GEOG 863:
Web Application Development for Geospatial Professionals

4.5.4 Beautifiers


Especially when cobbling together snippets of code from various samples, it’s common for your code to become messy (e.g., indented inconsistently, varying amounts of whitespace, etc.). IDEs typically provide ways to indent or unindent blocks of code. In Notepad++, this can be done by highlighting the incorrectly indented code and hitting Tab or Shift-Tab, respectively. However, there are also beautifying tools available both online and within IDEs that can correct multiple kinds of errors across an entire document in seconds.

Here is a messy version of the Hello_Map JS code:

], function(Map, MapView) {

var map = new Map({
    basemap: "streets"

                var view = new MapView({
            container: "viewDiv",
            map: map,
            zoom: 4,
            center: [15, 65]


This code, while perfectly valid as seen by browsers, is difficult for people to read because of the inconsistent indentation and large block of whitespace.

  1. Point your browser to
  2. Copy the messy code above and paste it into the large textbox on the jsbeautifier site.
  3. Click the Beautify JavaScript or HTML button either above or below the text box (or hit Ctrl-Enter). Voila! The messiness of this code is cleaned up.

There are several settings in the upper right of the page that you can use to tweak how the beautifier tidies your code. The first four dropdown lists are probably of the most interest:

  • The first allows you to specify the number of spaces you wish to indent with (or use 1 tab instead). It’s considered good practice to use either tabs or spaces, but not to mix the two in the same document. Developers often have strong opinions in the space vs. tab debate. I lean toward using spaces since a space occupies one character regardless of the app you’re using to view the code, whereas a tab could be shown as 2, 4 or 8 characters wide depending on the app.
  • The second list has to do with the amount of whitespace you want to appear between blocks of code (e.g., between two functions, after a loop or conditional expression, or as in this case, between the definition of two object variables).
  • The third list allows you to specify the maximum width of your code before it gets wrapped to the next line.
  • The fourth list involves the positioning of braces. Some developers (myself included) prefer to position the opening brace that goes with a function or object constructor on the same line as its “control statement”. Others prefer that the brace be placed on its own line.

I encourage you to experiment with these options to see how they affect the formatting of your code.

As with the linting tools, IDEs sometimes include a built-in beautifying tool or can have one added as a plugin. The only tool that I’m aware of for Notepad++ is JSToolNpp. I’m not going to walk you through the use of this tool since I’m not crazy about how it formats object definitions. For example, it formats an object like this:

var map = new Map({
        basemap: "streets"

whereas I’d prefer it to be formatted like this:

var map = new Map({
    basemap: "streets"

However, you are welcome to install and play with the tool if you like.