Thank you!#

First off, thank you for considering contributing to beets! It’s people like you that make beets continue to succeed.

These guidelines describe how you can help most effectively. By following these guidelines, you can make life easier for the development team as it indicates you respect the maintainers’ time; in return, the maintainers will reciprocate by helping to address your issue, review changes, and finalize pull requests.

Types of Contributions#

We love to get contributions from our community—you! There are many ways to contribute, whether you’re a programmer or not.

The first thing to do, regardless of how you’d like to contribute to the project, is to check out our Code of Conduct and to keep that in mind while interacting with other contributors and users.


  • Promote beets! Help get the word out by telling your friends, writing a blog post, or discussing it on a forum you frequent.

  • Improve the documentation. It’s incredibly easy to contribute here: just find a page you want to modify and hit the “Edit on GitHub” button in the upper-right. You can automatically send us a pull request for your changes.

  • GUI design. For the time being, beets is a command-line-only affair. But that’s mostly because we don’t have any great ideas for what a good GUI should look like. If you have those great ideas, please get in touch.

  • Benchmarks. We’d like to have a consistent way of measuring speed improvements in beets’ tagger and other functionality as well as a way of comparing beets’ performance to other tools. You can help by compiling a library of freely-licensed music files (preferably with incorrect metadata) for testing and measurement.

  • Think you have a nice config or cool use-case for beets? We’d love to hear about it! Submit a post to our discussion board under the “Show and Tell” category for a chance to get featured in the docs.

  • Consider helping out fellow users by by responding to support requests .


  • As a programmer (even if you’re just a beginner!), you have a ton of opportunities to get your feet wet with beets.

  • For developing plugins, or hacking away at beets, there’s some good information in the “For Developers” section of the docs.

Getting the Source#

The easiest way to get started with the latest beets source is to use pip to install an “editable” package. This can be done with one command:

$ pip install -e git+

Or, equivalently:

$ git clone
$ cd beets
$ pip install -e .

If you already have a released version of beets installed, you may need to remove it first by typing pip uninstall beets. The pip command above will put the beets source in a src/beets directory and install the beet CLI script to a standard location on your system. You may want to use the --src option to specify the parent directory where the source will be checked out and the --user option such that the package will be installed to your home directory (compare with the output of pip install --help).

Code Contribution Ideas#

  • We maintain a set of issues marked as “bite-sized”. These are issues that would serve as a good introduction to the codebase. Claim one and start exploring!

  • Like testing? Our test coverage is somewhat low. You can help out by finding low-coverage modules or checking out other testing-related issues.

  • There are several ways to improve the tests in general (see Testing and some places to think about performance optimization (see Optimization).

  • Not all of our code is up to our coding conventions. In particular, the library API documentation are currently quite sparse. You can help by adding to the docstrings in the code and to the documentation pages themselves. beets follows PEP-257 for docstrings and in some places, we also sometimes use ReST autodoc syntax for Sphinx to, for example, refer to a class name.

Your First Contribution#

If this is your first time contributing to an open source project, welcome! If you are confused at all about how to contribute or what to contribute, take a look at this great tutorial, or stop by our discussion board if you have any questions.

We maintain a list of issues we reserved for those new to open source labeled “first timers only”. Since the goal of these issues is to get users comfortable with contributing to an open source project, please do not hesitate to ask any questions.

How to Submit Your Work#

Do you have a great bug fix, new feature, or documentation expansion you’d like to contribute? Follow these steps to create a GitHub pull request and your code will ship in no time.

  1. Fork the beets repository and clone it (see above) to create a workspace.

  2. Install pre-commit, following the instructions here.

  3. Make your changes.

  4. Add tests. If you’ve fixed a bug, write a test to ensure that you’ve actually fixed it. If there’s a new feature or plugin, please contribute tests that show that your code does what it says.

  5. Add documentation. If you’ve added a new command flag, for example, find the appropriate page under docs/ where it needs to be listed.

  6. Add a changelog entry to docs/changelog.rst near the top of the document.

  7. Run the tests and style checker. The easiest way to run the tests is to use tox. For more information on running tests, see Testing.

  8. Push to your fork and open a pull request! We’ll be in touch shortly.

  9. If you add commits to a pull request, please add a comment or re-request a review after you push them since GitHub doesn’t automatically notify us when commits are added.

Remember, code contributions have four parts: the code, the tests, the documentation, and the changelog entry. Thank you for contributing!

The Code#

The documentation has a section on the library API that serves as an introduction to beets’ design.

Coding Conventions#


There are a few coding conventions we use in beets:

  • Whenever you access the library database, do so through the provided Library methods or via a Transaction object. Never call lib.conn.* directly. For example, do this:

    with g.lib.transaction() as tx:
          rows = tx.query('SELECT DISTINCT "{0}" FROM "{1}" ORDER BY "{2}"'
                          .format(field, model._table, sort_field))

    To fetch Item objects from the database, use lib.items(…) and supply a query as an argument. Resist the urge to write raw SQL for your query. If you must use lower-level queries into the database, do this:

    with lib.transaction() as tx:
        rows = tx.query('SELECT …')

    Transaction objects help control concurrent access to the database and assist in debugging conflicting accesses.

  • Always use the future imports print_function, division, and absolute_import, but not unicode_literals. These help keep your code modern and will help in the eventual move to Python 3.

  • str.format() should be used instead of the % operator

  • Never print informational messages; use the logging module instead. In particular, we have our own logging shim, so you’ll see from beets import logging in most files.

    • The loggers use str.format-style logging instead of %-style, so you can type log.debug("{0}", obj) to do your formatting.

  • Exception handlers must use except A as B: instead of except A, B:.


We follow black formatting and google’s docstring format.

You can use tox -e lint to check your code for any style errors. Running tox -e format will automatically format your code according to the specifications required by the project.

Handling Paths#

A great deal of convention deals with the handling of paths. Paths are stored internally—in the database, for instance—as byte strings (i.e., bytes instead of str in Python 3). This is because POSIX operating systems’ path names are only reliably usable as byte strings—operating systems typically recommend but do not require that filenames use a given encoding, so violations of any reported encoding are inevitable. On Windows, the strings are always encoded with UTF-8; on Unix, the encoding is controlled by the filesystem. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • If you have a Unicode path or you’re not sure whether something is Unicode or not, pass it through bytestring_path function in the beets.util module to convert it to bytes.

  • Pass every path name through the syspath function (also in beets.util) before sending it to any operating system file operation (open, for example). This is necessary to use long filenames (which, maddeningly, must be Unicode) on Windows. This allows us to consistently store bytes in the database but use the native encoding rule on both POSIX and Windows.

  • Similarly, the displayable_path utility function converts bytestring paths to a Unicode string for displaying to the user. Every time you want to print out a string to the terminal or log it with the logging module, feed it through this function.

Editor Settings#

Personally, I work on beets with vim. Here are some .vimrc lines that might help with PEP 8-compliant Python coding:

filetype indent on
autocmd FileType python setlocal shiftwidth=4 tabstop=4 softtabstop=4 expandtab shiftround autoindent

Consider installing this alternative Python indentation plugin. I also like neomake with its flake8 checker.


Running the Tests#

To run the tests for multiple Python versions, compile the docs, and check style, use tox. Just type tox or use something like tox -e py27 to test a specific configuration. You can use the --parallel flag to make this go faster.

You can disable a hand-selected set of “slow” tests by setting the environment variable SKIP_SLOW_TESTS before running them.

Other ways to run the tests:

  • python (ditto)

  • python -m unittest discover -p 'test_*' (ditto)

  • pytest

You can also see the latest test results on Linux and on Windows.

Note, if you are on Windows and are seeing errors running tox, it may be related to this issue, in which case you may have to install tox v3.8.3 e.g. python -m pip install tox==3.8.3


tox -e cov will add coverage info for tests: Coverage is pretty low still – see the current status on Codecov.

Red Flags#

The pytest-random plugin makes it easy to randomize the order of tests. py.test test --random will occasionally turn up failing tests that reveal ordering dependencies—which are bad news!

Test Dependencies#

The tests have a few more dependencies than beets itself. (The additional dependencies consist of testing utilities and dependencies of non-default plugins exercised by the test suite.) The dependencies are listed under ‘test’ in extras_require in To install the test dependencies, run python -m pip install .[test]. Or, just run a test suite with tox which will install them automatically.

Writing Tests#

Writing tests is done by adding or modifying files in folder test. Take a look at beetbox/beets to get a basic view on how tests are written. We currently allow writing tests with either unittest or pytest.

Any tests that involve sending out network traffic e.g. an external API call, should be skipped normally and run under our weekly integration test suite. These tests can be useful in detecting external changes that would affect beets. In order to do this, simply add the following snippet before the applicable test case:

    os.environ.get('INTEGRATION_TEST', '0') == '1',
    'integration testing not enabled')

If you do this, it is also advised to create a similar test that ‘mocks’ the network call and can be run under normal circumstances by our CI and others. See unittest.mock for more info.

  • AVOID using the start() and stop() methods of mock.patch, as they require manual cleanup. Use the annotation or context manager forms instead.