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Sublime Text Tips for Efficient JSON Formatting

Table of Contents

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) has become an essential data format used in a wide range of web development and programming contexts. Its lightweight structure, human readability, and ease of parsing make it a popular choice for transmitting data between web servers, APIs, and applications.

However, while concise and compact JSON is great for machines, it can be challenging for humans to read and maintain. This is where formatting JSON cleanly becomes crucial. Properly formatted JSON is much more readable, maintainable, and less error-prone.

Fortunately, Sublime Text, one of the most versatile text editors for developers, provides excellent tools for formatting JSON data. Through plugins like Pretty JSON, Sublime Text enables complete control over how JSON is displayed and optimized.

This article will dive into Sublime Text’s JSON formatting capabilities, with tips on how to leverage them for more efficient JSON handling in your development workflows.

Installing and Accessing the JSON Formatter

To start taking advantage of Sublime Text’s JSON tools, the first step is installing the JSON formatter plugin. The easiest way to do this is via Package Control.

Package Control Installation

Package Control allows streamlined management of plugins within Sublime Text. Here is how to install it and the JSON formatter:

  1. Open the Sublime Text command palette with Ctrl+Shift+P (Cmd+Shift+P on Mac)
  2. Type “Install Package Control” and press Enter. This will automatically install the package manager.
  3. Once installation completes, open the command palette again.
  4. Type “Install Package” and select “Package Control: Install Package”.
  5. Search for “Pretty JSON” and select it from the list to install.

That’s it! The formatter will now be ready to use.

Accessing Formatting Features

With Pretty JSON installed, there are a couple ways to access its formatting capabilities:

  • Command Palette: Open the command palette using the shortcut. Then type “Pretty JSON” to see available formatter commands.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Set up your own custom keyboard shortcuts. For example:
[
  { 
    "keys": ["ctrl+alt+j"], 
    "command": "pretty_json"
  }
]

This will bind Ctrl+Alt+J to run the formatter.

The command palette enables quick access without memorizing shortcuts. But frequent JSON handlers may want to customize bindings for frequent actions.

Beautifying JSON for Readability

One of the most useful JSON formatting features is beautifying JSON to make it more readable. The indentation, line breaks, and spacing applied by the beautify operation greatly improve code clarity.

Formatting Methods

To beautify JSON in Sublime Text:

  • Open the JSON file
  • Open the command palette (Ctrl+Shift+P)
  • Run “Pretty JSON: Format JSON” or “Pretty Print JSON”

This will transform the code from minified:

{"name":"John","age":30,"car":null}

To beautiful:

{
  "name": "John",
  "age": 30,
  "car": null
}

The JSON now has proper indentation, line breaks after each key-value pair, and spacing for enhanced readability.

The formatter’s indentation, sorting, and spacing can be customized via Plugin Settings. For example, indenting with 4 spaces instead of 2.

Handling Large Files

When dealing with very large JSON documents, the formatter may begin to slow down and affect performance. Some ways to handle this:

  • Split the file into multiple smaller files before formatting
  • Increase Sublime Text’s memory allocation for larger files

Breaking up the data will allow much quicker formatting. The optimal file size depends on your system resources.

Minifying JSON to Optimize Size

On the flip side of beautifying, the JSON formatter also provides minification capabilities. Minifying removes all unnecessary characters from JSON data – whitespace, newlines, indentation – to optimize its size.

Compressing JSON

To minify JSON in Sublime Text:

  • Open the JSON file
  • Open the command palette (Ctrl+Shift+P)
  • Run “Pretty JSON: Minify JSON”

This will compress the content down to a single line:

{"name":"John","age":30,"car":null}

Minification like this is especially useful when working with data exchanged with web servers and APIs. Reducing payload sizes improves performance.

Validating Minified JSON

It’s important to validate that minified JSON is still valid code. A few options for this:

  • Use an online JSON validator to check for syntax issues
  • Attempt to parse/process the minified JSON in your development environment
  • Beautify the minified code again to visually inspect structure

Handling errors before deploying minified JSON prevents hard-to-debug issues down the line.

Customizing Formatter Settings

A major benefit of using Pretty JSON in Sublime is deep customizability of formatting behavior. Let’s explore some key settings.

Adjusting Indentation and Sorting

Control indentation with the indent setting:

"indent": 3

This sets indentation to 3 spaces instead of the default 2.

Enable alphabetical sorting of keys with:

"sort_keys": true 

Supporting Special Characters

Set "ensure_ascii": false to prevent escaping of non-ASCII characters.

This allows proper display of Unicode and special characters instead of encoded entities like \uXXXX. Helpful when working with international text.

Putting It All Together: Sample Workflow

Let’s walk through an example workflow leveraging Sublime Text’s JSON tools to handle JSON data efficiently:

  1. Install Pretty JSON via Package Control
  2. Open your raw JSON file from an API response
  3. Run “Pretty JSON: Format JSON” to beautify the code with proper indentation and spacing
  4. Tweak formatter settings like indentation level for readability
  5. Use Sublime’s editing features to manipulate the JSON as needed
  6. Run “Pretty JSON: Minify JSON” to compress for production use
  7. Validate the minified code before deployment
  8. Set your own keyboard shortcut like Ctrl+M to quickly minify/beautify
  9. Handle large files by splitting into multiple smaller files if needed

By following a process like this, Sublime Text’s JSON formatting capabilities can be used strategically to improve workflow efficiency and code quality when working with JSON data.

Conclusion

JSON has become a ubiquitous data format in modern web development, powering communication between client-side code, servers, and APIs.While compact JSON is great for transmission and parsing, formatting it cleanly is essential for keeping it maintainable and bug-free in source code.

Sublime Text stands out as a versatile text editor with excellent support for working with JSON. Plugins like Pretty JSON provide customizable control over JSON formatting and minification right within the editor. This article has covered multiple tips for installing the JSON formatter in Sublime, accessing its features, beautifying JSON for readability, minifying for optimization, and customizing settings.

Following these best practices will allow developers to handle JSON data more efficiently and eliminate many formatting-related headaches. Sublime Text brings together speed, flexibility, and utility that makes wrangling JSON much smoother.

Nisha Kumari

Nisha Kumari

Nisha Kumari, a Founding Engineer at Bito, brings a comprehensive background in software engineering, specializing in Java/J2EE, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and web development. Her career highlights include significant roles at Accenture, where she led end-to-end project deliveries and application maintenance, and at PubMatic, where she honed her skills in online advertising and optimization. Nisha's expertise spans across SAP HANA development, project management, and technical specification, making her a versatile and skilled contributor to the tech industry.

Written by developers for developers

This article was handcrafted with by the Bito team.

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