Migrating to null safety

This page describes how and when to migrate your code to null safety. Here are the basic steps for migrating each package that you own:

  1. Wait for the packages that you depend on to migrate.
  2. Migrate your package’s code, preferably using the interactive migration tool.
  3. Statically analyze your package’s code.
  4. Test to make sure your changes work.
  5. If the package is already on, publish the null-safe version as a prerelease version.

Screenshot of migration tool The interactive migration tool can simplify migration to null safety.

1. Wait to migrate

We strongly recommend migrating code in order, with the leaves of the dependency graph being migrated first. For example, if package C depends on package B, which depends on package A, then A should be migrated to null safety first, then B, then C.

Illustration of C/B/A sentence

Although you can migrate before your dependencies support null safety, you might have to change your code when your dependencies migrate. For example, if you predict that a function will take a nullable parameter but the package migrates it to be non-nullable, then passing a nullable argument becomes a compile error.

This section tells you how to check and update your package’s dependencies, with the help of the dart pub outdated command in null-safety mode. The instructions assume your code is under source control, so that you can easily undo any changes.

Switch to a 2.12 beta release

Switch to the latest beta release of either the Dart SDK or the Flutter SDK. How you get the latest beta release depends on whether you use the Flutter SDK:

  • If you use the Flutter SDK, switch to the beta channel:

    $ flutter channel beta
    $ flutter upgrade
  • Otherwise, download a beta release from the Dart SDK archive.

Check dependency status

Get the migration state of your package’s dependencies, using the following command:

$ dart pub outdated --mode=null-safety

If the output says that all the packages support null safety, then you can start migrating. Otherwise, use the Resolvable column to find null-safe releases, if they exist.

Here’s an example of the output for a simple package. The green checkmarked version for each package supports null safety:

Output of dart pub outdated

The output shows that all of the package’s dependencies have resolvable prereleases that support null safety.

If any of your package’s dependencies don’t yet support null safety, we encourage you to reach out to the package owner. You can find contact details on the package page on

Update dependencies

Before migrating your package’s code, update its dependencies to null-safe versions:

  1. Update pubspec.yaml to use null-safe releases (as listed in the Resolvable column) of its dependencies. Omit .x suffixes to make version solving more flexible, and don’t update the SDK minimum constraint. For example, the pubspec.yaml file might look like this:
      sdk: '>=2.8.1 <3.0.0'
      path: ^1.8.0-nullsafety
      process: ^4.0.0-nullsafety
      pedantic: ^1.10.0-nullsafety
  2. Run dart pub upgrade.

2. Migrate

Most of the changes that your code needs to be null safe are easily predictable. For example, if a variable can be null, its type needs a ? suffix. A named parameter that shouldn’t be nullable needs to be marked required.

You have two options for migrating:

Using the migration tool

The migration tool takes a package of null-unsafe Dart code and converts it to null safety. You can guide the tool’s conversion by adding hint markers to your Dart code.

Before starting the tool, make sure you’re ready:

  • Use the latest 2.12 beta release of the Dart SDK.
  • Use dart pub outdated --mode=null-safety to make sure that all dependencies are null safe and up-to-date.

Start the migration tool by running the dart migrate command in the directory that contains the package’s pubspec.yaml file:

$ dart migrate

If your package is ready to migrate, then the tool produces a line like the following:

View the migration suggestions by visiting:

Visit that URL in a Chrome browser to see an interactive UI where you can guide the migration process:

Screenshot of migration tool

For every variable and type annotation, you can see what nullability the tool infers. For example, in the preceding screenshot, the tool infers that the ints list (previously a list of int) in line 1 is nullable, and thus should be a list of int?.

Understanding migration results

To see the reasons for each change (or non-change), click its line number in the Proposed Edits pane. The reasons appear in the Edit Details pane.

For example, consider the following code, from before null safety:

var ints = const <int>[0, null];
var zero = ints[0];
var one = zero + 1;
var zeroOne = <int>[zero, one];

The default migration when this code is outside a function (it’s different within a function) is backward compatible but not ideal:

var ints = const <int?>[0, null];
var zero = ints[0];
var one = zero! + 1;
var zeroOne = <int?>[zero, one];

By clicking the line 3 link, you can see the migration tool’s reasons for adding the !. Because you know that zero can’t be null, you can improve the migration result.

Improving migration results

When analysis infers the wrong nullability, you can override its proposed edits by inserting temporary hint markers:

  • In the Edit Details pane of the migration tool, you can insert hint markers using the Add /*?*/ hint and Add /*!*/ hint buttons.

    These buttons add comments to your file immediately, and there’s no Undo. If you don’t want a hint that the tool inserted, you can use your usual code editor to remove it.

  • You can use an editor to add hint markers, even while the tool is still running. Because your code hasn’t opted into null safety yet, you can’t use new null-safety features. You can, however, make changes like refactoring that don’t depend on null-safety features.

    When you’ve finished editing your code, click Rerun from sources to pick up your changes.

The following table shows the hint markers that you can use to change the migration tool’s proposed edits.

Hint marker Effect on the migration tool
expression /*!*/ Adds a ! to the migrated code, casting expression to its underlying non-nullable type.
type /*!*/ Marks type as non-nullable.
/*?*/ Marks the preceding type as nullable.
/*late*/ Marks the variable declaration as late, indicating that it has late initialization.
/*late final*/ Marks the variable declaration as late final, indicating that it has late, one-time initialization.
/*required*/ Marks the parameter as required.

A single hint can have ripple effects elsewhere in the code. In the example from before, manually adding a /*!*/ marker where zero is assigned its value (on line 2) makes the migration tool infer the type of zero as int instead of int?. This type change can affect code that directly or indirectly uses zero.

var zero = ints[0]/*!*/;

With the above hint, the migration tool changes its proposed edits, as the following code snippets show. Line 3 no longer has a ! after zero, and in line 4 zeroOne is inferred to be a list of int, not int?.

First migration Migration with hint
var ints = const <int?>[0, null];
var zero = ints[0];
var one = zero! + 1;
var zeroOne = <int?>[zero, one];
var ints = const <int?>[0, null];
var zero = ints[0]/*!*/;
var one = zero + 1;
var zeroOne = <int>[zero, one];

Applying changes

When you like all of the changes that the migration tool proposes, click Apply migration. The migration tool deletes the hint markers and saves the migrated code. The tool also updates the minimum SDK constraint in the pubspec, which opts the package into null safety.

The next step is to statically analyze your code. If it’s valid, then test your code. Then, if you’ve published your code on, publish a null-safe prerelease.

Migrating by hand

If you prefer not to use the migration tool, you can migrate manually.

We recommend that you first migrate leaf libraries — libraries that don’t import other files from the package. Then migrate libraries that directly depend on the leaf libraries. End by migrating the libraries that have the most intra-package dependencies.

For example, say you have a lib/src/util.dart file that imports other (null-safe) packages and core libraries, but that doesn’t have any import '<local_path>' directives. Consider migrating util.dart first, and then migrating simple files that depend only on util.dart. If any libraries have cyclic imports (for example, A imports B which imports C, and C imports A), consider migrating those libraries together.

To migrate a package by hand, follow these steps:

  1. Edit the package’s pubspec.yaml file, setting the minimum SDK constraint to 2.12.0-0:
      sdk: '>=2.12.0-0 <3.0.0'
  2. Regenerate the package configuration file:

    $ dart pub get

    Running dart pub get with a lower SDK constraint of 2.12.0-0 sets the default language version of every library in the package to 2.12, opting them all in to null safety.

  3. Open the package in your IDE.
    You’re likely to see a lot of analysis errors. That’s OK.

  4. Migrate the code of each Dart file, using the analyzer to identify static errors.
    Eliminate static errors by adding ?, !, required, and late, as needed.

See Unsound null safety for more help on migrating code by hand.

3. Analyze

Update your packages (using pub get in your IDE or on the command line). Then use your IDE or the command line to perform static analysis on your code:

$ dart pub get
$ dart analyze     # or `flutter analyze`

4. Test

If your code passes analysis, run tests:

$ dart test       # or `flutter test`

You might need to update tests that expect null values.

If you need to make large changes to your code, then you might need to remigrate it. If so, revert your code changes before using the migration tool again.

5. Publish

We encourage you to publish packages as prereleases as soon as you migrate:

SDK constraints

Set the lower SDK constraint to the beta version of 2.12 that you used to test the migration, and the upper SDK constraint to <3.0.0. For example, if you’re using 2.12.0-29.10.beta, then your constraints should look like this:

  sdk: '>=2.12.0-29.10.beta <3.0.0'

With these constraints, packages that are published during null safety beta can still work with the next stable release of the Dart SDK.

Package version

Update the version of the package to indicate a breaking change and include a nullsafety suffix:

  • If your package is already at 1.0.0 or greater, increase the major version. For example, if the previous version is 2.3.2, the new version is 3.0.0-nullsafety.0.

  • If your package hasn’t reached 1.0.0 yet, either increase the minor version or update the version to 1.0.0. For example, if the previous version is 0.3.2, the new version is one of the following:

    • 0.4.0-nullsafety.0
    • 1.0.0-nullsafety.0

For subsequent updates to the null-safe prerelease of the package, increment the prerelease suffix. For example, if the first null-safe version is 3.0.0-nullsafety.0, then the next one is 3.0.0-nullsafety.1.

Once null safety is available in a stable release of the Dart SDK, we encourage you to publish a stable version of your null-safe package.

Welcome to null safety

If you made it this far, you should have a fully migrated, null-safe Dart package. If all of the packages you depend on are migrated too, then your program is sound with respect to null-reference errors.

From all of the Dart team, thank you for migrating your code.