Wrap and Truncate a String with Textwrap in Python

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  • Wrap a string: Use wrap() or fill() functions from the textwrap module in Python. wrap() returns a list of output lines, while fill() returns a single string with newline characters.
  • Truncate a string: Use the shorten() function from the textwrap module to truncate a string to a specified length and append a placeholder at the end if needed.
  • TextWrapper object: An instance of the TextWrapper class from the textwrap module, which provides methods for wrapping and filling text. You can customize the wrapping behavior by modifying the properties of the TextWrapper object.

Understanding Textwrap Module

The textwrap module in Python provides various functions to efficiently wrap, fill, indent, and truncate strings. It helps in formatting plain text to make it easily readable and well-structured. Let’s discuss a few key functions in this module.

Functions in Textwrap


The wrap() function is used to wrap a given string so that every line is within a specified width. The resulting output will be a list of strings, where each entry represents a single line. This function ensures that words are not broken.

Here’s an example:

import textwrap

text = "Python is a powerful programming language."
wrapped_text = textwrap.wrap(text, width=15)
for line in wrapped_text:

The output will be:

Python is a


The fill() function works similarly to wrap(), but it returns a single string instead of a list, with lines separated by newline characters. This can be useful when you want to maintain the output as a single string but still have it wrapped at a specific width.

For instance:

import textwrap

text = "Python is a powerful programming language."
filled_text = textwrap.fill(text, width=15)


Python is a

Working with Strings

The textwrap module is specifically designed for wrapping and formatting plain text by accounting for line breaks and whitespace management.

Manipulating Strings with Textwrap

When dealing with strings in Python, it is often necessary to adjust the width of text or break lines at specific points. The textwrap module provides several functions that can be useful for manipulating strings. Here are some examples:

  1. Wrapping a string: The wrap() function breaks a long string into a list of lines at a specified width. The fill() function works similarly, but instead, it returns a single string with line breaks inserted at the appropriate points. These functions can be helpful when dealing with large amounts of text and need to ensure the characters per line do not exceed a certain limit. For instance,
import textwrap

long_string = "This is a long string that needs to be wrapped at a specific width."
wrapped_lines = textwrap.wrap(long_string, width=20)

filled_string = textwrap.fill(long_string, width=20)
  1. Truncating a string: The shorten() function trims a string to a specified width and removes any excess whitespace. This is useful when dealing with strings with too many characters or unwanted spaces. Here’s an example of how to use shorten():
import textwrap

example_string = "This string has extra  whitespace    and needs    to be shortened."
shortened_string = textwrap.shorten(example_string, width=30)
  1. Handling line breaks and spacing: The textwrap module also accounts for proper handling of line breaks and spacing in strings. By default, it takes into consideration existing line breaks and collapses multiple spaces into single spaces. This feature ensures that when wrapping or truncating strings, the output remains clean and readable.

💡 TLDR: The textwrap module provides a simple and effective way to manipulate strings in Python. It helps with wrapping, truncating, and formatting strings based on desired width, characters, and spacing requirements. Using the wrap(), fill(), and shorten() functions, developers can efficiently manage large strings and improve the readability of their code.

Textwrapper Object Configuration

The textwrap module’s core functionality is accessed through the TextWrapper object, which can be customized to fit various string-manipulation needs.

Customizing Textwrapper Settings

To create a TextWrapper instance with custom settings, first import the textwrap module and initialize an object with desired parameters:

import textwrap

wrapper = textwrap.TextWrapper(width=50,
                               initial_indent='    ',
                               subsequent_indent='    ',

Let’s go over the most commonly used parameters:

  • width: The maximum length of a line in the wrapped output.
  • initial_indent: A string that will be prepended to the first line of the wrapped text.
  • subsequent_indent: A string that will be prepended to all lines of the wrapped text, except the first one.
  • expand_tabs: A Boolean indicating whether to replace all tabs with spaces.
  • tabsize: The number of spaces to use when expand_tabs is set to True.

These additional parameters control various string-handling behaviors:

  • replace_whitespace: If set to True, this flag replaces all whitespace characters with spaces in the output.
  • break_long_words: When True, long words that cannot fit within the specified width will be broken.
  • break_on_hyphens: A Boolean determining whether to break lines at hyphenated words. If True, line breaks may occur after hyphens.
  • drop_whitespace: If set to True, any leading or trailing whitespace on a line will be removed.

The TextWrapper object also offers the shorten function, which collapses and truncates text to fit within a specified width:

shortened_text = wrapper.shorten("This is a long text that will be shortened to fit within the specified width.")

By customizing the settings of a TextWrapper instance, you can efficiently handle various text manipulation tasks with confidence and clarity.

Managing Line Breaks and Whitespace

When working with text in Python, you may often encounter strings with varying line breaks and whitespace. This section will explore how to effectively manage these elements using the textwrap module and other Python techniques.

Controlling Line Breaks

The textwrap module provides functions for wrapping and formatting text with line breaks. To control line breaks within a string, you can use the wrap() and fill() functions. First, you need to import the textwrap module:

import textwrap

Now, you can use the wrap() function to split a string into a list of lines based on a specified width. Here’s an example:

text = "This is a very long line that needs to be wrapped at a specific width."
wrapped_text = textwrap.wrap(text, width=20)


['This is a very long',
 'line that needs to',
 'be wrapped at a',
 'specific width.']

For a single string with line breaks instead of a list, use the fill() function:

filled_text = textwrap.fill(text, width=20)


This is a very long
line that needs to
be wrapped at a
specific width.

In Python, line breaks are represented by the line feed character (\n). To control line breaks manually, you can use the splitlines() and join() functions in combination with the range() function and len() for iterating over elements:

lines = text.splitlines()
for i in range(len(lines)):
    lines[i] = lines[i].strip()
result = '\n'.join(lines)

Feel free to experiment with the different functions and techniques to manage line breaks and whitespace in your Python scripts, making them more readable and well-formatted.

Working with Dataframes

When working with dataframes, it is common to encounter situations where you need to wrap and truncate text in cells to display the information neatly, particularly when exporting data to Excel files. Let’s discuss how to apply text wrapping to cells in pandas dataframes and Excel files using Python.

Applying Textwrap to Excel Files

To wrap and truncate text in Excel files, first, you’ll need to install the openpyxl library. You can learn how to install it in this tutorial. The openpyxl library allows you to work with Excel files efficiently in Python.

Once you have installed openpyxl, you can use it along with pandas to apply text wrapping to the cells in your dataframe. Here’s an example:

import pandas as pd
from openpyxl import Workbook
from openpyxl.utils.dataframe import dataframe_to_rows

# Sample dataframe
data = {'A': ["This is a very long string", "Short string"],
        'B': ["Another long string", "Short one"]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Create a new Excel workbook
wb = Workbook()
ws = wb.active

# Add dataframe to the workbook
for r in dataframe_to_rows(df, index=False, header=True):

# Apply text_wrap to all cells
for row in ws.iter_rows():
    for cell in row:
        cell.alignment = cell.alignment.copy(wrapText=True)

# Save the workbook

This code reads a pandas dataframe and writes it to an Excel file. It then iterates through each cell in the workbook, applying the text_wrap property to the cell’s alignment. Finally, it saves the wrapped text Excel file.

When working with more complex dataframes, you might need to apply additional formatting options such as index, sheet_name, and book to properly display your data in Excel. To do this, you can use pandas‘ built-in function called ExcelWriter. Here’s an example:

# Export dataframe to Excel with specific sheet_name and index
with pd.ExcelWriter('formatted_data.xlsx', engine='openpyxl') as writer:
    df.to_excel(writer, sheet_name='Sample Data', index=False)

This code exports the dataframe to an Excel file with the specified sheet_name and without the index column.

The combination of pandas and openpyxl allows you to efficiently wrap and truncate text in dataframes and Excel files. With the appropriate use of ExcelWriter, sheet_name, and other parameters, you can craft well-formatted Excel files that not only wrap text but also properly display complex data structures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I use textwrap for string truncation?

To use textwrap for string truncation in Python, you can use the shorten function from the module. Here’s an example:

import textwrap

text = "Hello world"
truncated_text = textwrap.shorten(text, width=10, placeholder="...")

What are common methods for wrapping text in Python?

Common methods for wrapping text in Python include using the wrap and fill functions from the textwrap module. Here’s an example using fill:

import textwrap

text = "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit."
wrapped_text = textwrap.fill(text, width=20)

How does textwrap interact with openpyxl for Excel?

textwrap can be used alongside openpyxl to format text in Excel cells. You can use the wrap or fill functions from the textwrap module to prepare your text and then write the formatted text to an Excel cell using openpyxl. However, remember to install openpyxl with pip install openpyxl before using it.

Why is textwrap dedent not functioning properly?

textwrap.dedent might not function properly when the input string contains mixed indentation (spaces or tabs). Make sure that the input string is consistently indented using the same characters (either spaces or tabs).

What distinguishes textwrap fill from wrap?

The wrap function returns a list of wrapped lines, while the fill function returns a single string with the lines separated by newline characters. Here’s an example comparing both functions:

import textwrap

text = "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit."
wrap_output = textwrap.wrap(text, width=20)
fill_output = textwrap.fill(text, width=20)


How do I implement the textwrap module?

To implement the textwrap module in your Python code, simply import the module at the beginning of your script, and then use its functions, such as wrap, fill, and shorten. For example, to wrap a long string:

import textwrap

text = "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit."
wrapped_text = textwrap.wrap(text, width=20)

for line in wrapped_text:

Remember to adjust the width parameter as needed and explore other options in the documentation for more customization.

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