Title: Make textwrap.dedent() and textwrap.indent() handle whitespace consistently
Type: enhancement Stage: patch review
Components: Library (Lib) Versions: Python 3.5
Status: open Resolution:
Dependencies: Superseder:
Assigned To: Nosy List: CuriousLearner, bruno.dupuis, ezberch, ncoghlan, robertjli, serhiy.storchaka, yjchen
Priority: normal Keywords: patch

Created on 2012-06-11 13:29 by ncoghlan, last changed 2019-01-22 10:53 by ncoghlan.

File name Uploaded Description Edit
issue15045.patch ezberch, 2012-12-12 04:00 patch review
Pull Requests
URL Status Linked Edit
PR 5051 closed CuriousLearner, 2017-12-30 16:08
Messages (6)
msg162617 - (view) Author: Nick Coghlan (ncoghlan) * (Python committer) Date: 2012-06-11 13:29
In working on #13857, I noticed that the current regex based implementation of textwrap.dedent() is limited specifically to ASCII whitespace (tabs and spaces) with Unix line endings (a line containing solely a Windows "\r\n" line ending will be deemed to contain a non-whitespace character, since "\r" isn't recognised by the regex)

The new textwrap.indent() function added in #13857 takes a much simpler approach to whitespace handling: its definition of a "line" is exactly that of "text.splitlines(True)", while its definition of a line that does not consist solely of whitespace is "bool(line.strip())"

As a simple example of how that can make a difference, consider:

>>> "\N{NO-BREAK SPACE}".strip()

One way to remedy this would be to replace the regex based implementation of textwrap.dedent with a simpler one written in terms of text.splitlines(True) and line.strip().
msg177363 - (view) Author: Ezra Berch (ezberch) Date: 2012-12-12 04:00
Here's a patch to do this, including some tests for the changed behavior.
msg177369 - (view) Author: Serhiy Storchaka (serhiy.storchaka) * (Python committer) Date: 2012-12-12 10:41
Ezra's patch is working, but a little non-optimal.

However, I'm not sure, that it is right to extend a set of whitespace characters. See comments at the top of the file.

Also this approach should be slower, especially for trivial case (no changes).
msg307863 - (view) Author: Sanyam Khurana (CuriousLearner) * (Python triager) Date: 2017-12-08 19:05
Ezra, can you please convert your patch to a Pull Request on Github?
msg324144 - (view) Author: Sanyam Khurana (CuriousLearner) * (Python triager) Date: 2018-08-27 04:04
Hey Nick, Serhiy

The patch is up for your review. Any updates on this?
msg334204 - (view) Author: Nick Coghlan (ncoghlan) * (Python committer) Date: 2019-01-22 10:53
Putting some of my comments here rather than on the PR, as they're design questions related to "Is the current behaviour actually wrong?" and "Even if the current behaviour is deemed technically incorrect, is it worth the risk of changing it after all these years?".

I've also retitled the issue to describe the desired outcome of increased consistency between textwrap.dedent() and textwrap.indent(), without expressing a preference one way or the other.

1. Correctness & consistency

Quoting the comment about ASCII whitespace that Serhiy mentioned:

# Hardcode the recognized whitespace characters to the US-ASCII
# whitespace characters.  The main reason for doing this is that
# some Unicode spaces (like \u00a0) are non-breaking whitespaces.
_whitespace = '\t\n\x0b\x0c\r '

It's not clear whether or not non-breaking whitespace should actually be counted as an empty line, as it wouldn't be a candidate break point for line wrapping if that space appeared between two words (e.g. "first\N{NO-BREAK SPACE}second"), even though str.split() would split on it, and str.strip() would remove it from the beginning or end of a string (and that discrepancy is by design, since it's what "non-breaking" *means*).

So the interesting test cases from that perspective would be strings like:

    4 space indent
\N{NO-BREAK SPACE}   4 spaces, but first is no-break
    4 space indent
-> textwrap.dedent() should do nothing

    4 space indent
    Previous line is just a single no-break space
-> textwrap.dedent() should do nothing

    4 space indent
    \N{NO-BREAK SPACE}5 spaces, but last is no-break
    4 space indent
-> textwrap.dedent() should strip the common 4-space prefix

    4 space indent
    Previous line is indented with 4 spaces
-> textwrap.dedent() should strip the common 4-space prefix

The potential inconsistency I cite above is with the then-new textwrap.indent() which *does* consider all lines consisting solely of whitespace (whether non-breaking or not) to be blank lines, and hence doesn't indent them. This means that the following test string wouldn't round trip correctly through a textwrap.indent/textwrap.dedent pair:

4 space indent
Previous line is indented as usual

indent() would skip adding leading whitespace to the second line, which means dedent() would subsequently fail to detect a common leading prefix to be stripped.

However, that can easily be considered a bug in textwrap.indent() - it's the newer function, so it was a design error to make it inconsistent with the textwrap.dedent() precedent.

2. Performance

Since this issue was opened purely on design consistency grounds, it needs to offer really compelling benefits if we're going to risk a change that might make textwrap.dedent() slower.

I don't think we've reached that bar, as with universal newlines as the default text reading behaviour, it's going to be fairly rare for `textwrap.dedent()` to be applied to strings containing `\r` or `\r\n`, and if it is, it's a pretty straightforward prior normalisation step to convert both of those to `\n` via `text.sub('\r\n', '\n').sub('\r', '\n')` (or a comparable regex based on

So I think the most that can be argued for when it comes to the newline handling in dedent() is a *documentation* change that notes that textwrap.dedent() splits lines strictly on `\n`, and other line endings need to be normalized to `\n` before it will work correctly.

That leaves indent(), and I think the case can plausible be made there that it should be using _whitespace_only_re for its empty line detection  (the same as dedent(), instead of using str.strip().
Date User Action Args
2019-01-22 10:53:49ncoghlansetmessages: + msg334204
title: Make textwrap.dedent() consistent with str.splitlines(True) and str.strip() -> Make textwrap.dedent() and textwrap.indent() handle whitespace consistently
2018-08-27 04:04:59CuriousLearnersetmessages: + msg324144
2017-12-30 16:08:18CuriousLearnersetpull_requests: + pull_request4932
2017-12-08 19:05:36CuriousLearnersetnosy: + CuriousLearner
messages: + msg307863
2014-06-22 18:41:48yjchensetnosy: + robertjli, yjchen
2014-06-20 15:43:52zach.waresetversions: + Python 3.5, - Python 3.4
2012-12-12 10:41:10serhiy.storchakasetnosy: + serhiy.storchaka

messages: + msg177369
stage: needs patch -> patch review
2012-12-12 04:00:14ezberchsetfiles: + issue15045.patch

nosy: + ezberch
messages: + msg177363

keywords: + patch
2012-12-06 01:44:06bruno.dupuissetnosy: + bruno.dupuis
2012-06-11 13:29:17ncoghlancreate