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The Best Method for Creating a Navigation Menu in Your Flutter Apps

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Raphael Tang / May 01, 2021

4 min read

By the end of this tutorial, you will know how to use setState to dynamically update the content of the main screen of your app just by using a few simple lines of code in Flutter. You will also be doing that via implementing a floating navigation menu in your app.

We’ll start with an empty flutter application with a Stateful widget so we can update it when we tap on a menu item.

import 'package:flutter/material.dart';

void main() => runApp(MyApp());

class MyApp extends StatefulWidget {  
    
  _MyAppState createState() => _MyAppState();  
}

class _MyAppState extends State<MyApp> {  
  
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {  
    return Container();  
  }  
}

We should also create the classes which represent the screen to switch to when an element of the navigation drawer is tapped.

**// Place this below the _MyAppState class**

class Item1 extends StatelessWidget {  
  
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {  
    return Scaffold(  
      body: Text('Item 1'),  
    );  
  }  
}

class Item2 extends StatelessWidget {  
  
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {  
    return Scaffold(  
      body: Text('Item 2'),  
    );  
  }  
}

Now, we can proceed with creating the navigation drawer.

Inside _MyAppState, create a MaterialApp which contains the AppBar with the Drawer. This creates the foundation for the navigation drawer.

**// class _MyAppState**

return MaterialApp(  
  title: 'NavBar Tutorial',  
  home: Scaffold(  
    appBar: AppBar(  
      title: Text('NavBar Tutorial'),  
    ),  
    drawer: Drawer(  
      child: ListView(  
        padding: EdgeInsets.zero,  
        children: <Widget>[  
          **// Drawer items go in here**  
        ],  
      ),  
    ),  
  ),  
);

We can now put items into the navigation drawer.

**// class _MyAppState**

drawer: Drawer(  
  child: ListView(  
    padding: EdgeInsets.zero,  
    children: <Widget>[  
      ListTile(  
        title: Text('Item 1'),  
        onTap: () {  
          **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
        },  
      ),  
      ListTile(  
        title: Text('Item 2'),  
        onTap: () {  
          **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
        },  
      ),  
    ],  
  ),  
),

We need to remove the padding so that items do not get squished inside the Drawer.

Looking back at the top class, before we call the build function, we should create a Widget variable so that we can dynamically update the main screen when we tap something in the navigation drawer.

**// Your _MyAppState should now look something like this**

class _MyAppState extends State<MyApp> {  
  Widget mainWidget = Item1(); **// Add this here**


  Widget build(BuildContext context) {  
    return MaterialApp(  
      title: 'NavBar Tutorial',  
      home: Scaffold(  
        appBar: AppBar(  
          title: Text('NavBar Tutorial'),  
        ),  
        drawer: Drawer(  
          child: ListView(  
            padding: EdgeInsets.zero,  
            children: <Widget>[  
              ListTile(  
                title: Text('Item 1'),  
                onTap: () {  
                  **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
                },  
              ),  
              ListTile(  
                title: Text('Item 2'),  
                onTap: () {  
                  **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
                },  
              ),  
            ],  
          ),  
        ),  
      ),  
    );  
  }  
}

Now, we can tell flutter what to do when an item from the navigation bar is tapped. 🥳

Inside the onTap function, we can tell flutter that we want to update the main screen with the Item1 widget. How do we do that?

We can use the setState function built into Stateful widgets in flutter!

This is how your Drawer's ListView should now look like:

ListTile(  
  title: Text('Item 1'),  
  onTap: () {  
    **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
    setState(() {  
      mainWidget = Item1();  
    });  
  },  
),  
ListTile(  
  title: Text('Item 2'),  
  onTap: () {  
    **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
    setState(() {  
      mainWidget = Item2();  
    });  
  },  
),

Now, when you tap an item in the navigation menu, the main app screen will just update to the tapped item. 🥳

When you tap the item though, the navigation drawer does not close. How can we fix that?

We can do that by using the Navigator in flutter to navigate back by 1 screen

**// Inside onTap**

onTap: () {  
  **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
  setState(() {  
    mainWidget = Item1();  
  });  
  Navigator.pop(context);  
},

In order for the navigation drawer to work, we still need to do 1 thing; Add a body to the Scaffold.

**// After that, your _MyAppState class should now look something like this**

class _MyAppState extends State<MyApp> {  
  Widget mainWidget = Item1();

  
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {  
    return MaterialApp(  
      title: 'NavBar Tutorial',  
      home: Scaffold(  
        appBar: AppBar(  
          title: Text('NavBar Tutorial'),  
        ),  
        drawer: Drawer(  
          child: ListView(  
            padding: EdgeInsets.zero,  
            children: <Widget>[  
              ListTile(  
                title: Text('Item 1'),  
                onTap: () {  
                  **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
                  setState(() {  
                    mainWidget = Item1();  
                  });  
                  Navigator.pop(context);  
                },  
              ),  
              ListTile(  
                title: Text('Item 2'),  
                onTap: () {  
                  **// What happens after you tap the navigation item**  
                  setState(() {  
                    mainWidget = Item2();  
                  });  
                  Navigator.pop(context);  
                },  
              ),  
            ],  
          ),  
        ),  
        body: mainWidget, **// Here**  
      ),  
    );  
  }  
}

Just like that, you have a navigation menu that doesn’t take you to a new screen but updates the main screen itself. 😋


Thanks for reading this article. I hope it helps!

Made with ❤ by Raphael.

Header image by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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