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The GDS Way and its content is intended for internal use by the GDS community.

Python style guide

This manual is designed to aid developers in writing Python code that is clear and consistent, within, and across, projects at GDS.

Code formatting

We use Black to format our code. Black is an opinionated formatter that follows PEP 8; where Black and PEP 8 do not express a view (for example, on the usage of language features such as metaclasses) we defer to the Google Python style guide. Use these as references unless something is explicitly mentioned here. These rules should be followed in conjunction with the advice on consistency on the main programming languages manual page.

If you want to add a new rule or exception please create a pull request against this repo.

Maximum line length of 120 characters

PEP 8 dictates a preferred maximum line length of <= 79. This is is a hangover from developing in a Unix terminal window. The vast majority of developers are now using an IDE which can handle a greater line length.

Couple this with the fact that much of the time GDS developers are coding web apps and have to deal with nested JSON objects, ORM model definitions/ queries, and error/ url strings and this convention begins to show its age.



This manual advises the use of the Ruff command line checker as an all in one lint, codestyle and complexity checker.

How to use Ruff

First you should add the Ruff module (available from PyPI) to your ‘dev’ or ‘test’ requirements/dependencies.

You’ll then likely want to run it alongside your unit tests.

Ruff ignores

Ruff can ignore particular lines or files.

A particularly useful feature of ruff is the ability to specify rule exemptions per directory or file.

Commonly it’s used for ignoring unused imports in module level files or imports not being at the top of a file in settings files or scripts.

The feature is documented in the Ruff documentation, under per-file-ignores. You can also see an example in the Notifications API repo.

Common Configuration

Notify is already running the latest verions of Black and Ruff on all of its repos. You can find an example of their configuration in the root of any repo in the pyproject.toml file.

Commonly a pyproject.toml configuration file will live in the root of the package. It will contain separate sections for each tool the repository needs

line-length = 120

line-length = 120

target-version = "py311"

select = [
    "E",  # pycodestyle
    "W",  # pycodestyle
    "F",  # pyflakes
    "I",  # isort
    "B",  # flake8-bugbear
    "C90",  # mccabe cyclomatic complexity
    "G",  # flake8-logging-format
ignore = []
exclude = [

In the above file we exclude directories we want the checker to ignore completely, include optional linting such as applying isort rules to ensure imports are sorted for minimal git diffs, set the maximum line length and set the target python version.

Note: you can also ignore rules on particular lines of code or files by adding a # noqa comment - see ruff’s noqa syntax.

Additional linting resources


This manual advises the use of Pyenv to manage different versions of Python you have installed. For more information see Intro to pyenv

Use the pyev plugin pyenv-virtualenv to manage virtual python environment. For more information see Python virtual environment primer

direnv is used to manage environment variables. This ensures project specific variables do not clutter your main environment or the environment of other projects. direnv uses .envrc for general project specific variables and you can use a non version controlled .secrets to store sensitive information.


A Python application project typically brings together Python packages from PyPI, with others written in-house (or otherwise not distributed through PyPI).

These packages are the applications immediate dependencies. Additionally, any package can have its own immediate dependencies, where they draw on other packages. From an application’s point of view, the dependencies of the packages it requires are its sub-dependencies.

The below diagram shows a simplified view of the resulting pyramid of dependencies; however it is important to note that the hierarchy can repeat itself infinitely.


                              |     |     |

                          Immediate dependencies

                              |     |     |
                        |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |

                         ... Sub-dependencies ...

There are two ways of specifying dependencies in Python world: as a specific version or as an allowable range.

Different considerations apply to dependency management depending whether you are packaging a library, or creating an end-product such as an application or a bundle of scripts. In general, you should only specify specific versions when creating a Python system that sits at the top of the dependency pyramid; otherwise there is a danger of creating version conflicts.


These recommendations apply wherever you need a reproducible set of dependencies, such as a complete web application, perhaps with many dependencies and sub-dependencies. It also applies to a collection of scripts that are deployed into the cloud and run automatically (for example, batch jobs).

A good strategy for specifying your application’s Python dependencies has two desirable characteristics - they should be:

  1. Reproducible (predictable)

    Pin your application’s full dependencies – specific versions, rather than ranges – or you’ll get unpredictability between your dev environment and other environments. You want a new starter to avoid small hard-to-spot problems. And you want parity between what you test locally, what is tested by CI, and what you deploy, or you risk new issues appearing on a live server. Additionally these things can be hard to diagnose.

  2. Kept up-to-date

    Security issues are found in libraries, so it is important to choose libraries that are maintained and to ensure your team has a strategy to ensure security updates are installed without significant delay. The how to manage third party software dependencies section gives further context and discusses tools that can help, such as

Your README should document an easy-to-follow process by which all your Python dependencies can be upgraded to get bug fixes and security fixes, without introducing breaking changes to your build.

Your pinned dependencies should be fully specified in a file called requirements.txt, and checked into your version control system (VCS). For projects with only a small number of dependencies, maintaining this manually (for example, installing with pip install, then using pip freeze) may be adequate.

For larger projects, GDS recommends using pip-tools for managing dependencies.

Put your top-level requirements in a file, and then use pip-compile to generate a requirements.txt file. Both the .in and .txt files should be commited to your repository.

List dependencies only needed for development or testing into a separate requirements-dev.txt file.


This recommendation applies to any Python repository that intended to be installable (into a virtual environment, a container, or onto bare metal) as a dependency of some larger system or application. It may be applicable to repositories that provide scripts to be run by developers or other end-users, but is not recommended for code that’s intended to be deployed on its own into the cloud.

Use a to specify the dependencies of your library, and the version ranges with which it can be reasonably expected to work.

  • The range you choose will depend on the guarantees each dependency makes about backward-compatibility. For example, if you’re currently using version 1.3.1 of a semantically-versioned library, it would be reasonable to specify a range such as <2.0,>=1.3.1. However, for a library that does not make that guarantee, you might specify a more restricted range, such as <1.4,>=1.3.1.

  • Update this file whenever you are ready to test and validate a new version that falls outside the existing range.

If you have dependencies that are not available on PyPI (for example, because you’ve fixed a bug by forking the code), then you can use a PEP 440 git reference in your install_requires list.

  • In the past, we’ve documented such dependencies in a requirements.txt file (example), but any application wanting to depend on your library then needs to manually copy those sub-dependencies into its own list (example).

Specify dependencies needed only for testing your library in tox.ini if you are using Tox (example), or in a requirements-dev.txt (example) file otherwise.

This page was last reviewed on 14 February 2024. It needs to be reviewed again on 14 August 2024 by the page owner #python .
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