TensorFlow code style guide

Python style

Follow the PEP 8 Python style guide, except TensorFlow uses 2 spaces instead of 4. Please conform to the Google Python Style Guide, and use pylint to check your Python changes.


To install pylint and retrieve TensorFlow's custom style definition:

$ pip install pylint
$ wget -O /tmp/pylintrc https://raw.githubusercontent.com/tensorflow/tensorflow/master/tensorflow/tools/ci_build/pylintrc

To check a file with pylint:

$ pylint --rcfile=/tmp/pylintrc myfile.py

Supported Python versions

TensorFlow supports Python 2.7 and Python >= 3.4. See the installation guide for details.

See the TensorFlow continuous build status for official and community supported builds.

Legacy Python compatibility

TensorFlow will support Legacy Python (Python 2.7) until January 1, 2020. Until that time, all code will need to be compatible with the Python versions listed above.

These lines should be present in every Python file:

from __future__ import absolute_import
from __future__ import division
from __future__ import print_function

Use six to write compatible code (for example, six.moves.range).

C++ coding style

Changes to TensorFlow C++ code should conform to the Google C++ Style Guide. Use clang-tidy to check your C/C++ changes.

To install clang-tidy on Ubuntu 16+, do:

$ apt-get install -y clang-tidy

You can check a C/C++ file by using the following:

$ clang-format <my_cc_file> --style=google > /tmp/my_cc_file.cc
$ diff <my_cc_file> /tmp/my_cc_file.cc

Other languages

TensorFlow conventions and special uses


  • Operations that deal with batches may assume that the first dimension of a Tensor is the batch dimension.
  • In most models, the last dimension is the number of channels.
  • Dimensions excluding the first and last usually make up the space dimensions: sequence-length, or image-size.
  • When possible, use a Tensor's overloaded operators rather than TensorFlow functions. For example, we prefer **, +, /, *, -, and/or over tf.pow, tf.add, tf.divide, tf.multiply, tf.subtract, and tf.logical_* — unless a specific name for the operation is desired.

Python operations

A Python operation is a function that, given input tensors and parameters, creates a part of the graph and returns output tensors.

  • The first argument should be tensors, followed by basic Python parameters. The last argument is name with a default value of None.
  • Tensor arguments should be either a single tensor or an iterable of tensors. That is, a "Tensor or list of Tensors" is too broad. See assert_proper_iterable.
  • Operations that take tensors as arguments should call convert_to_tensor to convert non-tensor inputs into tensors if they are using C++ operations. Note that the arguments are still described as a Tensor object of a specific dtype in the documentation.
  • Each Python operation should have a name_scope. As seen below, pass the name of the op as a string.
  • Operations should contain an extensive Python comment with Args and Returns declarations that explain both the type and meaning of each value. Possible shapes, dtypes, or ranks should be specified in the description. See documentation details.
  • For increased usability, include an example of usage with inputs / outputs of the op in Example section.
  • Avoid making explicit use of tf.Tensor.eval or tf.Session.run. For example, to write logic that depends on the Tensor value, use the TensorFlow control flow. Alternatively, restrict the operation to only run when eager execution is enabled (tf.executing_eagerly()).


def my_op(tensor_in, other_tensor_in, my_param, other_param=0.5,
          output_collections=(), name=None):
  """My operation that adds two tensors with given coefficients.

    tensor_in: `Tensor`, input tensor.
    other_tensor_in: `Tensor`, same shape as `tensor_in`, other input tensor.
    my_param: `float`, coefficient for `tensor_in`.
    other_param: `float`, coefficient for `other_tensor_in`.
    output_collections: `tuple` of `string`s, name of the collection to
                        collect result of this op.
    name: `string`, name of the operation.

    `Tensor` of same shape as `tensor_in`, sum of input values with coefficients.

    >>> my_op([1., 2.], [3., 4.], my_param=0.5, other_param=0.6,
              output_collections=['MY_OPS'], name='add_t1t2')
    [2.3, 3.4]
  with tf.name_scope(name or "my_op"):
    tensor_in = tf.convert_to_tensor(tensor_in)
    other_tensor_in = tf.convert_to_tensor(other_tensor_in)
    result = my_param * tensor_in + other_param * other_tensor_in
    tf.add_to_collection(output_collections, result)
    return result


output = my_op(t1, t2, my_param=0.5, other_param=0.6,
               output_collections=['MY_OPS'], name='add_t1t2')