Running Pylint

Invoking Pylint

Pylint is meant to be called from the command line. The usage is

pylint [options] modules_or_packages

You should give Pylint the name of a python package or module, or some number of packages or modules. Pylint will not import this package or module, though uses Python internals to locate them and as such is subject to the same rules and configuration. You should pay attention to your PYTHONPATH, since it is a common error to analyze an installed version of a module instead of the development version.

It is also possible to analyze Python files, with a few restrictions. The thing to keep in mind is that Pylint will try to convert the file name to a module name, and only be able to process the file if it succeeds.


should always work since the current working directory is automatically added on top of the python path

pylint directory/

will work if directory is a python package (i.e. has an file or it is an implicit namespace package) or if "directory" is in the python path.

For more details on this see the Frequently Asked Questions.

It is also possible to call Pylint from another Python program, thanks to the Run() function in the pylint.lint module (assuming Pylint options are stored in a list of strings pylint_options) as:

import pylint.lint
pylint_opts = ['--version']

To silently run Pylint on a module, and get its standard output and error:

from pylint import epylint as lint
(pylint_stdout, pylint_stderr) = lint.py_run('', return_std=True)

Command line options

First of all, we have two basic (but useful) options.

--version show program's version number and exit
-h, --help show help about the command line options

Pylint is architected around several checkers. You can disable a specific checker or some of its messages or message categories by specifying --disable=<symbol>. If you want to enable only some checkers or some message symbols, first use --disable=all then --enable=<symbol> with <symbol> being a comma-separated list of checker names and message symbols. See the list of available features for a description of provided checkers with their functionalities. The --disable and --enable options can be used with comma-separated lists mixing checkers, message ids and categories like -d C,W,no-error,design

It is possible to disable all messages with --disable=all. This is useful to enable only a few checkers or a few messages by first disabling everything, and then re-enabling only what you need.

Each checker has some specific options, which can take either a yes/no value, an integer, a python regular expression, or a comma-separated list of values (which are generally used to override a regular expression in special cases). For a full list of options, use --help

Specifying all the options suitable for your setup and coding standards can be tedious, so it is possible to use a configuration file to specify the default values. You can specify a configuration file on the command line using the --rcfile option. Otherwise, Pylint searches for a configuration file in the following order and uses the first one it finds:

  1. pylintrc in the current working directory
  2. .pylintrc in the current working directory
  3. If the current working directory is in a Python module, Pylint searches up the hierarchy of Python modules until it finds a pylintrc file. This allows you to specify coding standards on a module-by-module basis. Of course, a directory is judged to be a Python module if it contains an file.
  4. The file named by environment variable PYLINTRC
  5. if you have a home directory which isn't /root:
    1. .pylintrc in your home directory
    2. .config/pylintrc in your home directory
  6. /etc/pylintrc

The --generate-rcfile option will generate a commented configuration file on standard output according to the current configuration and exit. This includes:

  • Any configuration file found as explained above
  • Options appearing before --generate-rcfile on the Pylint command line

Of course you can also start with the default values and hand-tune the configuration.

Other useful global options include:

 Add files or directories to the blacklist. They should be base names, not paths.
 Select output format (text, json, custom).
 Modify text output message template.
--list-msgs Generate pylint's messages.
 Generate pylint's full documentation, in reST format.

Parallel execution

It is possible to speed up the execution of Pylint. If the running computer has more CPUs than one, then the work for checking all files could be spread across all cores via Pylints's sub-processes. This functionality is exposed via the -j command-line parameter. If the provided number is 0, then the total number of CPUs will be autodetected and used.


pylint -j 4

This will spawn 4 parallel Pylint sub-process, where each provided module will be checked in parallel. Discovered problems by checkers are not displayed immediately. They are shown just after checking a module is complete.

There are some limitations in running checks in parallel in the current implementation. It is not possible to use custom plugins (i.e. --load-plugins option), nor it is not possible to use initialization hooks (i.e. the --init-hook option).

Exit codes

Pylint returns bit-encoded exit codes. If applicable, the table below lists the related stderr stream message output.

exit code meaning stderr stream message
0 no error  
1 fatal message issued  
2 error message issued  
4 warning message issued  
8 refactor message issued  
16 convention message issued  
32 usage error
  • "internal error while receiving resultsfrom child linter" "Error occurred, stopping the linter."
  • "<return of>"
  • "Jobs number <#> should be greater than 0"