Build and release a macOS app

This guide provides a step-by-step walkthrough of releasing a Flutter app to the App Store.

Preliminaries

Before beginning the process of releasing your app, ensure that it meets Apple’s App Review Guidelines.

In order to publish your app to the App Store, you must first enroll in the Apple Developer Program. You can read more about the various membership options in Apple’s Choosing a Membership guide.

Register your app on App Store Connect

Manage your app’s life cycle on App Store Connect (formerly iTunes Connect). You define your app name and description, add screenshots, set pricing, and manage releases to the App Store and TestFlight.

Registering your app involves two steps: registering a unique Bundle ID, and creating an application record on App Store Connect.

For a detailed overview of App Store Connect, see the App Store Connect guide.

Register a Bundle ID

Every macOS application is associated with a Bundle ID, a unique identifier registered with Apple. To register a Bundle ID for your app, follow these steps:

  1. Open the App IDs page of your developer account.
  2. Click + to create a new Bundle ID.
  3. Enter an app name, select Explicit App ID, and enter an ID.
  4. Select the services your app uses, then click Continue.
  5. On the next page, confirm the details and click Register to register your Bundle ID.

Create an application record on App Store Connect

Register your app on App Store Connect:

  1. Open App Store Connect in your browser.
  2. On the App Store Connect landing page, click My Apps.
  3. Click + in the top-left corner of the My Apps page, then select New App.
  4. Fill in your app details in the form that appears. In the Platforms section, ensure that iOS is checked. Since Flutter does not currently support tvOS, leave that checkbox unchecked. Click Create.
  5. Navigate to the application details for your app and select App Information from the sidebar.
  6. In the General Information section, select the Bundle ID you registered in the preceding step.

For a detailed overview, see Add an app to your account.

Review Xcode project settings

This step covers reviewing the most important settings in the Xcode workspace. For detailed procedures and descriptions, see Prepare for app distribution.

Navigate to your target’s settings in Xcode:

  1. In Xcode, open Runner.xcworkspace in your app’s macos folder.
  2. To view your app’s settings, select the Runner project in the Xcode project navigator. Then, in the main view sidebar, select the Runner target.
  3. Select the General tab.

Verify the most important settings.

In the Identity section:

App Category
The app category under which your app will be listed on the Mac App Store. This cannot be none.
Bundle Identifier
The App ID you registered on App Store Connect.

In the Deployment info section:

Deployment Target
The minimum macOS version that your app supports. Flutter supports macOS 10.11 and later.

In the Signing & Capabilities section:

Automatically manage signing
Whether Xcode should automatically manage app signing and provisioning. This is set true by default, which should be sufficient for most apps. For more complex scenarios, see the Code Signing Guide.
Team
Select the team associated with your registered Apple Developer account. If required, select Add Account…, then update this setting.

The General tab of your project settings should resemble the following:

Xcode Project Settings

For a detailed overview of app signing, see Create, export, and delete signing certificates.

The configuration for the product identifiers are centralized in macos/Runner/Configs/AppInfo.xcconfig. For the app’s name, set PRODUCT_NAME, for the copyright set PRODUCT_COPYRIGHT, and finally set PRODUCT_BUNDLE_IDENTIFIER for the app’s bundle identifier.

Updating the app’s version number

The default version number of the app is 1.0.0. To update it, navigate to the pubspec.yaml file and update the following line:

version: 1.0.0+1

The version number is three numbers separated by dots, such as 1.0.0 in the example above, followed by an optional build number such as 1 in the example above, separated by a +.

Both the version and the build number may be overridden in Flutter’s build by specifying --build-name and --build-number, respectively.

In macOS, build-name uses CFBundleShortVersionString while build-number uses CFBundleVersion. Read more about iOS versioning at Core Foundation Keys on the Apple Developer’s site.

Add an app icon

When a new Flutter app is created, a placeholder icon set is created. This step covers replacing these placeholder icons with your app’s icons:

  1. Review the macOS App Icon guidelines.
  2. In the Xcode project navigator, select Assets.xcassets in the Runner folder. Update the placeholder icons with your own app icons.
  3. Verify the icon has been replaced by running your app using flutter run -d macos.

Create a build archive with Xcode

This step covers creating a build archive and uploading your build to App Store Connect using Xcode.

During development, you’ve been building, debugging, and testing with debug builds. When you’re ready to ship your app to users on the App Store or TestFlight, you need to prepare a release build. At this point, you might consider obfuscating your Dart code to make it more difficult to reverse engineer. Obfuscating your code involves adding a couple flags to your build command.

In Xcode, configure the app version and build:

  1. In Xcode, open Runner.xcworkspace in your app’s macos folder.
  2. Select Runner in the Xcode project navigator, then select the Runner target in the settings view sidebar.
  3. In the Identity section, update the Version to the user-facing version number you wish to publish.
  4. In the Identity section, update the Build identifier to a unique build number used to track this build on App Store Connect. Each upload requires a unique build number.

Finally, create a build archive and upload it to App Store Connect:

  1. Open Xcode and select Product > Archive. Run flutter build macos to produce a build archive.

  2. Click the Validate App button. If any issues are reported, address them and produce another build. You can reuse the same build ID until you upload an archive.

  3. After the archive has been successfully validated, click Distribute App. You can follow the status of your build in the Activities tab of your app’s details page on App Store Connect.

You should receive an email within 30 minutes notifying you that your build has been validated and is available to release to testers on TestFlight. At this point you can choose whether to release on TestFlight, or go ahead and release your app to the App Store.

For more details, see Upload an app to App Store Connect.

Create a build archive with Codemagic CLI tools

This step covers creating a build archive and uploading your build to App Store Connect using Flutter build commands and Codemagic CLI Tools executed in a terminal in the Flutter project directory.

  1. Install the Codemagic CLI tools:

    pip3 install codemagic-cli-tools
    
  2. You’ll need to generate an App Store Connect API Key with App Manager access to automate operations with App Store Connect. To make subsequent commands more concise, set the following environment variables from the new key: issuer id, key id, and API key file.

    export APP_STORE_CONNECT_ISSUER_ID=aaaaaaaa-bbbb-cccc-dddd-eeeeeeeeeeee
    export APP_STORE_CONNECT_KEY_IDENTIFIER=ABC1234567
    export APP_STORE_CONNECT_PRIVATE_KEY=`cat /path/to/api/key/AuthKey_XXXYYYZZZ.p8`
    
  3. You need to export or create a Mac App Distribution and a Mac Installer Distribution certificate to perform code signing and package a build archive.

    If you have existing certificates, you can export the private keys by executing the following command for each certificate:

    openssl pkcs12 -in <certificate_name>.p12 -nodes -nocerts | openssl rsa -out cert_key
    

    Or you can create a new private key by executing the following command:

    ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 2048 -m PEM -f cert_key -q -N ""
    

    Later, you can have CLI tools automatically create a new Mac App Distribution and Mac Installer Distribution certificate. You can use the same private key for each new certificate.

  4. Fetch the code signing files from App Store Connect:

    app-store-connect fetch-signing-files YOUR.APP.BUNDLE_ID \
        --platform MAC_OS \
        --type MAC_APP_STORE \
        --certificate-key=@file:/path/to/cert_key \
        --create
    

    Where cert_key is either your exported Mac App Distribution certificate private key or a new private key which automatically generates a new certificate.

  5. If you do not have a Mac Installer Distribution certificate, you can create a new certificate by executing the following:

    app-store-connect create-certificate \
        --type MAC_INSTALLER_DISTRIBUTION \
        --certificate-key=@file:/path/to/cert_key \
        --save
    

    Use cert_key of the private key you created earlier.

  6. Fetch the Mac Installer Distribution certificates:

    app-store-connect list-certificates \
        --type MAC_INSTALLER_DISTRIBUTION \
        --certificate-key=@file:/path/to/cert_key \
        --save
    
  7. Set up a new temporary keychain to be used for code signing:

    keychain initialize
    
  8. Now add the fetched certificates to your keychain:

    keychain add-certificates
    
  9. Update the Xcode project settings to use fetched code signing profiles:

    xcode-project use-profiles
    
  10. Install Flutter dependencies:

    flutter packages pub get
    
  11. Install CocoaPods dependencies:

    find . -name "Podfile" -execdir pod install \;
    
  12. Enable the Flutter macOS option:

    flutter config --enable-macos-desktop
    
  13. Build the Flutter macOS project:

    flutter build macos --release
    
  14. Package the app:

    APP_NAME=$(find $(pwd) -name "*.app")
    PACKAGE_NAME=$(basename "$APP_NAME" .app).pkg
    xcrun productbuild --component "$APP_NAME" /Applications/ unsigned.pkg
    
    INSTALLER_CERT_NAME=$(keychain list-certificates \
              | jq '.[0]
                | select(.common_name
                | contains("Mac Developer Installer"))
                | .common_name' \
              | xargs)
    xcrun productsign --sign "$INSTALLER_CERT_NAME" unsigned.pkg "$PACKAGE_NAME"
    rm -f unsigned.pkg 
    
  15. Publish the packaged app to App Store Connect:

    app-store-connect publish \
        --path "$PACKAGE_NAME"
    
  16. As mentioned earlier, don’t forget to set your login keychain as the default to avoid authentication issues with apps on your machine:

    keychain use-login
    

Distribute to registered devices

TestFlight is not available for distributing macOS apps to internal and external testers. See distribution guide to prepare an archive for distribution to designated Mac computers.

Release your app to the App Store

When you’re ready to release your app to the world, follow these steps to submit your app for review and release to the App Store:

  1. Select Pricing and Availability from the sidebar of your app’s application details page on App Store Connect and complete the required information.
  2. Select the status from the sidebar. If this is the first release of this app, its status is 1.0 Prepare for Submission. Complete all required fields.
  3. Click Submit for Review.

Apple notifies you when their app review process is complete. Your app is released according to the instructions you specified in the Version Release section.

For more details, see Distribute an app through the App Store.

Troubleshooting

The Distribute your app guide provides a detailed overview of the process of releasing an app to the App Store.