Running the client in a separate isolate

Running the client in a separate isolate

The default setup should be sufficient for most use cases. However, normalization and denormalization of big, nested responses can be quite computation heavy and can lead to dropped frames on frontends.

Ferry can help you run your graphql-related code on a separate isolate so that the UI thread does not get blocked when executing big queries.

Since the Ferry Client already is Stream based, the differences in the API between the default Client and the IsolateClient are minimal. If you are just using the request() method of the Client or Operation widgets of ferry_flutter, then the IsolateClient is a drop-in replacement!

The IsolateClient does not, however, offer direct access to the Cache object, but instead offers indirect access via methods like readQuery() or writeFragment(). These methods are asynchronous, as all communication over isolates is asynchrounous.


To run Ferry on a separate Isolate, use the static IsolateClient.create<InitParams>() method. This method receives three parameters and one generic type parameter:

  • <InitParams>: this generic type parameter defines the type of the parameters object which is used to initialze the client. If you don't want to write a separate class for this, you can just use Map<String, dynamic> here. If you don't need parameters to initialize the Client, you can also use the Null type
  • initClient: This function is called on a separate isolate and is responsible for creating the real Ferry Client. This must be a top-level or static function (otherwise it will not be possible to send it to another isolate). When migrating from the standard setup to to isolate-based setup, move the initialization of the Client class to this function. initClient is also called with a SendPort parameter, which can be used to establish custom communication between the two isolates. You can use this for example for synchronizing authentication tokens when the are refreshed.
  • params: a type that contains the parameters used to initialize the client, which will be passed to initClient. Use this to pass endpoint urls, the path to the cache or a authentication token to the other isolate.
  • messageHandler (optional): a function which will be invoked on the main isolate if you send objects through the SendPort passed to initClient. If you want to establish two-way communication, create a new ReceivePort in InitClient and send its SendPort over the SendPort which is the third parameter of initClient. messageHandler will be called with the sendPort and this can be used to send custom messages from the main isolate the the ferry isolate.

A example can be found in examples/pokemon_explorer. In this project. The same App can be run with ferry on the main isolate (main.dart) or a separate isolate (main_isolate.dart).


By default, you will not be able to run code that uses MethodChannels underneath in the new isolate. This means:

  • no SharedPreferences
  • no Hive.initFlutter (Hive.init works, though, also in flutter apps.)
  • no path_provider

If you want to use Hive for the cache, there is a workaround implemented in the pokemon_explorer example app:

  • call (await getApplicationDocumentsDirectory()).path on the main isolate and pass the path to the ferry isolate in the params map
  • use Hive.init with the given path instead of Hive.initFlutter(). Note that Hive is single threaded and you cannot use the same box on multiple isolates, this would lead to data corruption.

If you have an authenticated graphql api and need the auth token on both the main isolate and the ferry isolate, consider one of the following solutions:

  • use a persistence library that can be used across different isolates like drift or isar.
  • use a persistence library like hive, which does not support multiple isolate, can be used on non-main isolates also. However,
    With this approach, the Hive box needs to be opened on the ferry isolate only, the main isolate will not be able the read the auth token.
  • use the SendPort in the InitClient function that runs on the ferry isolate to establish communication between the main isolate and ferry. For example you can send the new authentication token via that sendPort. The main isolate would receive it in its messageHandler and could persist it, for example via SharedPreferences. You can also establish a two-way communication be creating a ReceivePort in the InitClient function and send its sendport to the main isolates messagehandler.

Here's an example on how to wire up SharedPreferences to store the auth token on the main isolate, refresh it on the ferry isolate when needed, and send the new token the the main isolate for shared_preferences to store:

If you implement another approach, feel free to send me a sample code so I can add it here.

updateResult / pagination

If you set updateResult paremeter in queries with the IsolateClient, you need to make sure that the updateResult function can be sent to the ferry isolate. The easiest way to do ensure this to make it a top-level or static function.

The refetch a request, call the addRequestToRequestController method on the IsolateClient.