Prettier Code Formatter Setup Guide

July 8, 2020

Prettier is a code formatter that works with several languages including CSS, JavaScript, and React. Prettier is opinionated, in that it makes certain stylistic choices for you such as when to make a new line.

Prettier is one of the most useful tools recently as it allows developers to focus on the logic of their code, and not the spacing. There is even an option to use Prettier whenever you save VS Code!

Prettier Install

Add Prettier to your project with the command

npm install --save-dev prettier

Alternatively, you can install Prettier globally with

npm install --global prettier

Format Script

Once prettier is installed, format text by adding a format script to the package.json file

  "format": "prettier --write \"\*_/_.+(js|json)\""

This format command will adjust your code whenever it is stylistically different than prettier’s base rules. Since prettier is only moving around the position of your code, it is not at risk of breaking it. This example will format .js and .json files, although you can additional file types here, separated by a |.

Config File

Prettier comes with basic configuration, which you can add by creating a .prettierrc file in the root of your project. There are about 15-20 properties which you can set including tabWidth, semi, singleQuote, etc. For example here is a basic prettier config,

  "trailingComma": "all",
  "tabWidth": 2,
  "semi": false,
  "singleQuote": true

For a full list of config options, check out the Prettier Playground. The playground allows you to select, preview, and copy the JSON object with your settings.  

You can alternatively include your configuration in thepackage.json file under a “prettier” key

VSCode Extension

This extension is the real heavyweight in the room when it comes to usefulness. Install the Prettier - Code Formatter extension by Esben Petersen. Once it is installed, open your JSON settings ad add

  "editor.defaultFormatter": "esbenp.prettier-vscode",
  "editor.formatOnSave": true

Access the JSON Settings by opening the command palette (Ctrl + Shift + p for Windows, cmd + shift + p for Mac). Then type in settings and select Open Settings (JSON).

This will set prettier as your default formatter, and automatically format your code on save!

Ignoring Paths

You can tell prettier to ignore certain files and folders adding a .prettierignore file to the root of your project. This works exactly the same as .gitignore, ignoring the paths specified line by line.

Alternatively you can add an --ignore-path .gitignore flag to the command so prettier ignores the paths in your .gitignore file.

Configure with ESLint

Prettier’s rules can sometimes conflict with ESLint. If you are also using ESLint in your application, install the eslint-config-prettier package, and add it to the end of the extends array in your .eslintrc.


Prettier makes code formatting effortless and it is a welcome tool in many developers kit. Being able to focus on code, rather than formatting greatly increases efficiency.

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