# What is the common header format of Python files?

## The Question :

534 people think this question is useful

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"



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 🙂

• Here’s a good place to start: PEP 257, which talks about Docstrings, and links to several other relevant documents.
• Perhaps a useful guideline to those reading the differing answers to this question is to consider what purposes they expect these file headers to be used for. If you have a concrete use case (e.g. my lawyer says court cases are lost because developers failed to put copyright info in every single file.) then add and maintain the info you need for that use case. Otherwise, you’re just indulging your OCD fetish.
• haha great @JonathanHartley ! For my own projects, as you put it “I indulge my OCD fetish.” hahaaha stackoverflow.com/a/51914806/1896134
• Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)

605 people think this answer is useful

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"
__credits__ = ["Rob Knight", "Peter Maxwell", "Gavin Huttley",
"Matthew Wakefield"]
__version__ = "1.0.1"
__maintainer__ = "Rob Knight"
__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.

189 people think this answer is useful

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

from mypackage import (  # local source
mymodule,
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”.

38 people think this answer is useful

The answers above are really complete, but if you want a quick and dirty header to copy’n paste, use this:

#!/usr/bin/env python
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

"""Module documentation goes here
and here
and ...
"""



Why this is a good one:

• The first line is for *nix users. It will choose the Python interpreter in the user path, so will automatically choose the user preferred interpreter.
• The second one is the file encoding. Nowadays every file must have a encoding associated. UTF-8 will work everywhere. Just legacy projects would use other encoding.
• And a very simple documentation. It can fill multiple lines.

If you just write a class in each file, you don’t even need the documentation (it would go inside the class doc).

24 people think this answer is useful

Also see PEP 263 if you are using a non-ascii characterset

## Abstract

This PEP proposes to introduce a syntax to declare the encoding of a Python source file. The encoding information is then used by the Python parser to interpret the file using the given encoding. Most notably this enhances the interpretation of Unicode literals in the source code and makes it possible to write Unicode literals using e.g. UTF-8 directly in an Unicode aware editor.

## Problem

In Python 2.1, Unicode literals can only be written using the Latin-1 based encoding “unicode-escape”. This makes the programming environment rather unfriendly to Python users who live and work in non-Latin-1 locales such as many of the Asian countries. Programmers can write their 8-bit strings using the favorite encoding, but are bound to the “unicode-escape” encoding for Unicode literals.

## Proposed Solution

I propose to make the Python source code encoding both visible and changeable on a per-source file basis by using a special comment at the top of the file to declare the encoding.

To make Python aware of this encoding declaration a number of concept changes are necessary with respect to the handling of Python source code data.

## Defining the Encoding

Python will default to ASCII as standard encoding if no other encoding hints are given.

To define a source code encoding, a magic comment must be placed into the source files either as first or second line in the file, such as:

      # coding=<encoding name>



or (using formats recognized by popular editors)

      #!/usr/bin/python
# -*- coding: <encoding name> -*-



or

      #!/usr/bin/python
# vim: set fileencoding=<encoding name> :