Share this page

Learn X in Y minutes

Where X=yaml

YAML is a data serialisation language designed to be directly writable and readable by humans.

It’s a strict superset of JSON, with the addition of syntactically significant newlines and indentation, like Python. Unlike Python, however, YAML doesn’t allow literal tab characters at all.

# Comments in YAML look like this.

################
# SCALAR TYPES #
################

# Our root object (which continues for the entire document) will be a map,
# which is equivalent to a dictionary, hash or object in other languages.
key: value
another_key: Another value goes here.
a_number_value: 100
scientific_notation: 1e+12
# The number 1 will be interpreted as a number, not a boolean. if you want
# it to be intepreted as a boolean, use true
boolean: true
null_value: null
key with spaces: value
# Notice that strings don't need to be quoted. However, they can be.
however: "A string, enclosed in quotes."
"Keys can be quoted too.": "Useful if you want to put a ':' in your key."

# Multiple-line strings can be written either as a 'literal block' (using |),
# or a 'folded block' (using '>').
literal_block: |
    This entire block of text will be the value of the 'literal_block' key,
    with line breaks being preserved.

    The literal continues until de-dented, and the leading indentation is
    stripped.

        Any lines that are 'more-indented' keep the rest of their indentation -
        these lines will be indented by 4 spaces.
folded_style: >
    This entire block of text will be the value of 'folded_style', but this
    time, all newlines will be replaced with a single space.

    Blank lines, like above, are converted to a newline character.

        'More-indented' lines keep their newlines, too -
        this text will appear over two lines.

####################
# COLLECTION TYPES #
####################

# Nesting is achieved by indentation.
a_nested_map:
    key: value
    another_key: Another Value
    another_nested_map:
        hello: hello

# Maps don't have to have string keys.
0.25: a float key

# Keys can also be complex, like multi-line objects
# We use ? followed by a space to indicate the start of a complex key.
? |
    This is a key
    that has multiple lines
: and this is its value

# YAML also allows mapping between sequences with the complex key syntax
# Some language parsers might complain
# An example
? - Manchester United
  - Real Madrid
: [ 2001-01-01, 2002-02-02 ]

# Sequences (equivalent to lists or arrays) look like this:
a_sequence:
    - Item 1
    - Item 2
    - 0.5 # sequences can contain disparate types.
    - Item 4
    - key: value
      another_key: another_value
    -
        - This is a sequence
        - inside another sequence

# Since YAML is a superset of JSON, you can also write JSON-style maps and
# sequences:
json_map: {"key": "value"}
json_seq: [3, 2, 1, "takeoff"]

#######################
# EXTRA YAML FEATURES #
#######################

# YAML also has a handy feature called 'anchors', which let you easily duplicate
# content across your document. Both of these keys will have the same value:
anchored_content: &anchor_name This string will appear as the value of two keys.
other_anchor: *anchor_name

# Anchors can be used to duplicate/inherit properties
base: &base
    name: Everyone has same name

foo: &foo
    <<: *base
    age: 10

bar: &bar
    <<: *base
    age: 20

# foo and bar would also have name: Everyone has same name

# YAML also has tags, which you can use to explicitly declare types.
explicit_string: !!str 0.5
# Some parsers implement language specific tags, like this one for Python's
# complex number type.
python_complex_number: !!python/complex 1+2j

# We can also use yaml complex keys with language specific tags
? !!python/tuple [5, 7]
: Fifty Seven
# Would be {(5, 7): 'Fifty Seven'} in python

####################
# EXTRA YAML TYPES #
####################

# Strings and numbers aren't the only scalars that YAML can understand.
# ISO-formatted date and datetime literals are also parsed.
datetime: 2001-12-15T02:59:43.1Z
datetime_with_spaces: 2001-12-14 21:59:43.10 -5
date: 2002-12-14

# The !!binary tag indicates that a string is actually a base64-encoded
# representation of a binary blob.
gif_file: !!binary |
    R0lGODlhDAAMAIQAAP//9/X17unp5WZmZgAAAOfn515eXvPz7Y6OjuDg4J+fn5
    OTk6enp56enmlpaWNjY6Ojo4SEhP/++f/++f/++f/++f/++f/++f/++f/++f/+
    +f/++f/++f/++f/++f/++SH+Dk1hZGUgd2l0aCBHSU1QACwAAAAADAAMAAAFLC
    AgjoEwnuNAFOhpEMTRiggcz4BNJHrv/zCFcLiwMWYNG84BwwEeECcgggoBADs=

# YAML also has a set type, which looks like this:
set:
    ? item1
    ? item2
    ? item3

# Like Python, sets are just maps with null values; the above is equivalent to:
set2:
    item1: null
    item2: null
    item3: null

More Resources


Got a suggestion? A correction, perhaps? Open an Issue on the Github Repo, or make a pull request yourself!

Originally contributed by Adam Brenecki, and updated by 5 contributor(s).