Pre-commit hooks1 can be a neat way to run automated ad-hoc tasks before submitting a new git commit. These tasks may include linting, trimming trailing whitespaces, running code formatter before code reviews etc. Let’s see how multiple Python linters and formatters can be applied automatically before each commit to impose strict conformity on your codebase.

To keep my sanity, I only use three linters in all of my python projects:

  • Isort: Isort is a Python utility to sort imports alphabetically, and automatically separate them by sections and type. It parses specified files for global level import lines and puts them all at the top of the file grouped together by the type of import:

    • Future

    • Python Standard Library

    • Third Party

    • Current Python Project

    • Explicitly Local (. before import, as in: from . import x)

    • Custom Separate Sections (Defined by forced_separate list in the configuration file)

    • Custom Sections (Defined by sections list in configuration file)

                  Inside each section, the imports are sorted alphabetically. This also automatically
                  removes duplicate python imports, and wraps long from imports to the specified line
                  length (defaults to 79).
  • Black: Black is the uncompromising Python code formatter. It uses consistent rules to format your python code and makes sure that they look the same regardless of the project you’re reading.

  • Flake8: Flake8 is a wrapper around PyFlakes, pycodestyle, Ned Batchelder’s McCabe script2. The combination of these three linters makes sure that your code is compliant with PEP-83 and free of some obvious code smells.

Installing pre-commit

  • Install using pip:

    pip install pre-commit
  • Install via curl:

    curl | python -

Defining the pre-commit config file

Pre-commit configuration is a .pre-commit-config.yaml file where you define your hooks (tasks) that you want to run before every commit. Once you have defined your hooks in the config file, they will run automatically every time you say git commit -m "Commit message". The following example shows how black and a few other linters can be added as hooks to the config:

# .pre-commit-config.yaml

-   repo:
    rev: v2.3.0
    -   id: check-yaml
    -   id: end-of-file-fixer
    -   id: trailing-whitespace
-   repo:
    rev: 19.3b0
    -   id: black

Installing the git hook scripts


pre-commit install

This will set up the git hook scripts and should show the following output in your terminal:

pre-commit installed at .git/hooks/pre-commit

Now you’ll be able to implicitly or explicitly run the hooks before each commit.

Running the hooks against all the files

By default, the hooks will run every time you say:

git commit -m "Commit message"

However, if you wish to run the hooks manually on every file, you can do so via:

pre-commit run --all-files

Running the linters as pre-commit hooks

To run the above mentioned linters as pre-commit hooks, you need to add their respective settings to the .pre-commit-config.yaml file. However, there’re a few minor issues that need to be taken care of.

  • The default line length of black formatter is 88 (you should embrace that) but flake8 caps the line at 79 characters. This raises conflict and can cause failures.

  • Flake8 can be overly strict at times. You’ll want to ignore basic errors like unused imports, spacing issues etc. However, since your IDE / editor also points out these issues anyway, you should solve them manually. You will need to configure flake8 to ignore some of these minor errors.

The following one is an example of how you can define your .pre-commit-config.yaml and configure the individual hooks so that isort, black, flake8 linters can run without any conflicts.

# .pre-commit-config.yaml

# isort
- repo:
  rev: v1.9.3
  - id: seed-isort-config
- repo:
  rev: v4.3.21
  - id: isort

# black
- repo:
  rev: stable
    - id: black
      args: # arguments to configure black
        - --line-length=88
        - --include='\.pyi?$'

        # these folders wont be formatted by black
        - --exclude="""\.git |

      language_version: python3.6

# flake8
- repo:
  rev: v2.3.0
    - id: flake8
      args: # arguments to configure flake8
        # making isort line length compatible with black
        - "--max-line-length=88"
        - "--max-complexity=18"
        - "--select=B,C,E,F,W,T4,B9"

        # these are errors that will be ignored by flake8
        # check out their meaning here
        - "--ignore=E203,E266,E501,W503,F403,F401,E402"

You can add the above lines to your configuration and run:

pre-commit run --all-files

This should apply the pre-commit hooks to your code base harmoniously. From now on, before each commit, the hooks will make sure that your code complies with the rules imposed by the linters.

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