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Code Layout and Formatting: Indentation · PowerShell Practice and Style

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/09/22

Since I switch a lot between languages, I tend to forget what indentation, spacing and termination to use.

So from the Indentation/Length/Spacing/Termination sections in [WayBack] Code Layout and Formatting · PowerShell Practice and Style:


Use four spaces per indentation level

Usually you will press the [Tab] key to indent, but most editors can be configured to insert spaces instead of actual tab characters. For most programming languages and editors (including PowerShell ISE) the default is four spaces, and that’s what we recommend. Different teams and projects may have different standards, and when contributing to a project, you should abide by the predominant style, of course.

function Test-Code {
    foreach ($exponent in 1..10) {
        [Math]::Pow(2, $exponent)

Indenting more than 4-spaces is acceptable for continuation lines (when you’re wrapping a line which was too long). In such cases you might indent more than one level, or even indent indent an odd number of spaces to line up with a method call or parameter block on the line before.

function Test-Code {
    foreach ($base in 1,2,4,8,16) {
        foreach ($exponent in 1..10) {

Maximum Line Length

Limit lines to 115 characters when possible.

Keeping lines to a small width allows scripts to be read in one direction (top to bottom) without scrolling back-and-forth horizontally. What, exactly, this width should be is a one of the favorite arguing points among developers on the internet (more splintered than emacs vs vi or gnu GPL vs MIT).

In this guide we use two particular sources for the maximum line width:

The PowerShell console is, by default, 120 characters wide, but it allows only 119 characters on output lines, and when entering multi-line text, PowerShell uses a line continuation prompt: >>> and thus limits your line length to 116 anyway.

Github’s current maximum line width varies between 121 and 126 depending on your browser and OS (and thus, font). However, the 115 line length suggested by PowerShell would be enough to even allow side-by-side diffs to be displayed without scrolling or wrapping on the current “standard” 1080p monitor.

Again, this is a particularly flexible rule, and you should always follow the guidelines of projects when you’re contributing to other people’s projects. Although most of us work on widescreen monitors, not everyone can see well without magnification or extremely large fonts.

The preferred way to avoid long lines is to use splatting (see Get-Help about_Splatting) and PowerShell’s implied line continuation inside parentheses, brackets, and braces — these should always be used in preference to the backtick for line continuation when applicable, even for strings:

Write-Host -Object ("This is an incredibly important, and extremely long message. " +
                         "We cannot afford to leave any part of it out, " + 
                         "nor do we want line-breaks in the output. " +
                         "Using string concatenation lets us use short lines here, " +
                         "and still get a long line in the output")

Blank Lines and Whitespace

Surround function and class definitions with two blank lines.

Method definitions within a class are surrounded by a single blank line.

Blank lines may be omitted between a bunch of related one-liners (e.g. empty functions)

Additional blank lines may be used sparingly to separate groups of related functions, or within functions to indicate logical sections (e.g. before a block comment).

End each file with a single blank line.

Trailing spaces

Lines should not have trailing whitespace. Extra spaces result in future edits where the only change is a space being added or removed, making the analysis of the changes more difficult for no reason.

Spaces around parameters and operators

You should use a single space around parameter names and operators, including comparison operators and math and assignment operators, even when the spaces are not necessary for PowerShell to correctly parse the code.

One notable exception is when using colons to pass values to switch parameters:

# Do not write:
$variable=Get-Content $FilePath -Wai:($ReadCount-gt0) -First($ReadCount*5)

# Instead write:
$variable = Get-Content -Path $FilePath -Wait:($ReadCount -gt 0) -TotalCount ($ReadCount * 5)

Another exception is when using Unary Operators:

# Do not write:
$yesterdaysDate = (Get-Date).AddDays( - 1)

$i = 0
$i ++

# Instead write:
$yesterdaysDate = (Get-Date).AddDays(-1)

$i = 0

# Same principle should be applied when using a variable.
$yesterdaysDate = (Get-Date).AddDays(-$i)

Spaces around special characters

White-space is (mostly) irrelevant to PowerShell, but its proper use is key to writing easily readable code.

Use a single space after commas and semicolons, and around pairs of curly braces.

Subexpressions $( ... ) and scriptblocks { ... } should have a single space on the inside of the braces or parentheses to improve readability by making code blocks stand out — and to further distinguish scriptblocks from variable delimiter braces ${...}

Avoid unnecessary spaces inside parenthesis or square braces.

$Var = 1
"This is a string with one (${Var}) delimited variable."

"There are $( (Get-ChildItem).Count ) files."

Obviously, these rules should not be applied in such a way as to affect output.

Avoid Using Semicolons (;) as Line Terminators

PowerShell will not complain about extra semicolons, but they are unnecessary, and can get in the way when code is being edited or copy-pasted. They also result in extra do-nothing edits in source control when someone finally decides to delete them.

They are also unnecessary when declaring hashtables if you are already putting each element on its own line:

# This is the preferred way to declare a hashtable if it extends past one line:
$Options = @{
    Margin   = 2
    Padding  = 2
    FontSize = 24


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