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I’ve seen a few people talking positively about Xcode 14’s slightly firmer hand in re-indenting code as you type or paste code into the editor. I’m a fan of these new features, too, but in my opinion, they don’t go anywhere near far enough.

Brace yourselves for a potentially controversial opinion!

As part of my “you know what” work, I do a fair amount of editing of CSS and JavaScript files, and I use Prettier to format my files automatically. I also configured my editor, Nova, to run prettier every time I save a file using this extension. I have no way to opt-out, either. If I save a file to disk, Prettier formats it.

Prettier is an opinionated code formatter, and I love it. There are a couple of configuration options, but not that many. I know that many of you will have strong views on formatting Swift code and would happily argue a case on why one formatting style is better than another. In my opinion, the specific style genuinely doesn’t matter. The primary thing that matters is consistency.

It’s wild how freeing it is never to have to format code, and I love it. I’m now at the stage where I don’t even try to indent or format JavaScript or CSS. I just put the cursor in roughly the right place and start typing, hit save, and see my code instantly formatted. I also miss this feature every time I write in Swift. 😅

I’d love to see an option to auto re-indent on every save in a future version of Xcode. I’d even like it to go further and use swift-format to bring in much stricter rules for formatting Swift code, and I don’t care what the rules are. If someone at Apple chooses that there should be seven blank lines in between function definitions, I’m okay with that, and you probably would be, too, after a couple of weeks of living with it.

There would be several advantages to this. From experience, I can confidently say that code is easier to write this way, and while you might feel a desire to fight against it at first, it passes. Pull requests are also more straightforward as you wouldn’t be able to save an unformatted Swift file, let alone get it into git. But that’s not all. It’s also easier for everyone (rather than just the people on your team) to understand code if we have a formatting standard.

Apple would need to lead this effort, though. They’re the only ones who can define a style everyone would widely adopt, and wide adoption is critical. It may sound far-fetched, but they wouldn’t be the first to do it. Prettier is very popular, and I believe the Go community has embraced standard formatting that go fmt applies.

What do you say, Apple? Will you make my wish come true in Xcode 15?

Dave Verwer

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And finally...

Did you hear about that new programming language, Swift?

I did consider putting a calendar reminder for five years from now instead of linking to it this week. But I don't have the patience for a joke with that long a payoff! 😂