Fetch data from the internet

Fetching data from the internet is necessary for most apps. Luckily, Dart and Flutter provide tools for this type of work!

Directions

  1. Add the http package
  2. Make a network request using the http package
  3. Convert the response into a custom Dart object
  4. Fetch and Display the data with Flutter

1. Add the http package

The http package provides the simplest way to fetch data from the internet.

To install the http package, we need to add it to the dependencies section of our pubspec.yaml. We can find the latest version of the http package on the pub website.

dependencies:
  http: <latest_version>

2. Make a network request

In this example, we’ll fetch a sample post from the JSONPlaceholder REST API using the http.get method.

Future<http.Response> fetchPost() {
  return http.get('https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts/1');
}

The http.get method returns a Future that contains a Response.

  • Future is a core Dart class for working with async operations. It is used to represent a potential value or error that will be available at some time in the future.
  • The http.Response class contains the data received from a successful http call.

3. Convert the response into a custom Dart object

While it’s easy to make a network request, working with a raw Future<http.Response> isn’t very convenient. To make our lives easier, we can convert the http.Response into our own Dart object.

Create a Post class

First, we’ll need to create a Post class that contains the data from our network request. It will also include a factory constructor that allows us to create a Post from json.

Converting JSON by hand is only one option. For more information, please see the full article on JSON and serialization.

class Post {
  final int userId;
  final int id;
  final String title;
  final String body;

  Post({this.userId, this.id, this.title, this.body});

  factory Post.fromJson(Map<String, dynamic> json) {
    return Post(
      userId: json['userId'],
      id: json['id'],
      title: json['title'],
      body: json['body'],
    );
  }
}

Convert the http.Response to a Post

Now, we’ll update the fetchPost function to return a Future<Post>. To do so, we’ll need to:

  1. Convert the response body into a json Map with the dart:convert package.
  2. If the server returns an “OK” response with a status code of 200, convert the json Map into a Post using the fromJson factory.
  3. If the server returns an unexpected response, throw an error
Future<Post> fetchPost() async {
  final response =
      await http.get('https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts/1');

  if (response.statusCode == 200) {
    // If server returns an OK response, parse the JSON
    return Post.fromJson(json.decode(response.body));
  } else {
    // If that response was not OK, throw an error.
    throw Exception('Failed to load post');
  }
}

Hooray! Now we’ve got a function that we can call to fetch a Post from the internet!

4. Fetch and Display the data

In order to fetch the data and display it on screen, we can use the FutureBuilder widget! The FutureBuilder Widget comes with Flutter and makes it easy to work with async data sources.

We must provide two parameters:

  1. The Future we want to work with. In our case, we’ll call our fetchPost() function.
  2. A builder function that tells Flutter what to render, depending on the state of the Future: loading, success, or error.
FutureBuilder<Post>(
  future: fetchPost(),
  builder: (context, snapshot) {
    if (snapshot.hasData) {
      return Text(snapshot.data.title);
    } else if (snapshot.hasError) {
      return Text("${snapshot.error}");
    }

    // By default, show a loading spinner
    return CircularProgressIndicator();
  },
);

5. Moving the fetch call out of the build() method

Although it’s convenient, it’s not recommended to put a call to an API in your build() method.

Flutter calls the build() method every time it wants to change anything in the view, and this happens surprisingly often. If you leave the fetch call in your build() method, you’ll flood the API with unnecessary calls and slow down your app.

Here are some better options so it’ll only hit the API when the page is initially loaded.

Pass it into a StatelessWidget

With this strategy, the parent widget is responsible for calling the fetch method, storing its result, and then passing it to your widget.

class MyApp extends StatelessWidget {
  final Future<Post> post;

  MyApp({Key key, this.post}) : super(key: key);

You can see a working example of this in the complete example below.

Call it in the lifecycle of a StatefulWidget’s state

If your widget is stateful, you can call the fetch method in either the initState or didChangeDependencies methods.

initState is called exactly once and then never again. If you want to have the option of reloading the API in response to an InheritedWidget changing, put the call into the didChangeDependencies method. See State for more details.

class _MyAppState extends State<MyApp> {
  Future<Post> post;

  @override
  void initState() {
    super.initState();
    post = fetchPost();
  }

Testing

For information on how to test this functionality, please see the following recipes:

Complete example

import 'dart:async';
import 'dart:convert';

import 'package:flutter/material.dart';
import 'package:http/http.dart' as http;

Future<Post> fetchPost() async {
  final response =
      await http.get('https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts/1');

  if (response.statusCode == 200) {
    // If the call to the server was successful, parse the JSON
    return Post.fromJson(json.decode(response.body));
  } else {
    // If that call was not successful, throw an error.
    throw Exception('Failed to load post');
  }
}

class Post {
  final int userId;
  final int id;
  final String title;
  final String body;

  Post({this.userId, this.id, this.title, this.body});

  factory Post.fromJson(Map<String, dynamic> json) {
    return Post(
      userId: json['userId'],
      id: json['id'],
      title: json['title'],
      body: json['body'],
    );
  }
}

void main() => runApp(MyApp(post: fetchPost()));

class MyApp extends StatelessWidget {
  final Future<Post> post;

  MyApp({Key key, this.post}) : super(key: key);

  @override
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {
    return MaterialApp(
      title: 'Fetch Data Example',
      theme: ThemeData(
        primarySwatch: Colors.blue,
      ),
      home: Scaffold(
        appBar: AppBar(
          title: Text('Fetch Data Example'),
        ),
        body: Center(
          child: FutureBuilder<Post>(
            future: post,
            builder: (context, snapshot) {
              if (snapshot.hasData) {
                return Text(snapshot.data.title);
              } else if (snapshot.hasError) {
                return Text("${snapshot.error}");
              }

              // By default, show a loading spinner
              return CircularProgressIndicator();
            },
          ),
        ),
      ),
    );
  }
}