Perltidy Versus Black

I’ve recently been puttering about attempting to write a Postgres SQL & PL/pgSQL tidier in Rust called pg-pretty. If you’ve always wanted such a thing, don’t get too excited. It isn’t even close to usable yet.

But this post is about Perltidy and Black. These are both source code tidiers (aka formatter aka pretty printers). Black is for Python.

These two tidiers reflect their respective languages. Perltidy is all about TIMTOWTDI1 and Black is very much a TOOWTDI2 project.

I’ve been thinking about these two approaches as I work on pg-pretty. It sure would be cool to offer a tool that let you format SQL your way. But there are a lot of ways to format SQL! The number of options I could imagine is pretty huge. And every option increases the complexity of the source code quite a bit. Since many options can interact with each other, the complexity is even more than just the sum of the options. That’s certainly the case with Perltidy, where certain options behave differently depending on how other options are set.

Black, OTOH, has no options for formatting. This certainly makes it simpler!

And we can see this by looking at the size of the code bases. I did rough counts using wc -l, which includes docs and comments. I only counted application code, not tests. Perltidy, including its CLI program perltidy, comes out to 44,700 lines or so. Black, using the same wc -l approach, is just under 6,800 lines.

I honestly cannot imagine writing a Pg formatter in the Perltidy style! I don’t care that much about the details of how it looks. I just want to think as little as possible when reading code that others write!

  1. There’s more than one way to do it. ↩︎

  2. There’s only one way to do it. ↩︎