Avalonia, The Premier Choice for .NET Developers Targeting Linux

This article examines the landscape of .NET development for Linux, highlighting why Avalonia is the superior choice over .NET MAUI.

Jumar Macato

One topic of conversation that frequently arises is the support for Linux UI development. This article delves into why Avalonia emerges as the superior choice for .NET developers aiming to create applications for Linux. We'll look at the Microsoft-built cross-platform UI framework, .NET MAUI and explain why it's unsuitable for targeting Linux.

The Challenge of Linux Support in .NET MAUI

.NET MAUI is the evolution of Xamarin.Forms and currently does not have plans to add Linux support. This decision seems to stem from the inherent complexities of the Linux ecosystem. Linux, known for its diversity and flexibility, comprises countless distributions, each with its unique setup and requirements. This diversity, while a strength of the Linux platform, poses a significant challenge for UI frameworks that aim to provide a unified development experience.

Avalonia's Edge in Linux Support

Contrasting with .NET MAUI, Avalonia has carved a niche in providing broad and robust support for Linux distributions. Our framework officially supports various Linux distributions, including Debian 9+, Ubuntu 16.04+, and Fedora 30+. Moreover, Avalonia functions seamlessly with many other distributions, with the primary limitation being the support and availability of the .NET SDK and the presence of the X11 system. We are also excited to reveal an internal preview of Wayland support, a feature poised to enhance our Linux capabilities further. Additionally, Avalonia's commitment extends to embedded devices using the frame buffer, ensuring that developers can deploy applications on various Linux-based systems, regardless of their hardware limitations.

Avalonia's prowess in the Linux domain is not just theoretical; it's tangible and demonstrable today. Users can experience Avalonia applications on Linux through renowned software like Lunacy from Icons8 and JetBrains' dotMemory. These applications showcase Avalonia's capability to power complex and large-scale applications, delivering exceptional user experiences. Furthermore, we recently demoed a collaboration between ourselves and UXDivers to create a stunning Linux based HMI demo app designed for the RaspberryPi. You can register to get a copy of the code here

The UI Toolkit Conundrum in Linux

One of the unique challenges in Linux development is the absence of a single, unified UI toolkit. Linux environments are known for their variety in UI toolkits, making it challenging to develop a one-size-fits-all abstraction. As we've discussed before, MAUI isn't technically a UI framework but rather an abstraction API. MAUI abstracts other UI frameworks, which is fine for platforms like iOS, Android, macOS and Windows but becomes difficult for desktop Linux and near impossible for embedded. 

Avalonia's Approach to UI Rendering

In contrast, Avalonia takes a fundamentally different approach. By controlling the rendering of the entire application and not relying on abstracting the platform's UI toolkits, Avalonia achieves unparalleled flexibility. This method allows Avalonia to run on almost any device without the need for a pre-installed UI toolkit or a specific desktop environment. This capability is particularly advantageous for developers targeting lightweight Linux systems, where resources are limited and flexibility is paramount. 

The Practical Implications for .NET Developers

For .NET developers eyeing supporting Linux, the implications are clear. While .NET MAUI offers an impressive cross-platform mobile development experience, its lack of official Linux support limits its utility for desktop and Linux-focused projects. On the other hand, Avalonia stands out with its broad Linux support, flexibility, and mature ecosystem.

Conclusion: Avalonia is the Go-To for .NET Linux Development

Avalonia presents itself as the clear choice for .NET developers who are serious about creating robust, versatile, and efficient Linux applications. It offers immediate availability, a mature framework, and a large, supportive community. Meanwhile, .NET MAUI has made notable advancements over Xamarin.Forms, its approach to Linux support highlights Avalonia's superiority in this domain. Avalonia is more than a framework; it's a gateway to harnessing the full potential of .NET on Linux.

If you're interested in a broader comparison between Avalonia and MAUI, then check out this comprehensive post from last year