How to Use docformatter

There are several ways you can use docformatter. You can use it from the command line, as a file watcher in PyCharm, in your pre-commit checks, and as a GitHub action. However, before you can use docformatter, you’ll need to install it.

Use from the Command Line

To use docformatter from the command line, simply:

$ docformatter

docformatter recognizes a number of options for controlling how the tool runs as well as how it will treat various patterns in the docstrings. The help output provides a summary of these options:

usage: docformatter [-h] [-i | -c] [-d] [-r] [-e [EXCLUDE ...]]
                    [-n [NON-CAP ...]] [-s [style]] [--rest-section-adorns REGEX]
                    [--black] [--wrap-summaries length]
                    [--wrap-descriptions length] [--force-wrap]
                    [--tab-width width] [--blank] [--pre-summary-newline]
                    [--pre-summary-space] [--make-summary-multi-line]
                    [--close-quotes-on-newline] [--range line line]
                    [--docstring-length length length] [--non-strict]
                    [--config CONFIG] [--version] files [files ...]

Formats docstrings to follow PEP 257.

positional arguments:
  files                 files to format or '-' for standard in

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -i, --in-place        make changes to files instead of printing diffs
  -c, --check           only check and report incorrectly formatted files
  -r, --recursive       drill down directories recursively
  -e, --exclude         in recursive mode, exclude directories and files by names
  -n, --non-cap         list of words not to capitalize when they appear as the
                        first word in the summary

  -s style, --style style
                        the docstring style to use when formatting parameter
                        lists.  One of epytext, sphinx. (default: sphinx)
  --rest-section-adorns REGEX
                        regular expression for identifying reST section adornments
                        (default: [!\"#$%&'()*+,-./\\:;<=>?@[]^_`{|}~]{4,})
  --black               make formatting compatible with standard black options
                        (default: False)
  --wrap-summaries length
                        wrap long summary lines at this length; set to 0 to
                        disable wrapping (default: 79, 88 with --black option)
  --wrap-descriptions length
                        wrap descriptions at this length; set to 0 to disable
                        wrapping (default: 72, 88 with --black option)
                        force descriptions to be wrapped even if it may result
                        in a mess (default: False)
  --tab_width width
                        tabs in indentation are this many characters when
                        wrapping lines (default: 1)
                        add blank line after elaborate description
                        (default: False)
                        add a newline before one-line or the summary of a
                        multi-line docstring
                        (default: False)
                        add a space between the opening triple quotes and
                        the first word in a one-line or summary line of a
                        multi-line docstring
                        (default: False)
                        add a newline before and after a one-line docstring
                        (default: False)
                        place closing triple quotes on a new-line when a
                        one-line docstring wraps to two or more lines
                        (default: False)
  --range start_line end_line
                        apply docformatter to docstrings between these lines;
                        line numbers are indexed at 1
  --docstring-length min_length max_length
                        apply docformatter to docstrings of given length range
                        do not strictly follow reST syntax to identify lists
                        (see issue #67) (default: False)
  --config CONFIG
                        path to file containing docformatter options
                        (default: ./pyproject.toml)
                        show program's version number and exit

Possible exit codes from docformatter:

  • 1 - if any error encountered

  • 2 - if it was interrupted

  • 3 - if any file needs to be formatted (in --check or --in-place mode)

Use as a PyCharm File Watcher

docformatter can be configured as a PyCharm file watcher to automatically format docstrings on saving python files.

Head over to Preferences > Tools > File Watchers, click the + icon and configure docformatter as shown below:

PyCharm file watcher configurations

Use with pre-commit

docformatter is configured for pre-commit and can be set up as a hook with the following .pre-commit-config.yaml configuration:

- repo:
  rev: v1.7.5
    - id: docformatter
      additional_dependencies: [tomli]
      args: [--in-place --config ./pyproject.toml]

You will need to install pre-commit and run pre-commit install.

Whether you use args: [--check] or args: [--in-place], the commit will fail if docformatter processes a change. The --in-place option fails because pre-commit does a diff check and fails if it detects a hook changed a file. The --check option fails because docformatter returns a non-zero exit code.

The additional_dependencies: [tomli] is only required if you are using pyproject.toml for docformatter’s configuration.

Use with GitHub Actions

docformatter is one of the tools included in the python-lint-plus action.