Continuous delivery with Flutter

Follow continuous delivery best practices with Flutter to make sure your application is delivered to your beta testers and validated on a frequent basis without resorting to manual workflows.

CI/CD Options

There are a number of continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) options available to help automate the delivery of your application.

All-in-one options with built-in Flutter functionality

Integrating fastlane with existing workflows

You can use fastlane with the following tooling:

This guide shows how to set up fastlane and then integrate it with your existing testing and continuous integration (CI) workflows. For more information, see “Integrating fastlane with existing workflow”.

fastlane

fastlane is an open-source tool suite to automate releases and deployments for your app.

Local setup

It’s recommended that you test the build and deployment process locally before migrating to a cloud-based system. You could also choose to perform continuous delivery from a local machine.

  1. Install fastlane gem install fastlane or brew install fastlane. Visit the fastlane docs for more info.
  2. Create your Flutter project, and when ready, make sure that your project builds via
    • Android flutter build appbundle; and
    • iOS flutter build ios --release --no-codesign.
  3. Initialize the fastlane projects for each platform.
    • Android In your [project]/android directory, run fastlane init.
    • iOS In your [project]/ios directory, run fastlane init.
  4. Edit the Appfiles to ensure they have adequate metadata for your app.
    • Android Check that package_name in [project]/android/fastlane/Appfile matches your package name in AndroidManifest.xml.
    • iOS Check that app_identifier in [project]/ios/fastlane/Appfile also matches Info.plist’s bundle identifier. Fill in apple_id, itc_team_id, team_id with your respective account info.
  5. Set up your local login credentials for the stores.
    • Android Follow the Supply setup steps and ensure that fastlane supply init successfully syncs data from your Play Store console. Treat the .json file like your password and do not check it into any public source control repositories.
    • iOS Your iTunes Connect username is already in your Appfile’s apple_id field. Set the FASTLANE_PASSWORD shell environment variable with your iTunes Connect password. Otherwise, you’ll be prompted when uploading to iTunes/TestFlight.
  6. Set up code signing.
    • Android Follow the Android app signing steps.
    • iOS On iOS, create and sign using a distribution certificate instead of a development certificate when you’re ready to test and deploy using TestFlight or App Store.
      • Create and download a distribution certificate in your Apple Developer Account console.
      • open [project]/ios/Runner.xcworkspace/ and select the distribution certificate in your target’s settings pane.
  7. Create a Fastfile script for each platform.
    • Android On Android, follow the fastlane Android beta deployment guide. Your edit could be as simple as adding a lane that calls upload_to_play_store. Set the aab argument to ../build/app/outputs/bundle/release/app-release.aab to use the app bundle flutter build already built.
    • iOS On iOS, follow the fastlane iOS beta deployment guide. Your edit could be as simple as adding a lane that calls build_ios_app with export_method: 'app-store' and upload_to_testflight. On iOS an extra build is required since flutter build builds an .app rather than archiving .ipas for release.

You’re now ready to perform deployments locally or migrate the deployment process to a continuous integration (CI) system.

Running deployment locally

  1. Build the release mode app.
    • Android flutter build appbundle.
    • iOS flutter build ios --release --no-codesign. No need to sign now since fastlane will sign when archiving.
  2. Run the Fastfile script on each platform.
    • Android cd android then fastlane [name of the lane you created].
    • iOS cd ios then fastlane [name of the lane you created].

Cloud build and deploy setup

First, follow the local setup section described in ‘Local setup’ to make sure the process works before migrating onto a cloud system like Travis.

The main thing to consider is that since cloud instances are ephemeral and untrusted, you won’t be leaving your credentials like your Play Store service account JSON or your iTunes distribution certificate on the server.

Continuous Integration (CI) systems generally support encrypted environment variables to store private data.

Take precaution not to re-echo those variable values back onto the console in your test scripts. Those variables are also not available in pull requests until they’re merged to ensure that malicious actors cannot create a pull request that prints these secrets out. Be careful with interactions with these secrets in pull requests that you accept and merge.

  1. Make login credentials ephemeral.
    • Android On Android:
      • Remove the json_key_file field from Appfile and store the string content of the JSON in your CI system’s encrypted variable. Read the environment variable directly in your Fastfile.
        upload_to_play_store(
          ...
          json_key_data: ENV['<variable name>']
        )
        
      • Serialize your upload key (for example, using base64) and save it as an encrypted environment variable. You can deserialize it on your CI system during the install phase with
        echo "$PLAY_STORE_UPLOAD_KEY" | base64 --decode > [path to your upload keystore]
        
    • iOS On iOS:
      • Move the local environment variable FASTLANE_PASSWORD to use encrypted environment variables on the CI system.
      • The CI system needs access to your distribution certificate. fastlane’s Match system is recommended to synchronize your certificates across machines.
  2. It’s recommended to use a Gemfile instead of using an indeterministic gem install fastlane on the CI system each time to ensure the fastlane dependencies are stable and reproducible between local and cloud machines. However, this step is optional.
    • In both your [project]/android and [project]/ios folders, create a Gemfile containing the following content:
        source "https://rubygems.org"
      
        gem "fastlane"
      
    • In both directories, run bundle update and check both Gemfile and Gemfile.lock into source control.
    • When running locally, use bundle exec fastlane instead of fastlane.
  3. Create the CI test script such as .travis.yml or .cirrus.yml in your repository root.
    • See fastlane CI documentation for CI specific setup.
    • Shard your script to run on both Linux and macOS platforms.
    • During the setup phase of the CI task, do the following:
      • Ensure Bundler is available using gem install bundler.
      • Run bundle install in [project]/android or [project]/ios.
      • Make sure the Flutter SDK is available and set in PATH.
      • For Android, ensure the Android SDK is available and the ANDROID_SDK_ROOT path is set.
      • For iOS, you may have to specify a dependency on Xcode (for example osx_image: xcode9.2).
    • In the script phase of the CI task:
      • Run flutter build appbundle or flutter build ios --release --no-codesign, depending on the platform.
      • cd android or cd ios
      • bundle exec fastlane [name of the lane]