The importance of indentation in programming


Indentation is one of the most important features in any programming domain. Most of the programmers don’t pay much attention to it and are reluctant to follow it. Because of bad code indentation and wrong programming practices many projects become difficult to control. Time pressure is one of the major factors programmers neglect indentation.

The need of Indentation:

In computer programming, an indent style is a convention governing the indenting of blocks of code to convey program structure. Indentation is used more in languages like C and its descendants, but can be applied to most other programming languages , where whitespace is otherwise insignificant.

Indentation is not required in programming languages, where it is used as secondary notation. Indentation helps to convey a better structure of a program to the readers. It is used to clarify the link between control flow constructs such as conditions or loops, and code contained within and outside of them. In languages like Python and occam indentation  is used to determine the structure instead of using braces or keywords; this is termed the off-side rule. In these languages, indentation is meaningful to the interpreter. It is more than only a clarity. The reader will be comfortable enough to go through it and understand the meaning. Proper code indentation will make it:

  1. Easy to read
  2. Easy to understand
  3. Easy to modify
  4. Easy to maintain.

indented code

The program on the left looks messy , while the program at the right is neat clean.

Benefits of Indentation

There are several benefits to indenting your code, most of which save you time. You can see at a glance where the end of a code block is, rather than having to read each line until you find it. When you have used the same kind of code structure multiple times, you don’t need to work out which “end of block” goes with which “start of block”. You can immediately ignore chunks of the code that aren’t relevant to what you are currently doing. It is much easier to notice if a line of code is in the wrong place.

A program maybe written only once during coding but it is read many times at a later stage. Following are some future points when we refer the code again.

  1. During reading and understanding the program.
  2. During code debugging.
  3. During adding new code to the existing program.
  4. During updating the existing program.

Indentation has no effect on how the code runs, and does not alter the size of your finished program.

Tabs and Spacing

The size of the indent is usually independent of the style. Many early programs used tab characters to indent, for simplicity and to save on source file size. Spacing forms the second important part in code indentation and formatting. It also makes the code more readable if properly maintained. So we should follow proper spacing through out our coding and it should be consistent.

All programs work good with spaces and most important part is space is of fixed length in all types of system. But tab  is not of fixed length. So if your tab is set to 6 then it might be different in other’s system. So if some one is having tab setting as 8 then your code will look different and messy. So during programming we should not mix tab with spaces, rather we should only use spaces.

Conclusion :

So we can conclude that indentation is an important part of programming practice and programmer’s should follow It from the starting of their programming career.

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You can learn different languages and check examples of different programming languages. The examples will help you understand how indentation makes a program more easy to read and understand. For more information visit .

  • Anik Saxena

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