super cool to look at and appear to be highly performant. The only issue? The examples they’ve provided with the package are pretty hard to follow (coming in at close to 1500 lines!) and there’s no code snippets at all in the README.

But fear not! This package is actually extremely simple to use once you clear away the noise, and can see how it works.

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Flutter: sized_context – An easier way to access MediaQuery.size!

After sharing our simplified screen size detection example to reddit last week, we received a great suggestion from the community: the concept would work better as a set of extension methods.

The original thought was to add the methods to MediaQuery, which didn’t seem that appealing because it would still be quite verbose to access. Then we realized we could just use the build context directly, which turned out really nice! So nice, that we’ve gone ahead and created a package for it here: https://pub.dev/packages/sized_context.

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Creating Efficient Designer and Developer Collaboration

Flutter Vignettes Showreel
Flutter Vignettes Showreel 2019. Click here to see a full video

It’s already been 2 months since our team finished the Flutter Vignette project and gave a talk at Flutter Interact ’19. Throughout the project, we were able to maintain a healthy designer-developer relationship, which was the key to the successful completion of the project. I want to share 5 things that helped us build an effective and efficient collaboration between designers and developers.

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