Skip to main content

Apply Black formatting only in regions changed since last commit

Project description

master branch build status BSD 3 Clause license Latest release on PyPI Number of downloads Source code formatted using Black Change log


This utility reformats and checks Python source code files. However, when run in a Git repository, it only applies reformatting and reports errors in regions which have changed in the Git working tree since the last commit.

The reformatters supported are:

  • Black for code reformatting

  • isort for sorting imports

See Using linters below for the list of supported linters.


You want to start unifying code style in your project using Black. Maybe you also like to standardize on how to order your imports, or do static type checking or other static analysis for your code.

However, instead of formatting the whole code base in one giant commit, you’d like to only change formatting when you’re touching the code for other reasons.

This can also be useful when contributing to upstream codebases that are not under your complete control.

Partial formatting is not supported by Black itself, for various good reasons, and so far there hasn’t been a plan to implemented it either (134, 142, 245, 370, 511, 830). However, in September 2021 Black developers started to hint towards adding this feature after all (1352). This might at least simplify Darker’s algorithm substantially.

But for the time being, this is where darker enters the stage. This tool is for those who want to do partial formatting right now.

Note that this tool is meant for special situations when dealing with existing code bases. You should just use Black and isort as is when starting a project from scratch.


To install, use:

pip install darker

Or, if you’re using Conda for package management:

conda install -c conda-forge darker isort

The darker <> or darker <directory> command reads the original file(s), formats them using Black, combines original and formatted regions based on edits, and writes back over the original file(s).

Alternatively, you can invoke the module directly through the python executable, which may be preferable depending on your setup. Use python -m darker instead of darker in that case.

By default, darker just runs Black to reformat the code. You can enable additional features with command line options:

  • -i / --isort: Reorder imports using isort

  • -L <linter> / --lint <linter>: Run a supported linter (see Using linters)

New in version 1.1.0: The -L / --lint option. New in version 1.2.2: Package available in conda-forge.


This example walks you through a minimal practical use case for Darker.

First, create an empty Git repository:

$ mkdir /tmp/test
$ cd /tmp/test
$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /tmp/test/.git/

In the root of that directory, create the ill-formatted Python file

if True: print('hi')
if False: print('there')

Commit that file:

$ git add
$ git commit -m "Initial commit"
[master (root-commit) a0c7c32] Initial commit
 1 file changed, 3 insertions(+)
 create mode 100644

Now modify the first line in that file:

if True: print('CHANGED TEXT')
if False: print('there')

You can ask Darker to show the diff for minimal reformatting which makes edited lines conform to Black rules:

$ darker --diff
@@ -1,3 +1,4 @@
-if True: print('CHANGED TEXT')
+if True:
+    print("CHANGED TEXT")
if False: print('there')

Alternatively, Darker can output the full reformatted file (works only when a single Python file is provided on the command line):

$ darker --stdout
if True:
    print("CHANGED TEXT")
if False: print('there')

If you omit the --diff and --stdout options, Darker replaces the files listed on the command line with partially reformatted ones as shown above:

$ darker

Now the contents of will have changed. Note that the original print() and if False: ... lines have not been reformatted since they had not been edited!

if True:
    print("CHANGED TEXT")
if False: print('there')

You can also ask Darker to reformat edited lines in all Python files in the repository:

$ darker .

Or, if you want to compare to another branch (or, in fact, any commit) instead of the last commit:

$ darker --revision master .

Customizing darker, Black and isort behavior

Project-specific default options for darker, Black and isort are read from the project’s pyproject.toml file in the repository root. isort also looks for a few other places for configuration.

Darker does honor exclusion options in Black configuration files when recursing directories, but the exclusions are only applied to Black reformatting. Isort and linters are still run on excluded files. Also, individual files explicitly listed on the command line are still reformatted even if they match exclusion patterns.

For more details, see:

The following command line arguments can also be used to modify the defaults:

-r REV, --revision REV

Git revision against which to compare the working tree. Tags, branch names, commit hashes, and other expressions like HEAD~5 work here. Also a range like master...HEAD or master... can be used to compare the best common ancestor. With the magic value :PRE-COMMIT:, Darker works in pre-commit compatible mode. Darker expects the revision range from the PRE_COMMIT_FROM_REF and PRE_COMMIT_TO_REF environment variables. If those are not found, Darker works against HEAD.


Don’t write the files back, just output a diff for each file on stdout. Highlight syntax on screen if the pygments package is available.

-d, --stdout

Force complete reformatted output to stdout, instead of in-place. Only valid if there’s just one file to reformat.


Don’t write the files back, just return the status. Return code 0 means nothing would change. Return code 1 means some files would be reformatted.

-i, --isort

Also sort imports using the isort package

-L CMD, --lint CMD

Also run a linter on changed files. CMD can be a name of path of the linter binary, or a full quoted command line

-c PATH, --config PATH

Ask black and isort to read configuration from PATH.

-v, --verbose

Show steps taken and summarize modifications

-q, --quiet

Reduce amount of output

-S, --skip-string-normalization

Don’t normalize string quotes or prefixes


Normalize string quotes or prefixes. This can be used to override skip_string_normalization = true from a configuration file.


Skip adding trailing commas to expressions that are split by comma where each element is on its own line. This includes function signatures. This can be used to override skip_magic_trailing_comma = true from a configuration file.

-l LENGTH, --line-length LENGTH

How many characters per line to allow [default: 88]

To change default values for these options for a given project, add a [tool.darker] section to pyproject.toml in the project’s root directory. For example:

src = [
revision = "master"
diff = true
check = true
isort = true
lint = [
log_level = "INFO"

New in version 1.0.0:

  • The -c, -S and -l command line options.

  • isort is configured with -c and -l, too.

New in version 1.1.0: The command line options

  • -r / --revision

  • --diff

  • --check

  • --no-skip-string-normalization

  • -L / --lint

New in version 1.2.0: Support for

  • commit ranges in -r / --revision.

  • a [tool.darker] section in pyproject.toml.

New in version 1.2.2: Support for -r :PRE-COMMIT: / --revision=:PRE_COMMIT:

New in version 1.3.0: Support for command line option --skip-magic-trailing-comma

New in version 1.3.0: The -d / --stdout command line option

Editor integration

Many editors have plugins or recipes for integrating Black. You may be able to adapt them to be used with darker. See editor integration in the Black documentation.

PyCharm/IntelliJ IDEA

  1. Install darker:

    $ pip install darker
  2. Locate your darker installation folder.

    On macOS / Linux / BSD:

    $ which darker
    /usr/local/bin/darker  # possible location

    On Windows:

    $ where darker
    %LocalAppData%\Programs\Python\Python36-32\Scripts\darker.exe  # possible location
  3. Open External tools in PyCharm/IntelliJ IDEA

    On macOS:

    PyCharm -> Preferences -> Tools -> External Tools

    On Windows / Linux / BSD:

    File -> Settings -> Tools -> External Tools

  4. Click the + icon to add a new external tool with the following values:

    • Name: Darker

    • Description: Use Black to auto-format regions changed since the last git commit.

    • Program: <install_location_from_step_2>

    • Arguments: "$FilePath$"

    If you need any extra command line arguments like the ones which change Black behavior, you can add them to the Arguments field, e.g.:

    --config /home/myself/black.cfg "$FilePath$"
  5. Format the currently opened file by selecting Tools -> External Tools -> Darker.

    • Alternatively, you can set a keyboard shortcut by navigating to Preferences or Settings -> Keymap -> External Tools -> External Tools - Darker

  6. Optionally, run darker on every file save:

    1. Make sure you have the File Watcher plugin installed.

    2. Go to Preferences or Settings -> Tools -> File Watchers and click + to add a new watcher:

      • Name: Darker

      • File type: Python

      • Scope: Project Files

      • Program: <install_location_from_step_2>

      • Arguments: $FilePath$

      • Output paths to refresh: $FilePath$

      • Working directory: $ProjectFileDir$

    3. Uncheck “Auto-save edited files to trigger the watcher”

Visual Studio Code

  1. Install darker:

    $ pip install darker
  2. Locate your darker installation folder.

    On macOS / Linux / BSD:

    $ which darker
    /usr/local/bin/darker  # possible location

    On Windows:

    $ where darker
    %LocalAppData%\Programs\Python\Python36-32\Scripts\darker.exe  # possible location
  3. Add these configuration options to VS code, Cmd-Shift-P, Open Settings (JSON):

    "python.formatting.provider": "black",
    "python.formatting.blackPath": "<install_location_from_step_2>",
    "python.formatting.blackArgs": ["--diff"],

You can pass additional arguments to darker in the blackArgs option (e.g. ["--diff", "--isort"]), but make sure at least --diff is included.

Note that VSCode first copies the file to reformat into a temporary <filename>.py.<hash>.tmp file, then calls Black (or Darker in this case) on that file, and brings the changes in the modified files back into the editor. Darker is aware of this behavior, and will correctly compare .py.<hash>.tmp files to corresponding .py files from earlier repository revisions.


Unlike Black and many other formatters, darker needs access to the Git history. Therefore it does not work properly with classical auto reformat plugins.

You can though ask vim to run darker on file save with the following in your .vimrc:

set autoread
autocmd BufWritePost *.py silent :!darker %
  • BufWritePost to run darker once the file has been saved,

  • silent to not ask for confirmation each time,

  • :! to run an external command,

  • % for current file name.

Vim should automatically reload the file.

Using as a pre-commit hook

New in version 1.2.1

To use Darker locally as a Git pre-commit hook for a Python project, do the following:

  1. Install pre-commit in your environment (see pre-commit Installation for details).

  1. Create a base pre-commit configuration:

    pre-commit sample-config >.pre-commit-config.yaml
  1. Append to the created .pre-commit-config.yaml the following lines:

    -   repo:
        rev: 1.4.1
        -   id: darker
  2. install the Git hook scripts:

    pre-commit install

Using arguments

You can provide arguments, such as enabling isort, by specifying args. Note the inclusion of the isort Python package under additional_dependencies:

-   repo:
    rev: 1.4.1
    -   id: darker
        args: [--isort]
        -   isort~=5.9

GitHub Actions integration

You can use Darker within a GitHub Actions workflow without setting your own Python environment. Great for enforcing that modifications and additions to your code match the Black code style.


This action is known to support all GitHub-hosted runner OSes. In addition, only published versions of Darker are supported (i.e. whatever is available on PyPI).


Create a file named .github/workflows/darker.yml inside your repository with:

name: Lint

on: [push, pull_request]

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - uses: actions/checkout@v2
          fetch-depth: 0
      - uses: akaihola/darker@1.4.1
          options: "--check --diff"
          revision: "master..."
          src: "./src"
          version: "1.4.1"

"uses:" specifies which Darker release to get the GitHub Action definition from. We recommend to pin this to a specific release. "version:" specifies which version of Darker to run in the GitHub Action. It defaults to the same version as in "uses:", but you can force it to use a different version as well. Only versions available from PyPI are supported, so no commit SHAs or branch names.

The revision: "master..." (or "main...") option instructs Darker to compare the current branch to the branching point from main branch when determining which source code lines have been changed. If omitted, the Darker GitHub Action will determine the commit range automatically.

New in version 1.4.1: The revision: option, with smart default value if omitted.

Note that external software like linters are not yet available.

"src:" defines the root directory to run Darker for. This is typically the source tree, but you can use "." (the default) to also reformat Python files like "" in the root of the whole repository.

You can also configure other arguments passed to Darker via "options:". It defaults to "--check --diff". You can e.g. add "--isort" to sort imports, or "--verbose" for debug logging.

New in version 1.1.0: GitHub Actions integration. Modeled after how Black does it, thanks to Black authors for the example!

Using linters

One way to use Darker is to filter linter output to modified lines only. Darker supports any linter with output in one of the following formats:

<file>:<linenum>: <description>
<file>:<linenum>:<col>: <description>

Most notably, the following linters/checkers have been verified to work with Darker:

New in version 1.1.0: Support for Mypy, Pylint, Flake8 and compatible linters.

New in version 1.2.0: Support for test coverage output using

To run a linter, use the --lint / -L command line option:

  • -L mypy: do static type checking using Mypy

  • -L pylint: analyze code using Pylint

  • -L flake8: enforce the Python style guide using Flake8

  • -L read .coverage and list non-covered modified lines

Darker also groups linter output into blocks of consecutive lines separated by blank lines. Here’s an example of output:

$ darker --revision 0.1.0.. --check --lint src
src/darker/  no coverage:             logger.debug("No changes in %s after isort", src)
src/darker/  no coverage:             break

src/darker/ no coverage:         except NotEquivalentError:

src/darker/ no coverage:             if context_lines == max_context_lines:
src/darker/ no coverage:                 raise
src/darker/ no coverage:             logger.debug(

How does it work?

Darker takes a git diff of your Python files, records which lines of current files have been edited or added since the last commit. It then runs Black and notes which chunks of lines were reformatted. Finally, only those reformatted chunks on which edited lines fall (even partially) are applied to the edited file.

Also, in case the --isort option was specified, isort is run on each edited file before applying Black. Similarly, each linter requested using the –lint <command> option is run, and only linting errors/warnings on modified lines are displayed.



Prior art

Interesting code formatting and analysis projects to watch

The following projects are related to Black or Darker in some way or another. Some of them we might want to integrate to be part of a Darker run.

  • blacken-docs – Run Black on Python code blocks in documentation files

  • blackdoc – Run Black on documentation code snippets

  • velin – Reformat docstrings that follow the numpydoc convention

  • diff-cov-lint – Pylint and coverage reports for git diff only

  • xenon – Monitor code complexity

  • pyupgrade – Upgrade syntax for newer versions of the language (see #51)

  • yapf – Google’s Python formatter

  • yapf_diff – apply yapf or other formatters to modified lines only

Contributors ✨

See README.rst for the list of contributors.

This project follows the all-contributors specification. Contributions of any kind are welcome!

GitHub stars trend


Project details

Download files

Download the file for your platform. If you're not sure which to choose, learn more about installing packages.

Source Distribution

darker-1.4.1.tar.gz (82.0 kB view hashes)

Uploaded source

Built Distribution

darker-1.4.1-py3-none-any.whl (84.1 kB view hashes)

Uploaded py3

Supported by

AWS AWS Cloud computing Datadog Datadog Monitoring Facebook / Instagram Facebook / Instagram PSF Sponsor Fastly Fastly CDN Google Google Object Storage and Download Analytics Huawei Huawei PSF Sponsor Microsoft Microsoft PSF Sponsor NVIDIA NVIDIA PSF Sponsor Pingdom Pingdom Monitoring Salesforce Salesforce PSF Sponsor Sentry Sentry Error logging StatusPage StatusPage Status page