Dart SDK process for changes behind experimental flags

Problem statement

The Dart SDK ships via a number of channels:

Each of these channels use varying release calendars, and keeping these entirely aligned is not practical. Further, a number of developers interested in staying current with Dart changes, consume the Dart SDK via our dev channel. As a result, we should anticipate that any dev channel build has the potential to end up as a shipped SDK though some channel. And as a consequence of that, it is critical that we keep the quality of our dev channel high AND that we keep it consistent wrt. which features are complete and supported. At the same time, we need the ability to land incomplete features to facilitate a number of tasks:

  • Compose a feature that spans multiple components/areas
  • Automated testing prior to the full completion of the feature
  • Allow partner teams to get a preview of a future feature
  • Allow customers to get a preview of a future feature
  • Etc.


To ensure completed & supported features can be differentiated from incomplete features in-progress, we will put all in-progress features behind a single set of flags. Changes to features behind these flags are not considered breaking (even if the feature behind the flag was in a stable SDK), and they are subject to removal at any time. For details about breaking changes, see the breaking change process.

All new features that meet one of the following criteria must be developed behind a flag (when possible):

  • All breaking changes
  • All language changes

Further, it is recommended to consider developing behind a flag when:

  • Landing larger, user-visible changes which will be in an intermediate state over several weeks and perhaps even releases
  • Making changes with the potential to have significant negative performance impact for several weeks and perhaps even across releases


Flag format for CLI-based tools

Flags consist of one or more words, combined using dashes, using all lower-case. The single source of truth of these flags shall be a single shared .dart file. The tools are expected to offer a framework for querying these flags so that the implementation of the tools can easily access new flags.

The flags are passed to CLI-based tools using the --enable-experiment flag Multiple flags can be passed by using multiple flags, or by passing several comma-separated flags. Examples:

dart --enable-experiment super-mixins
dart --enable-experiment super-mixins,no-slow-checks,preview-dart3
dart --enable-experiment super-mixins --enable-experiment no-slow-checks --enable-experiment preview-dart3

If the user passes a flag that is not recognized (for example, when the flag is no longer supported), the tool is required to inform about this by printing to stderr, and not fail.

dart --enable-experiment better-mixins
Unknown experiment flag 'better-mixins'.

Flag format for UI-based tools (IDEs/editors/etc.)

IDEs and editors which offer the ability to invoke Dart tools, must support passing these flags. The support should be generic and flexible so that no UI change is required when we add or remove a flag. This is expected to take one of two forms:

  • Experiments affecting analysis can be enabled in analysis_options.yaml under a single enable-experiment: key, e.g. to enable the flags super-mixins & no-slow-checks:

        - super-mixins
        - no-slow-checks
  • Experiments affecting launch/run behavior, can be enabled in the IDE specific run Configuration, by passing the same --enable-experiment flag as listed in the CLI section.