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PyYAML-based module to produce a bit more pretty and readable YAML-serialized data

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PyYAML-based python module to produce a bit more pretty and human-readable YAML-serialized data.

This module is for serialization only, see ruamel.yaml module for literate YAML parsing (keeping track of comments, spacing, line/column numbers of values, etc).

(side-note: to dump stuff parsed by ruamel.yaml with this module, use only YAML(typ='safe') there)

It’s a small module, and for projects that only need part of its functionality, I’d recommend copy-pasting that in, instead of adding janky dependency.

Repository URLs:


Prime goal of this module is to produce human-readable output that can be easily diff’ed, manipulated and re-used, but maybe with occasional issues.

So please do not rely on the thing to produce output that can always be deserialized exactly to what was exported, at least - use PyYAML directly for that (but maybe with options from the next section).

What this module does and why

YAML is generally nice and easy format to read if it was written by humans.

PyYAML can a do fairly decent job of making stuff readable, and the best combination of parameters for such output that I’ve seen so far is probably this one:

>>> m = [123, 45.67, {1: None, 2: False}, 'some text']
>>> data = dict(a='asldnsa\nasldpáknsa\n', b='whatever text', ma=m, mb=m)
>>> yaml.safe_dump( data, sys.stdout,
  width=100, allow_unicode=True, default_flow_style=False )
a: 'asldnsa


b: whatever text
ma: &id001
- 123
- 45.67
- 1: null
  2: false
- some text
mb: *id001

pyaml (this module) tries to improve on that a bit, with the following tweaks:

  • Most human-friendly representation options in PyYAML (that I know of) are used as defaults - unicode, flow-style, width=100 (old default is 80).

  • Dump “null” values as empty values, if possible, which have the same meaning but reduce visual clutter and are easier to edit.

  • Dicts, sets, OrderedDicts, defaultdicts, namedtuples, enums, dataclasses, etc are represented as their safe YAML-compatible base (like int, list or mapping), with mappings key-sorted by default for more diff-friendly output.

  • Use shorter and simplier yes/no for booleans.

  • List items get indented, as they should be.

  • Attempt is made to pick more readable string representation styles, depending on the value, e.g.:

    >>> yaml.safe_dump(cert, sys.stdout)
    cert: '-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
    >>> pyaml.p(cert):
    cert: |
      -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
  • “force_embed” option (default=yes) to avoid having &id stuff scattered all over the output. Might be more useful to disable it in some specific cases though.

  • “&idXYZ” anchors, when needed, get labels from the keys they get attached to, not just meaningless enumerators, e.g. “&users_-_admin” instead.

  • “string_val_style” option to only apply to strings that are values, not keys, i.e:

    >>> pyaml.p(data, string_val_style='"')
    key: "value\nasldpáknsa\n"
    >>> yaml.safe_dump(data, sys.stdout, allow_unicode=True, default_style='"')
    "key": "value\nasldpáknsa\n"
  • Add vertical spacing (empty lines) between keys on different depths, to separate long YAML sections in the output visually, make it more seekable.

  • Discard end-of-document “…” indicators for simple values.

Result for the (rather meaningless) example above:

>>> pyaml.p(data, force_embed=False, vspacing=dict(split_lines=10))

a: |

b: whatever text

ma: &ma
  - 123
  - 45.67
  - 1:
    2: no
  - some text

mb: *ma

(force_embed=False enabled deduplication with &ma anchor, vspacing is adjusted to split even this tiny output)

Extended example:

>>> pyaml.dump(data, vspacing=dict(split_lines=10))


      enabled: yes
      min_size: 5120
        - \.(gz|bz2|t[gb]z2?|xz|lzma|7z|zip|rar)$
        - \.(rpm|deb|iso)$
        - \.(jpe?g|gif|png|mov|avi|ogg|mkv|webm|mp[34g]|flv|flac|ape|pdf|djvu)$
        - \.(sqlite3?|fossil|fsl)$
        - \.git/objects/[0-9a-f]+/[0-9a-f]+$

    print_to_stdout: yes

  url: http://localhost:3456/uri

  - /(CVS|RCS|SCCS|_darcs|\{arch\})/$
  - /\.(git|hg|bzr|svn|cvs)(/|ignore|attributes|tags)?$
  - /=(RELEASE-ID|meta-update|update)$

  ca_certs_files: /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
  debug_requests: no
    cachedConnectionTimeout: 600
    maxPersistentPerHost: 10
    retryAutomatically: yes


      datefmt: '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'
      format: '%(asctime)s :: %(name)s :: %(levelname)s: %(message)s'

      class: logging.StreamHandler
      formatter: basic
      level: custom
      stream: ext://sys.stderr

        - console
      level: 0

      - console
    level: custom

Note that unless there are many moderately wide and deep trees of data, which are expected to be read and edited by people, it might be preferrable to directly use PyYAML regardless, as it won’t introduce another (rather pointless in that case) dependency and a point of failure.

Features and Tricks

  • Pretty-print any yaml or json (yaml subset) file from the shell:

    % python -m pyaml /path/to/some/file.yaml
    % pyaml < myfile.yml
    % curl -s | pyaml

    pipx install pyaml can be a good way to only install “pyaml” command-line script.

  • Process and replace json/yaml file in-place:

    % python -m pyaml -r mydata.yml
  • Easier “debug printf” for more complex data (all funcs below are aliases to same thing):

    pyaml.pprint('----- HOW DOES THAT BREAKS!?!?', input_data, some_var, more_stuff)
    pyaml.print(data, file=sys.stderr) # needs "from __future__ import print_function"
  • Force all string values to a certain style (see info on these in PyYAML docs):

    pyaml.dump(many_weird_strings, string_val_style='|')
    pyaml.dump(multiline_words, string_val_style='>')
    pyaml.dump(no_want_quotes, string_val_style='plain')

    Using pyaml.add_representer() (note *p*yaml) as suggested in this SO thread (or github-issue-7) should also work.

    See also this amazing reply to StackOverflow#3790454 for everything about the many different string styles in YAML.

  • Control indent and width of the results:

    pyaml.dump(wide_and_deep, indent=4, width=120)

    These are actually keywords for PyYAML Emitter (passed to it from Dumper), see more info on these in PyYAML docs.

  • Dump multiple yaml documents into a file: pyaml.dump_all([data1, data2, data3], dst_file)

    explicit_start=True is implied, unless overidden by explicit_start=False.

  • Control thresholds for vertical spacing of values (0 = always space stuff out), and clump all oneliner ones at the top:

    >>> pyaml.dump( data,
      vspacing=dict(split_lines=0, split_count=0) )
      axisCenteredZero: no
      axisColorMode: text
      axisLabel: ''
      axisPlacement: auto
      barAlignment: 0
      drawStyle: line
        legend: no
        tooltip: no
        viz: no
        type: linear
        group: A
        mode: none

    Or same thing with cli tool -v/--vspacing option: pyaml -v 0/0g mydata.yaml


It’s a regular Python 3.8+ module/package, published on PyPI (as pyaml).

Module uses PyYAML for processing of the actual YAML files and should pull it in as a dependency.

Dependency on unidecode module is optional and should only be necessary with force_embed=False keyword, and same-id objects or recursion is used within serialized data.

Using pip is how you generally install it, usually coupled with venv usage (which will also provide “pip” tool itself):

% pip install pyaml

Current-git version can be installed like this:

% pip install git+

pip will default to installing into currently-active venv, then user’s home directory (under ~/.local/lib/python...), and maybe system-wide when running as root (only useful in specialized environments like docker containers).

There are many other python packaging tools - pipenv, poetry, pdm, etc - use whatever is most suitable for specific project/environment. pipx can be used to install command-line script without a module.

More general info on python packaging can be found at

When changing code, unit tests can be run with python -m unittest from the local repository checkout.

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