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Introducing Black: The Uncompromising Python Code Formatter


Code formatting is an essential aspect of writing clean, readable, and maintainable code in any programming language. Consistent code formatting not only improves the readability of the code but also enhances collaboration among team members. In the Python ecosystem, “Black” is a popular code formatter that enforces a strict set of formatting rules, providing an opinionated approach to code formatting. In this blog, we will introduce “Black” and explore its features and benefits, along with real-life examples.

What is Black? Black is a Python code formatter that automatically reformats Python code according to a predefined set of rules. It follows the philosophy of “uncompromisingly strict” formatting, which means that it enforces a specific style and does not allow any configuration options. The idea behind Black is to provide a single, definitive style for Python code, eliminating debates and discussions about code formatting within a team or community.

Features of Black

  1. Opinionated Formatting: Black enforces a strict set of formatting rules, providing an opinionated approach to code formatting. It eliminates the need for developers to make decisions about indentation, line length, or other formatting choices, ensuring consistency in the codebase.
  2. Automatic Code Formatting: Black automatically reformats Python code without requiring any manual intervention. It can be integrated into the development workflow, such as during code commits or builds, to ensure that all code follows the same formatting style.
  3. Intelligent Line Wrapping: Black handles line wrapping intelligently, automatically adjusting the line length to conform to the specified maximum line length (default is 88 characters). It takes into account various factors, such as nested expressions, function arguments, and function calls, to determine the optimal line wrapping.
  4. Pythonic Code Generation: Black generates Pythonic code by applying best practices and idiomatic Python coding style. It takes into consideration the official Python style guide (PEP 8) and other Python community conventions, producing code that is clean, readable, and consistent.
  5. Extensible with Pre-commit Hooks: Black can be easily integrated into the development workflow using pre-commit hooks. Pre-commit is a popular framework that allows developers to run various checks and formatters before committing code, helping to catch formatting issues early in the development process.

Benefits of Using Black

  1. Consistent Code Formatting: Black ensures that all code in a project follows a consistent formatting style, eliminating debates and discussions about code formatting. This makes the codebase more readable and maintainable, and improves collaboration among team members.
  2. Improved Developer Productivity: With automatic code formatting, developers don’t have to spend time manually formatting code or debating formatting choices. This saves time and effort, allowing developers to focus on writing code and delivering features faster.
  3. Enhanced Code Quality: Black generates Pythonic code that adheres to best practices and coding standards, improving the overall quality of the code. It helps catch common formatting issues, such as inconsistent indentation or line length violations, leading to more robust and reliable code.
  4. Easy Integration into Development Workflow: Black can be easily integrated into the development workflow using pre-commit hooks, making it seamless to enforce code formatting rules during the development process. It can also be integrated with popular code editors and IDEs, such as VSCode, PyCharm, and Sublime Text, to automatically format code while typing.

Real-Life Examples

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of using Black to format Python code.

Example 1: Formatting a Python Module Consider a Python module named “example.py” with the following code:

def greet( name ):
    print( "Hello, " + name + "!" )

To format this code using Black, we can simply run the following command in the terminal:

black example.py

After running the command, Black will automatically reformat the code according to its predefined rules:

def greet(name):
    print("Hello, " + name + "!")

As we can see, Black has reformatted the code by removing unnecessary spaces, adjusting the indentation, and applying other formatting rules to produce clean and Pythonic code.

Example 2: Integrating Black with pre-commit Hooks
We can also integrate Black into the development workflow using pre-commit hooks. Pre-commit is a popular framework that allows developers to define a set of checks and formatters to run before committing code.

To integrate Black with pre-commit, we need to do the following steps:

  1. Install Black: We can install Black using pip, the Python package manager, as follows:
pip install black
  1. Create a pre-commit Configuration File: We can create a .pre-commit-config.yaml file in the root directory of our project, and define the Black hook as follows:
- repo: https://github.com/psf/black
  rev: stable
    - id: black
  1. Install pre-commit: We can install pre-commit using pip as follows:
pip install pre-commit
  1. Set up pre-commit Hooks: We can set up pre-commit hooks for our project by running the following command in the terminal:
pre-commit install

Now, whenever we try to commit code, pre-commit will automatically run Black and format the code according to its rules before allowing the commit.

Example 3: Using Black with Code Editors/IDEs
Many code editors and IDEs also support integrating Black for automatic code formatting while typing. Here’s an example of how to set up Black with Visual Studio Code (VSCode):

  1. Install the “Python” extension in VSCode.
  2. Install Black using pip, as mentioned earlier.
  3. Open VSCode settings by clicking on “File” -> “Preferences” -> “Settings”
  4. Search for “python.formatting.provider” and set the value to “black”.
  5. Save the settings.

Now, whenever we type Python code in VSCode, Black will automatically format the code according to its rules.


“Black” is a powerful and opinionated Python code formatter that enforces a strict set of formatting rules, providing a consistent and clean coding style. It offers automatic code formatting, intelligent line wrapping, Pythonic code generation, and easy integration into the development workflow with pre-commit hooks. By using Black, developers can ensure consistent code formatting, improve productivity, enhance code quality, and simplify code reviews.

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