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Programming style


Programming style, also known as code style, is a set of rules or guidelines used when writing the source code for a computer program. It is often claimed that following a particular programming style will help programmers read and understand source code conforming to the style, and help to avoid introducing errors.

Good style is a subjective matter, and is difficult to define. However, there are several elements common to a large number of programming styles. The issues usually considered as part of programming style include the layout of the source code, including indentation; the use of white space around operators and keywords; the capitalization or otherwise of keywords and variable names; the style and spelling of user-defined identifiers, such as function, procedure and variable names; and the use and style of comments.

Programming styles commonly deal with the visual appearance of source code, with the goal of readability. Software has long been available that formats source code automatically, leaving coders to concentrate on naming, logic, and higher techniques. As a practical point, using a computer to format source code saves time, and it is possible to then enforce company-wide standards without debates.

Python uses indentation to indicate control structures, so correct indentation is required. By doing this, the need for bracketing with curly braces (i.e. { and }) is eliminated. On the other hand, copying and pasting Python code can lead to problems, because the indentation level of the pasted code may not be the same as the indentation level of the current line. Such reformatting can be tedious to do by hand, but some text editors and IDEs have features to do it automatically. There are also problems when Python code being rendered unusable when posted on a forum or web page that removes white space, though this problem can be avoided where it is possible to enclose code in white space-preserving tags such as "
 ... 
" (for HTML), "[code]" ... "[/code]" (for bbcode), etc.

Inter-line false dependencies; tabular formatting creates dependencies across lines. For example, if an identifier with a long name is added to a tabular layout, the column width may have to be increased to accommodate it. This forces a bigger change to the source code than necessary, and the essential change may be lost in the noise. This is detrimental to Revision control where inspecting differences between versions is essential.

Resistance to modification; tabular formatting requires more effort to maintain. This may put off a programmer from making a beneficial change, such as adding, correcting or improving the name of an identifier, because it will mess up the formatting.

In those situations where some white space is required, the grammars of most free-format languages are unconcerned with the amount that appears. Style related to white space is commonly used to enhance readability. There are currently no known hard facts (conclusions from studies) about which of the whitespace styles have the best readability.