What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a pin that’s passed transversely through an eye or loop in a chain or rope to bind it temporarily. It can also refer to the switch on an electrical cord or wire that’s pushed to turn a light, appliance, or machine on and off.

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The term toggle is also used to describe an on-off command such as the one found on a keyboard that turns the caps lock or num lock functions on and off. It’s also used to describe a mechanism that allows a user to select an option in a menu such as the “options” or “settings” menu in many software applications.

It’s a good practice to use a toggle when designing a web application or interface that requires a user to change a value such as username, password, or other settings. It’s often easier for the user to quickly change a value with a toggle than it would be with a dropdown or text box where they might need to click a Save or Confirm button to apply a new setting.

Some teams also use toggles to enable or disable features in production such as an experimental feature or an enhancement they’re planning for a future release. This approach can help ensure that a new feature or enhancement will not negatively impact existing functionality. In this case it’s typically wise for a team to test their production releases with all toggles flipped On so that they have a chance to identify any unintended consequences of the feature being turned On.

Most teams that use Feature Toggles manage their configuration in some sort of centralized store. This usually takes the form of an existing application DB with a built-out admin UI that allows product managers, testers and systems engineers to view and modify the toggle configuration. Some teams take a more manual approach to managing Feature Flags by hardcoding the toggle configuration in source code. However this can prove cumbersome when a team has to constantly re-deploy their code in order to re-configure a particular toggle and should only be used where the overhead of this manual process is justified.