Coding Standards#

The purpose of the page is to describe the standards that are expected of all the code in the SunPy project. All potential developers should read and abide by the following standards. Code which does not follow these standards closely will not be accepted.

We try to closely follow the coding style and conventions proposed by Astropy.

Language Standard#

  • All code must be compatible with Python 3.7 and later. Usage of six, __future__, and 2to3 is no longer acceptable.

  • The new Python 3 formatting style should be used (i.e. "{0:s}".format("spam") instead of "%s" % "spam").

  • The core package and affiliated packages should be importable with no dependencies other than components already in the sunpy core package, the Python Standard Library, and packages already required by the sunpy core package. Adding dependencies to sunpy core will be considered but are highly discouraged. Such optional dependencies should be recorded in the pyproject.toml file in the project.optional-dependencies section.

Coding Style/Conventions#

  • The code will follow the standard PEP8 Style Guide for Python Code. In particular, this includes using only 4 spaces for indentation, and never tabs.

  • Follow the existing coding style within a file and avoid making changes that are purely stylistic. Please try to maintain the style when adding or modifying code.

  • Following PEP8’s recommendation, absolute imports are to be used in general. We allow relative imports within a module to avoid circular import chains.

  • The import numpy as np, import matplotlib as mpl, and import matplotlib.pyplot as plt naming conventions should be used wherever relevant. from packagename import * should never be used (except in

  • Classes should either use direct variable access, or Python’s property mechanism for setting object instance variables.

  • Classes should use the builtin super function when making calls to methods in their super-class(es) unless there are specific reasons not to. super should be used consistently in all subclasses since it does not work otherwise.

  • Multiple inheritance should be avoided in general without good reason.

  • files for modules should not contain any significant implementation code. can contain docstrings and code for organizing the module layout.

Private code#

It is often useful to designate code as private, which means it is not part of the user facing API, only used internally by sunpy, and can be modified without a deprecation period. Any classes, functions, or variables that are private should either:

  • Have an underscore as the first character of their name, e.g., _my_private_function.

  • If you want to do that to entire set of functions in a file, name the file with a underscore as the first character, e.g.,

If these might be useful for other packages within the sunpy ecosphere, they should be made public.

Utilities in sunpy#

Within sunpy, it might be useful to have a set of utility classes or functions that are used by internally to help with certain tasks or to provide a certain level of abstraction. These should be placed either:

  • sunpy.{subpackage}, if it is only used within that sub-package.

  • sunpy.util if it is used across multiple sub-packages.

These can be private (see section above) or public. The decision is up to the developer, but if these might be useful for other packages within the sunpy ecosphere, they should be made public.


We enforce a minimum level of code style with our continuous integration (the name is sunpy.sunpy (python_codestyle [linux]). This runs a tool called pre-commit.

The settings and tools we use for the pre-commit can be found in the file .pre-commit-config.yaml at the root of the sunpy git repository. Some of the checks are: * Checks (but doesn’t fix) various PEP8 issues with flake8. * Sort all imports in any Python files with isort. * Remove any unused variables or imports with autoflake.

We suggest you use “tox” (which is used to run the sunpy test suite) to run these tools without having to setup anything within your own Python virtual environment:

$ tox -e codestyle

What you will see is this output (heavily condensed):

codestyle create: /home/<USER>/GitHub/sunpy/.tox/codestyle
codestyle run-test: commands[0] | pre-commit install-hooks
codestyle run-test: commands[1] | pre-commit run --verbose --all-files --show-diff-on-failure
- hook id: flake8
- duration: 1.35s


Check for case conflicts.................................................Passed
- hook id: check-case-conflict
- duration: 0.08s
Trim Trailing Whitespace.................................................Failed
- hook id: trailing-whitespace
- duration: 0.08s
- exit code: 1
- files were modified by this hook

Fixing docs/dev_guide/code_standards.rst

pre-commit hook(s) made changes.
If you are seeing this message in CI, reproduce locally with: `pre-commit run --all-files`.
To run `pre-commit` as part of git workflow, use `pre-commit install`.
All changes made by hooks:
diff --git a/docs/dev_guide/code_standards.rst b/docs/dev_guide/code_standards.rst
index bed700d90..c6b5df977 100644
--- a/docs/dev_guide/code_standards.rst
+++ b/docs/dev_guide/code_standards.rst
@@ -59,6 +59,8 @@ Instead of installing this, you can use "tox" (which is used to run the sunpy te

    $ tox -e codestyle

+What you will see
If you want to setup the pre-commit locally, you can do the following::

    $ pip install pre-commit
diff --git a/docs/dev_guide/documentation.rst b/docs/dev_guide/documentation.rst
index 5cd914047..b1017f77a 100644
--- a/docs/dev_guide/documentation.rst
+++ b/docs/dev_guide/documentation.rst
@@ -39,9 +39,9 @@ If there are multiple code elements with the same name (e.g. ``peek()`` is a met

.. code-block:: rst

-    `GenericMap.peek` or `CompositeMap.peek`
+    `.GenericMap.peek` or `.CompositeMap.peek`

-These will show up as `GenericMap.peek` or `CompositeMap.peek`.
+These will show up as `.GenericMap.peek` or `.CompositeMap.peek`.
To still show only the last segment you can add a tilde as prefix:

ERROR: InvocationError for command /home/nabil/GitHub/sunpy/.tox/codestyle/bin/pre-commit run --verbose --all-files --show-diff-on-failure (exited with code 1)
___________________________________________________________________________________________ summary ___________________________________________________________________________________________
ERROR:   codestyle: commands failed

This will inform you of what checks failed and why, and what changes (if any) the command has made to your code.

If you want to setup the pre-commit locally, you can do the following:

$ pip install pre-commit

Now you can do:

$ pre-commit run --all-files

which will run the tools on all files in the sunpy git repository. The pre-commit tools can change some of the files, but in other cases it will report problems that require manual correction. If the pre-commit tool changes any files, they will show up as new changes that will need to be committed.


Instead of running the pre-commit command each time you can install the git hook:

$ pre-commit install

which installs a command to .git/hooks/pre-commit which will run these tools at the time you do git commit and means you don’t have to run the first command each time. We only suggest doing the install step if you are comfortable with git and the pre-commit tool.

Documentation and Testing#

  • American English is the default language for all documentation strings and inline commands. Variables names should also be based on English words.

  • Documentation strings must be present for all public classes/methods/functions, and must follow the form outlined in the Documentation page. Additionally, examples or tutorials in the package documentation are strongly recommended.

  • Write usage examples in the docstrings of all classes and functions whenever possible. These examples should be short and simple to reproduce–users should be able to copy them verbatim and run them. These examples should, whenever possible, be in the doctests format and will be executed as part of the test suite.

  • Unit tests should be provided for as many public methods and functions as possible, and should adhere to the standards set in the Testing Guidelines document.

Data and Configuration#

  • We store test data in sunpy/data/test as long as it is less than about 100 kB. These data should always be accessed via the and functions.

  • We store data used for examples in the sample-data repository. This data should not be used for unit tests but can be within our documentation.

  • All persistent configuration should use the Customizing sunpy mechanism. Such configuration items should be placed at the top of the module or package that makes use of them, and supply a description sufficient for users to understand what the setting changes.

Standard output, warnings, and errors#

The built-in print(...) function should only be used for output that is explicitly requested by the user, for example print_header(...) or list_catalogs(...). Any other standard output, warnings, and errors should follow these rules:

  • For errors/exceptions, one should always use raise with one of the built-in exception classes, or a custom exception class. The nondescript Exception class should be avoided as much as possible, in favor of more specific exceptions (IOError, ValueError, etc.).

  • For warnings, one should always use the functions in sunpy.util.exceptions and not warnings.warn. This ensures we are always raising a sunpy specific warning type.

Including C Code#

  • C extensions are only allowed when they provide a significant performance enhancement over pure Python, or a robust C library already exists to provided the needed functionality.

  • The use of Cython is strongly recommended for C extensions.

  • If a C extension has a dependency on an external C library, the source code for the library should be bundled with sunpy, provided the license for the C library is compatible with the sunpy license. Additionally, the package must be compatible with using a system-installed library in place of the library included in sunpy.

  • In cases where C extensions are needed but Cython cannot be used, the PEP 7 Style Guide for C Code is recommended.

  • C extensions (Cython or otherwise) should provide the necessary information for building the extension.