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How to build and distribute iOS apps without Mac with Flutter & Codemagic

It’s hard to imagine developing apps for iOS without a Mac computer. There is no sign of this changing any time soon, but there are still ways to build the app for iOS and release it to the App Store even if you don’t have a Mac. With Flutter and Codemagic, you can build and distribute iOS apps without buying a Mac computer yourself.

In this post, we will walk you through how you can create a Flutter app on Linux or Windows and use Codemagic CI/CD to set up code signing for your iOS project and release the application to the App Store. We will be using the Flutter iOS app from Codemagic sample projects in this example.


Build and distribute iOS apps without Mac with Flutter & Codemagic Get started

Before getting started, it’s important to articulate which problem are we going to solve. You cannot develop iOS apps without a Mac computer. This article is about how to build an iOS app and release it to your users. But what’s the difference?

Let’s take a closer look at the problem statement and example use cases before going into the possible solution. Consider this a user story to understand the context before starting feature development.

When can you not use Linux or Windows machine to develop iOS applications?

As you probably may have guessed, having an iOS simulator or debugging iOS-specific issues on macOS is invaluable. Moreover, when a user logs a bug, you need to be able to reproduce the issue and it is likely that the problems that are reported are platform-specific.

I would say one of the most notorious features that are ubiquitous across all apps that you will have to deal with is push notifications. While the iOS simulator will be enough in most cases, there are some scenarios where you should also test your application on a real device, and push notifications are one of them.

When can you build and publish iOS applications without a Mac computer?

One big advantage of Flutter is not having to build a whole new application for just iOS or any other OS for that matter, but using the existing project to ship for all platforms.

You can buy a second-hand Mac and set up your development environment or you can use a free service like Codemagic to build the iOS binary that you can smoke test on an iOS device or share with your first users. This is a great way to move quickly and get your app out.

Try to turn the tables if you are a macOS user and considering releasing a desktop version of your app to Microsoft Partner Center. You could go out and buy a Windows machine to build the application or you can use your existing CI/CD tool and switch the instance type to Windows.

The second most common case I have seen is when you are working in a team and some team members have Mac computers and others have Linux or Windows machines. It would be great once you are ready to merge a PR that the CI will build for all platforms and automatically share the binaries with the QA team rather than asking others to build the binaries or having QA do it.

Developing Flutter apps on Linux or Windows

Flutter is a multi-platform application development framework that enables you, among other platforms, to develop iOS and Android apps from the same source code. However, you need to use Xcode to build an iOS app and Xcode will only work on macOS. You cannot get away with Linux or Windows. We can, however, build and distribute the apps to Google Play Store or Apple App Store using a CI/CD product like Codemagic.

Flutter together with Codemagic makes it possible to release iOS apps for developers using Linux or Windows.

Setting up a development environment for Flutter

Let’s get started by installing Android SDK and Flutter. After that, you can clone the Codemagic sample projects repository from GitHub and we can start working on it right away. We will be using the Flutter Android and iOS demo project. Getting started with Flutter guides are also available on the official website of Flutter docs.

Keep in mind that we can use Linux or Windows to only develop for Android not iOS. We will still get an iOS app by the end of this article that can be deployed to the App Store, but we will use Codemagic CI/CD with a macOS environment to achieve this.

Full Article: Codemagic @ Flutter Community

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