What is the common header format of Python files?


Question

I came across the following header format for Python source files in a document about Python coding guidelines:

#!/usr/bin/env python

"""Foobar.py: Description of what foobar does."""

__author__      = "Barack Obama"
__copyright__   = "Copyright 2009, Planet Earth"

Is this the standard format of headers in the Python world? What other fields/information can I put in the header? Python gurus share your guidelines for good Python source headers :-)

1
464
4/28/2015 10:34:09 AM

Accepted Answer

Its all metadata for the Foobar module.

The first one is the docstring of the module, that is already explained in Peter's answer.

How do I organize my modules (source files)? (Archive)

The first line of each file shoud be #!/usr/bin/env python. This makes it possible to run the file as a script invoking the interpreter implicitly, e.g. in a CGI context.

Next should be the docstring with a description. If the description is long, the first line should be a short summary that makes sense on its own, separated from the rest by a newline.

All code, including import statements, should follow the docstring. Otherwise, the docstring will not be recognized by the interpreter, and you will not have access to it in interactive sessions (i.e. through obj.__doc__) or when generating documentation with automated tools.

Import built-in modules first, followed by third-party modules, followed by any changes to the path and your own modules. Especially, additions to the path and names of your modules are likely to change rapidly: keeping them in one place makes them easier to find.

Next should be authorship information. This information should follow this format:

__author__ = "Rob Knight, Gavin Huttley, and Peter Maxwell"
__copyright__ = "Copyright 2007, The Cogent Project"
__credits__ = ["Rob Knight", "Peter Maxwell", "Gavin Huttley",
                    "Matthew Wakefield"]
__license__ = "GPL"
__version__ = "1.0.1"
__maintainer__ = "Rob Knight"
__email__ = "rob@spot.colorado.edu"
__status__ = "Production"

Status should typically be one of "Prototype", "Development", or "Production". __maintainer__ should be the person who will fix bugs and make improvements if imported. __credits__ differs from __author__ in that __credits__ includes people who reported bug fixes, made suggestions, etc. but did not actually write the code.

Here you have more information, listing __author__, __authors__, __contact__, __copyright__, __license__, __deprecated__, __date__ and __version__ as recognized metadata.

524
5/23/2017 12:34:30 PM

I strongly favour minimal file headers, by which I mean just:

  • The hashbang (#! line) if this is an executable script
  • Module docstring
  • Imports, grouped in the standard way, eg:
  import os    # standard library
  import sys

  import requests  # 3rd party packages

  import mypackage.mymodule  # local source
  import mypackage.myothermodule  

ie. three groups of imports, with a single blank line between them. Within each group, imports are sorted. The final group, imports from local source, can either be absolute imports as shown, or explicit relative imports.

Everything else is a waste of time, visual space, and is actively misleading.

If you have legal disclaimers or licencing info, it goes into a separate file. It does not need to infect every source code file. Your copyright should be part of this. People should be able to find it in your LICENSE file, not random source code.

Metadata such as authorship and dates is already maintained by your source control. There is no need to add a less-detailed, erroneous, and out-of-date version of the same info in the file itself.

I don't believe there is any other data that everyone needs to put into all their source files. You may have some particular requirement to do so, but such things apply, by definition, only to you. They have no place in “general headers recommended for everyone”.


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