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A Python utility / library to sort Python imports.

Project description


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isort your python imports for you so you don’t have to.

isort is a Python utility / library to sort imports alphabetically, and automatically separated into sections. It provides a command line utility, Python library, Vim plugin, Sublime plugin, and Kate plugin to quickly sort all your imports. It currently cleanly supports Python 2.6 - 3.4 using pies ( to achieve this without ugly hacks and/or py2to3.

Before isort:

from my_lib import Object


import os

from my_lib import Object3

from my_lib import Object2

import sys

from third_party import lib15, lib1, lib2, lib3, lib4, lib5, lib6, lib7, lib8, lib9, lib10, lib11, lib12, lib13, lib14

import sys

from __future__ import absolute_import

from third_party import lib3


After isort:

from __future__ import absolute_import

import os
import sys

from third_party import (lib1, lib2, lib3, lib4, lib5, lib6, lib7, lib8,
                         lib9, lib10, lib11, lib12, lib13, lib14, lib15)

from my_lib import Object, Object2, Object3


Installing isort

Installing isort is as simple as:

pip install isort

or if you prefer

easy_install isort

Using isort

from the command line:


or recursively:

isort -rc .

which is equivalent to

isort **/*.py

or to see the proposed changes without applying them

isort --diff

finally, to atomically run isort against a project, only applying changes if they don’t introduce syntax errors do:

isort -rc --atomic .

(Note: this is disabled by default as it keeps isort from being able to run against code written using a different version of Python)

from within Python:

from isort import SortImports



from isort import SortImports

new_contents = SortImports(file_contents=old_contents).output

from within Kate:



menu > Python > Sort Imports

Installing isort’s Kate plugin

To install the kate plugin you must either have pate installed or the very latest version of Kate:

wget --output-document ~/.kde/share/apps/kate/pate/

You will then need to restart kate and enable Python Plugins as well as the isort plugin itself.

Installing isort’s for your preferred text editor

Several plugins have been written that enable to use isort from within a variety of text-editors. You can find a full list of them on the isort wiki. Additionally, I will enthusiastically accept pull requests that include plugins for other text editors and add documentation for them as I am notified.

How does isort work?

isort parses specified files for global level import lines (imports outside of try / excepts blocks, functions, etc..) and puts them all at the top of the file grouped together by the type of import:

  • Future

  • Python Standard Library

  • Third Party

  • Current Python Project

  • Explicitly Local (. before import, as in: from . import x)

  • Custom Separate Sections (Defined by forced_separate list in configuration file)

Inside of each section the imports are sorted alphabetically. isort automatically removes duplicate python imports, and wraps long from imports to the specified line length (defaults to 80).

When will isort not work?

If you ever have the situation where you need to have a try / except block in the middle of top-level imports or if your import order is directly linked to precedence.

For example: a common practice in Django settings files is importing * from various settings files to form a new settings file. In this case if any of the imports change order you are changing the settings definition itself.

However, you can configure isort to skip over just these files - or even to force certain imports to the top.

Configuring isort

If you find the default isort settings do not work well for your project, isort provides several ways to adjust the behavior.

To configure isort for a single user create a ~/.isort.cfg file:

indent='    '

Additionally, you can specify project level configuration simply by placing a .isort.cfg file at the root of your project. isort will look up to 25 directories up, from the one it is ran, to find a project specific configuration.

Or, if you prefer, you can add an isort section to your project’s setup.cfg with any desired settings.

You can then override any of these settings by using command line arguments, or by passing in override values to the SortImports class.

Finally, as of version 3.0 isort supports editorconfig files using the standard syntax defined here:

Meaning you place any standard isort configuration parameters within a .editorconfig file under the *.py section and they will be honored.

For a full list of isort settings and their meanings take a look at the isort wiki.

Multi line output modes

You will notice above the “multi_line_output” setting. This setting defines how from imports wrap when they extend past the line_length limit and has 4 possible settings:

0 - Grid

from third_party import (lib1, lib2, lib3,
                         lib4, lib5, ...)

1 - Vertical

from third_party import (lib1,

2 - Hanging Indent

from third_party import \
    lib1, lib2, lib3, \
    lib4, lib5, lib6

3 - Vertical Hanging Indent

from third_party import (

4 - Hanging Grid

from third_party import (
    lib1, lib2, lib3, lib4,
    lib5, ...)

5 - Hanging Grid Grouped

from third_party import (
    lib1, lib2, lib3, lib4,
    lib5, ...

Alternatively, you can set force_single_line to True (-sl on the command line) and every import will appear on its own line

from third_party import lib1
from third_party import lib2
from third_party import lib3

Note: to change the how constant indents appear - simply change the indent property with the following accepted formats: * Number of spaces you would like. For example: 4 would cause standard 4 space indentation. * Tab * A verbatim string with quotes around it. For example: “ “ is equivalent to 4

Intelligently Balanced Multi-line Imports

As of isort 3.1.0 support for balanced multi-line imports has been added. With this enabled isort will dynamically change the import length to the one that produces the most balanced grid, while staying below the maximum import length defined.


from __future__ import (absolute_import, division,
                        print_function, unicode_literals)

Will be produced instead of:

from __future__ import (absolute_import, division, print_function,

To enable this set ‘balanced_wrapping’ to True in your config or pass the -e option into the command line utility.

Auto-comment import sections

Some projects prefer to have import sections uniquely titled to aid in identifying the sections quickly when visually scanning. isort can automate this as well. To do this simply set the import_heading_{section_name} setting for each section you wish to have auto commented - to the desired comment.

For Example:

import_heading_stdlib=Standard Library
import_heading_firstparty=My Stuff

Would lead to output looking like the following:

# Standard Library
import os
import sys

import django.settings

# My Stuff
import myproject.test

Ordering by import length

isort also makes it easy to sort your imports by length, simply by setting the length_sort option to True. This will result in the following output style:

from evn.util import (

Skip processing of imports (outside of configuration)

To make isort ignore a single import simply add a comment at the end of the import line containing the text ‘isort:skip’

import module  # isort:skip


from xyz import (abc,  # isort:skip

To make isort skip an entire file simply add the following to the modules doc string: ‘isort:skip_file’

    Best module ever


import b
import a

Adding an import to multiple files

isort makes it easy to add an import statement across multiple files, while being assured it’s correctly placed.

from the command line:

isort -a "from __future__ import print_function" *.py

from within Kate:



menu > Python > Add Import

Removing an import from multiple files

isort makes it easy to remove an import from multiple files, without having to be concerned with how it was originally formatted

from the command line:

isort -r "os.system" *.py

from within Kate:



menu > Python > Remove Import

Using isort to verify code

isort can also be used to used to verify that code is correctly formatted by running it with -c. Any files that contain incorrectly sorted imports will be outputted to stderr.

isort **/*.py -c

SUCCESS: /home/timothy/Projects/Open_Source/isort/ Everything Looks Good! (stdout)
ERROR: /home/timothy/Projects/Open_Source/isort/isort/ Imports are incorrectly sorted. (stderr)

One great place this can be used is with a pre-commit git hook, such as this one by @acdha:

Which can help to ensure a certain level of code quality throughout a project.

Why isort?

isort simply stands for import sort. It was originally called “sortImports” however I got tired of typing the extra characters and came to the realization camelCase is not pythonic.

I wrote isort because in an organization I used to work in the manager came in one day and decided all code must have alphabetically sorted imports. The code base was huge - and he meant for us to do it by hand. However, being a programmer - I’m too lazy to spend 8 hours mindlessly performing a function, but not too lazy to spend 16 hours automating it. I was given permission to open source sortImports and here we are :)

Thanks and I hope you find isort useful!

~Timothy Crosley

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