Setting up Python Linting and Auto-formatting in VSCode

In this tutorial, we will setup Python linting and automatic code formatting in VSCode. We will use pylint to highlight linting errors and black for auto-formatting our code on save.

Linting and auto-formatting are commonly used in Javascript projects and help to enforce consistent code standards across a team of developers working together in a single codebase. For anyone using Python on a team, pylint and black could help speed up development, reduce time spent upskilling new hires, and make your diffs easier to read for code reviews.


First, let's start by making a new virtual environment for this tutorial called python-linting.

conda create -y -n python-linting python=3.8
conda activate python-linting

Next, we'll make sure that we have our linter and formatter installed.

conda install -y pylint black

Now that we have our tools installed, we can move on to setting them up in VSCode.

Linting with pylint

To enable linting for Python in VSCode, we need to make sure some things are enabled in our settings. Be sure to make these changes to the "User" level (as opposed to the Workspace or folder only) so that it takes effect in any project.

First, open your VSCode Settings UI and search for "Python linting". Make sure that the following setting is checked:

Python > Linting: Enabled
[x] Whether to lint Python files.

Also specifically allow pylint linting by making sure the following setting is checked:

Python > Linting: Pylint Enabled
[x] Whether to lint Python files using pylint.

You can optionally suppress "convention"-level linting messages if you want to only highlight more egregious issues. To disable convention messages, add --disable=C to the pylint arguments:

Python > Linting: Pylint Args

Only do this part if you know that you don't want convention linting errors shown.

Auto-formatting with black

To setup auto-formatting, we need to tell VSCode to use black as our formatter for Python code. We can do this in our settings by selecting black from the following dropdown selector:

Python > Formatting: Provider

Next, we need to tell VSCode that we'd like to auto-format our code on save of the file. We can do this with the Format on Save option:

Editor: Format on Save
[x] Format a file on save. A formatter must be available, the file must not be saved after delay, and the editor must not be shutting down.


If everything went well, you should get helpful linting messages while you code and automatic code formatting each time you save your file.


Final thoughts

In this tutorial, we setup pylint and black for Python linting and auto-formatting in VSCode. Linting and auto-formatting can help speed up development by removing time spent debugging and thinking about formatting. They can also help a team of developers work together by enforcing a reasonable set of standards that strive to make their codebase and pull requests easier to read and review.

Source availability

All source materials for this article are available here on my blog GitHub repo.