Writing a Pub Transformer

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Every time you prepare a Dart app for testing or deployment, you are using transformers behind the scenes. The pub tool uses the dart2js compiler to “transform” (compile) Dart files to JavaScript.

While you are using at least one transformer every time you run a Dart app, you may never need to write a transformer, in which case you can stop reading now.

Before reading further, read Pub Assets and Transformers to familiarize yourself with assets, transformers, and how they relate to each other.

You can write different kinds of transformers depending on the type of work you need to perform. A basic Pub transformer processes a single input asset. If you need to process multiple inputs with no single primary input–you want to combine several images into one image, for example–you can write an aggregate transformer. For more information, see Writing an Aggregate Tranformer.

This page uses two examples, SimpleTransformer and MarkdownConverter, which you can find through Examples of Transformer Code.

Implementing a transformer

A transformer is a Dart class that extends the Transformer class from the barback package. Barback, developed by the Dart team and available at pub.dartlang.org, provides a system for building assets.

Choose a file name and location

A transformer’s code goes into one of the following locations:

  • For a package that only implements a transformer, you can put the code into <package>.dart in the lib directory. This is what you want in most situations.

  • For a larger project where you want the transformer’s code to be in a library under lib/src, you can put the transformer code into lib/src/ and add the export statement for the library to lib/<package>.dart.

  • If the transformer can’t coexist with the main package code, you can put the code into a file named transformer.dart. For example, let’s say your client app depends on dart:html but the transformer depends on dart:io because it makes an HTTP request. In this case, put the code into transformer.dart, under lib or lib/src, depending on your package.

  • You can also put your transformer code into another file, such as lib/stuff/myfile.dart.

The transformer’s file name and location affect how you set up the pubspec. See Add the transformer for more details.

Get barback

In your transformer’s main Dart file, import the barback package:

import 'package:barback/barback.dart';

In your package’s pubspec.yaml file, add a dependency on the barback package:

  barback: ^0.15.2

Extend Transformer

In the file with your transformer subclass, extend the Transformer class from the barback package:

class MyTransformer extends Transformer { ... }

Define asPlugin

The asPlugin constructor can be empty, but it must be present, and it must be named asPlugin. Its presence is how pub determines that you want this class to be publicly available as a loadable transformer plugin.


You can also define a single-argument asPlugin(BarbackSettings) constructor that you can use to pass information to the transformer.

For example, say you want a transformer to execute when your app is deployed, but not during the development process, when you are debugging. You can achieve this by using the mode option. The mode value defaults to “debug” for pub serve and “release” for pub build, but the value can be configured to use any string for either command.

The following code shows how this might look:

class InsertCopyright extends Transformer {
  final BarbackSettings _settings;


  Future apply(Transform transform) {
    // Skip the transform in debug mode.
    if (_settings.mode.name == 'debug') return;

    // Apply the transform.
    // ...

For more information on the mode option, see pub serve and pub build.

Claim input assets

A transformer can limit which assets that it processes. It can do this in one of two ways:

  • Implement allowedExtensions to return a space-separated list of file extensions. The following code, from markdown_converter, limits input assets to those files with one of three Markdown file extensions:
String get allowedExtensions => ".md .markdown .mdown";
  • Override isPrimary(). The following code limits input assets to those from a top-level directory named sources:
Future<bool> isPrimary(AssetId id) {
  return new Future.value(id.path.startsWith('sources/');

Note that defining allowedExtensions is shorthand for defining an isPrimary method that only checks the extension of the asset ID’s path. If you need to perform any other checks, you must explicitly define isPrimary().

If you don’t override either allowedExtensions or isPrimary(), then the transformer gets the opportunity to process all assets.

Process input assets

To process assets, implement the apply() method. In this method, you read each asset from the passed-in transform, manipulate it, and write out the new asset.

The following example, from SimpleTransformer, inserts a copyright string at the beginning of the input asset:

String copyright =
  "Copyright (c) 2014, the Example project authors.\n";

Future apply(Transform transform) async {
  var content = await transform.primaryInput.readAsString();
  var id = transform.primaryInput.id;
  var newContent = copyright + content;
  transform.addOutput(new Asset.fromString(id, newContent));

Produce output assets

To write data to an output asset, use Transformer’s addOutput() method.

The previous example writes data to a new output asset like this:

var id = transform.primaryInput.id;
transform.addOutput(new Asset.fromString(id, newContent));

That code creates a new asset with the same name and file extension as the input asset. For example, if the input asset is test.txt, the output asset is test.txt.

You can create an output with any name or file extension. The only restriction is that the output asset must end up in the same package as the primary input.

You can construct an AssetId directly:

new AssetId("package", "some/path.ext");

To create an output with a different file extension than the input, or with a new file extension, use one of the following AssetId methods:

  • changeExtension()
  • addExtension()

The MarkdownConverter example converts Markdown to HTML and replaces the original file extension with .html, as follows:

var id = transform.primaryInput.id.changeExtension(".html");

String newContent = ...;
transform.addOutput(new Asset.fromString(id, newContent));

Configuring pubspec

Add the transformer and the barback dependency to the pubspec.yaml file.

Add the transformer

To apply a transformer to the assets in your package, list it in your pubspec. If your transformer is implemented in lib/<package>.dart or lib/transformer.dart, add the following to your pubspec:

- <pkgname>

SimpleTransformer’s package name (as specified in the pubspec) is simple_transformer, so here’s the pubspec entry that specifies running SimpleTransformer’s transformer:

- simple_transformer

If you put your transformer class into a file other than <package>.dart or transformer.dart—for example, lib/stuff/insert_copyright.dart—you add it to the pubspec file like this:

- simple_transformer/stuff/insert_copyright

Depend on barback

You also need to add barback as a dependency in your package’s pubspec, as described in get barback.

Running the transformer

Assets can be in any directory in the package. However, if you want an asset to be publicly available to another package, it must be in the lib directory. You can organize the assets underneath lib using any structure that you want. See Where to put assets and How to refer to assets for specifics.

The pub build, pub serve, and pub run commands automatically run transformers. For more information, see How transformers work.

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