Skip to content


Goku Mohandas
· ·

Using the pre-commit git hooks to ensure checks before committing.

📬  Receive new lessons straight to your inbox (once a month) and join 20K+ developers in learning how to responsibly deliver value with ML.


Before performing a commit to our local repository, there are a lot of items on our mental todo list, ranging from styling, formatting, testing, etc. And it's very easy to forget some of these steps, especially when we want to "push to quick fix". To help us manage all these important steps, we can use pre-commit hooks, which will automatically be triggered when we try to perform a commit.


Though we can add these checks directly in our CI/CD pipeline (ex. via GitHub actions), it's significantly faster to validate our commits before pushing to our remote host and waiting to see what needs to be fixed before submitting yet another PR.


We'll be using the Pre-commit framework to help us automatically perform important checks via hooks when we make a commit.

# Install pre-commit
pip install pre-commit
pre-commit install


We define our pre-commit hooks via a .pre-commit-config.yaml configuration file. We can either create our yaml configuration from scratch or use the pre-commit CLI to create a sample configuration which we can add to.

# Simple config
pre-commit sample-config > .pre-commit-config.yaml
cat .pre-commit-config.yaml
# See for more information
# See for more hooks
-   repo:
    rev: v3.2.0
    -   id: trailing-whitespace
    -   id: end-of-file-fixer
    -   id: check-yaml
    -   id: check-added-large-files

Built-in hooks

Inside the sample configuration, we can see that pre-commit has added some default hooks from it's repository. It specifies the location of the repository, version as well as the specific hook ids to use. We can read about the function of these hooks and add even more by exploring pre-commit's built-in hooks. Many of them accept arguments such as maxkb (max kilobytes) for the check-added-large-files hook. We can easily add argument to our configuration file like so:

# Inside .pre-commit-config.yaml
-   id: check-added-large-files
    args: ['--maxkb=1000']


Be sure to explore the many other built-in hooks because there are some really useful ones that we use in our project. For example, check-merge-conflict to see if there are any lingering merge conflict strings or detect-aws-credentials if we accidently left our credentials exposed in a file, and so much more.

And we can also exclude certain files from being processed by the hooks by using the optional exclude key.

# Inside .pre-commit-config.yaml
-   id: check-yaml
    exclude: "mkdocs.yml"

There are many other optional keys we can configure for each hook ID.

Custom hooks

Besides pre-commit's built-in hooks, there are also many custom, 3rd party popular hooks that we can choose from. For example, if we want to apply formatting checks with Black as a hook, we can leverage Black's pre-commit hook.

# Inside .pre-commit-config.yaml
-   repo:
    rev: 20.8b1
    -   id: black
        args: []
        files: .

This specific hook is defined under a .pre-commit-hooks.yaml inside Black's repository, as are other custom hooks under their respective package repositories.

Local hooks

We can also create our own local hooks without configuring a separate .pre-commit-hooks.yaml. Here we're defining two pre-commit hooks, test-non-training and clean, to run some commands that we've defined in our Makefile. Similarly, we can run any entry command with arguments to create hooks very quickly.

# Inside .pre-commit-config.yaml
- repo: local
    - id: test-non-training
      name: test-non-training
      entry: make
      args: ["test-non-training"]
      language: system
      pass_filenames: false
    - id: clean
      name: clean
      entry: make
      args: ["clean"]
      language: system
      pass_filenames: false


Our pre-commit hooks will automatically execute when we try to make a commit. We'll be able to see if each hook passed or failed and make any changes. If any of the hooks failed, we have to fix the corresponding file or in many instances, reformatting will occur automatically.

Once we've made or approved the changes, we can commit again to ensure that all hooks are passed.


Though pre-commit hooks are meant to run before (pre) a commit, we can manually trigger all or individual hooks on all or a set of files.

# Run
pre-commit run --all-files  # run all hooks on all files
pre-commit run <HOOK_ID> --all-files # run one hook on all files
pre-commit run --files <PATH_TO_FILE>  # run all hooks on a file
pre-commit run <HOOK_ID> --files <PATH_TO_FILE> # run one hook on a file


It is highly not recommended to skip running any of the pre-commit hooks because they are there for a reason. But for some highly urgent, world saving commits, we can use the no-verify flag.

# Commit without hooks
git commit -m <MESSAGE> --no-verify


In our .pre-commit-config.yaml configuration files, we've had to specify the versions for each of the repositories so we can use their latest hooks. Pre-commit has an autoupdate CLI command which will update these versions as they become available.

# Autoupdate
pre-commit autoupdate

We can also add this command to our Makefile to execute when a development environment is created so everything is up-to-date.

# Makefile
.PHONY: install-dev
    python -m pip install -e ".[dev]" --no-cache-dir
    pre-commit install
    pre-commit autoupdate