Benefits and Downsides to Implementing a Linter in Your Project

ESLint is a popular tool used in many applications. Linting is the process of automatically checking code to make sure it is set to standards that you can define. Oftentimes, a linter is checking for errors or potential bugs in the code. However, you can also use it to make sure the entire codebase is set by the same design standards.

Generally, this is beneficial for any size team. But, I’d argue it’s particularly useful for a large team. Here are some reasons you might consider implementing a linter in your next project.

A linter improves code maintenance and documentation.

Good documentation is critical to having an organized codebase. If you have a linter, then the documentation can provide a lot of important information about the codebase upfront. This makes the maintainability of the code much easier to keep on top of, as all developers are all writing with the same patterns.

Increased readability leads to better consistency across a team.

A consistent look and writing patterns can help teamwork massively. If you have a large team or even several teams, having a linter makes collaboration across those teams effective. That’s because everyone can understand one another’s changes to the code.

You can catch bugs early.

When writing with ESLint, you can cut down time on debugging by a lot. Sometimes even small errors with your code can create larger bugs later. Within your project, if you can identify them, you can crush them from the beginning by enforcing certain rules you think might cause issues. With the wide selection of ESLint rules, you can pin down any potential pain points in your app and add rules that prevent them from showing up in the first place.

Real-time feedback is a great learning tool.

With a decent linter, any new developers onboarding can get up to speed and won’t be surprised by any differences in code stylings from file to file. Once they know how things are done within the project, it becomes much easier for them to contribute.

What are the downsides?

While, in general, a linter is beneficial, there are some small downsides depending on where your team is at with the application.

  • If your app is already large enough and you want to add it afterward, setup can be a sizeable process. Any rules you wish to add will now have to be refactored. Sometimes it can take a long time to ensure old code is all properly retrofitted to handle the new rules. If you want to add a set of rules, then the work can increase quite a bit.
  • False positives can be a pain. Sometimes the linter means well, but it’s hard to differentiate between a piece of code that needs refactoring vs. code that is perfectly fine but is getting errors from the linter.

Overall ESLint is a powerful and useful tool for your development project. It can help reduce bugs, maintain a high level of consistency even across teams, and contribute to the readability of the codebase. A couple of points are worth considering, such as how much work implementing it into a fully fleshed-out project might be. But, overall, the long-term pros generally will outweigh any short-term cons.