Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Running pep8 before any commit on Git

Readability counts.

One of the things that made me choose Python as a programming language in the first place was its readability.

PEP 8 —the Style Guide for Python Code— gives coding conventions for the Python code and pep8 is a tool to check your code against these conventions.

I use gedit as my editor and I have installed the developer plugins to check my code against PEP 8 every time I save a file but, as not everyone does this, Érico asked me today about a way to enforce this practice.

I started searching the web and I have compiled (from 1, 2 and 3) a nice solution using a pre-commit hook with Git (this is possible also with Subversion, but I'm not pretty interested on it right now):

First you need to be sure you are running Git version 1.7.1 or later, and that you have pep8 installed in your system (check the package documentation).

Create a directory to store the hooks globally:

mkdir -p ~/.git_template/hooks

Tell Git all new repositories you create or clone will use this directory for templates:

git config --global init.templatedir '~/.git_template'


Put the following script in the ~/.git_template/hooks directory:


Make the file executable:

chmod +x ~/.git_template/hooks/pre-commit

If you want to use this hook on an existing repository all you have to do is reinitialize it:

git init

Now the pre-commit hook script lives in the .git/hooks directory of your repository.

Test it trying to commit some changes: if the files you are trying to commit comply with PEP 8 (excepting the list of errors or warnings to ignore), the commit will be done as usual; if there are any issues, the commit will be aborted until you fix them.

Feel free to modify the list of errors and warnings to ignore, globally or from project to project, to fit your personal needs.

Remember PEP 8:

A style guide is about consistency. Consistency with this style guide is important. Consistency within a project is more important. Consistency within one module or function is most important.

But most importantly: know when to be inconsistent -- sometimes the style guide just doesn't apply. When in doubt, use your best judgment. Look at other examples and decide what looks best. And don't hesitate to ask!

Two good reasons to break a particular rule:
  1. When applying the rule would make the code less readable, even for someone who is used to reading code that follows the rules.
  2. To be consistent with surrounding code that also breaks it (maybe for historic reasons) although this is also an opportunity to clean up someone else's mess (in true XP style).

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