What Is Linting and Why Is It Important for Your Programming Projects?

Laptop on a desk showing a code editor with a dark background.

Errors and bugs are part and parcel of developing software. There’s no way to avoid them. There’s always a bug to fix or an error to address. Code errors and bugs can be hard to catch, so developers have developed tools to help ease the process.


One of the best ways to catch static code errors is by using a linter in a process called linting. Linting is a common term that you’ve probably run into while participating in software development projects involving various developers. But what is linting, and why does it matter?


What Is Linting?

Before delving into what linting is, it’s important to understand the base term lint. In programming, lint refers to code that is either suboptimal, ugly, or may have a bug despite being technically okay. On the other hand, a linter is a dedicated tool for detecting lint in your code.

Linting is the act of running a linter on your code to detect errors, either stylistic or programming with an aim of addressing them.

When you run a linter on your code, like ESlint for JavaScript, it will identify issues you should fix before you can even run the code. As such, linting is one of the testing methods every developer should know.

4 Reasons Why Linting Is Important

Every software development project can benefit heavily from linting. Here are four reasons why:

1. Helps Check for Errors

Linters can identify certain programming errors earlier on that you may not have noticed while writing code. A linter can easily identify and warn about unused variables, using undefined functions, suspicious code constructs, potential bugs, syntax errors, and various other issues that may arise.

They can also automatically help fix certain issues in your code (like a missing semicolon at the end of your statement in JavaScript) without lifting a finger. This is important as it may help avoid errors later on.

2. Helps in Enforcing Coding Standards

Every developer may have their preferences and styles of writing code. While working on a solo project, this is no problem. However, it can become an issue for collaborative projects.

Linters are handy as they help enforce a specific coding style that every developer should follow while contributing to the project. Linters can do this because they have various rules baked in that are strictly enforced.

However, as a team, you can decide on your style guide and customize a linter’s rules to follow your preferences instead. Alternatively, you can also follow existing style guides like the Airbnb style guide or Google’s JavaScript style guide.

3. Improves Code Quality

In general, by ensuring consistency in your code and checking potential issues and errors early on, linting helps improve the quality of your code. Linters can also suggest best practices while doing certain things. For instance, unused variables have no use in your code.

4. Helps in Writing Secure Code

It’s no secret that security is one of the most critical areas while developing software. Some linters can detect and warn against potential security issues. A good example of this is Gosec which is available for development projects written in Go and Bandit for Python.

Various linting tools are available depending on the programming language you are using. Examples of available linters include RuboCop, ESLint, JSLint, Gosec, Prettier, CSSLint, PyLint, and StandardJS. You can always search online for linters specific to a given programming language.

Use Linters to Write Quality Code

Linters are important in every programming project, whether it’s a solo or collaborative one. Linters can identify issues early on and even fix some automatically on your behalf without running your code. They can also help enforce a specific coding style, so code reviews are about the implemented changes and less about style or code formatting conventions.

The icing on the cake is security linters which can help identify potential security issues in your code.

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