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What are box constraints in Flutter?

Wojtek

Introduction

Sometimes, dealing with box constraints in Flutter can be confusing and unclear. In this shot, we will discuss what they are and how to use them.

Let’s get started!

The basics

A constraint is a set of 4 doubles:

  • maximum height (maxHeight)
  • minimum height (minHeight)
  • maximum width (maxWidth)
  • minimum width (minWidth)

The Flutter layout is an absolute foundation.

As stated in the official documentation:
Constraints go down. Sizes go up. The parent sets the position.

But what does that mean?

  1. A widget gets a constraint from its parent.
  2. Then, it tells its children what their constraints are and asks them for their size.
  3. Then, the widget positions its children in the x and the y axis.
  4. Finally, the widget passes its own size to the parent.

BoxConstraints properties

We can use BoxConstraints in a few different ways.

  1. With a constructor:
constraints: BoxConstraints(
  maxHeight: 300.0,
  maxWidth: 300.0,
  minHeight: 200.0,
  minWidth: 200.0,
),

Here, we can manually set all the constraints.


  1. With the expand property:
constraints: BoxConstraints.expand(),

This will expand the widget in every direction (x and y-axis) to the constraints of its parent.

We can also pass height:

constraints: BoxConstraints.expand(height: 100),

and width:

constraints: BoxConstraints.expand(width: 100),

so that the constraints will require exactly the given value in the given dimension.


  1. With the loose property:
constraints: BoxConstraints.loose(
  Size(200.0, 100.0)
),

This will create box constraints that forbid sizes larger than the given size.

This is equivalent to just setting the maximum height and width:

constraints: BoxConstraints(
  maxHeight: 200.0,
  maxWidth: 100.0,
),

  1. With the tight property:
constraints: BoxConstraints.tight(
  Size(200, 100)
),

which sets

maxHeight = minHeight = size.height
maxWidth = minWidth = size.width

In our case, the equivalent would look something like this:

constraints: BoxConstraints(
  maxHeight: 200.0,
  maxWidth: 200.0,
  minHeight: 100.0,
  minWidth: 100.0,
),

  1. With the tightFor property:
constraints: BoxConstraints.tightFor(),

which accepts height and width arguments and sets:

minWidth = width ?? 0.0,
maxWidth = width ?? double.infinity,
minHeight = height ?? 0.0,
maxHeight = height ?? double.infinity;

  1. With the tightForFinite property:
constraints: BoxConstraints.tightForFinite(),

which accepts height and width arguments (like tightFor), but they are set to double.infinity as a default.

minWidth = width != double.infinity ? width : 0.0,
maxWidth = width != double.infinity ? width : double.infinity,
minHeight = height != double.infinity ? height : 0.0,
maxHeight = height != double.infinity ? height : double.infinity;

Where can we use it?

There is a widget made specifically for setting BoxConstraints called ConstrainedBox. It accepts the constraints argument and looks like this:

child: ConstrainedBox(
  constraints: BoxConstraints(),
  child: Container(),
),

Summary

As you can see, dealing with BoxConstraints in Flutter can be complicated. I hope that, after reading this shot, you understand the basic concept of it.

If you want to know more about this topic, please read “Understanding constraints” from the official Flutter documentation.

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