Formatting Terraform Code With the Terraform fmt Command


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Do you hate reading ugly code? If so, you should avoid writing one yourself, too. Most computer languages follow specific style conventions, and the HashiCorp Terraform language is no exception.

A single misplaced bracket or an over-indentation can make your Terraform configuration files challenging to read, maintain, and understand — overall, a bad experience. But with the Terraform fmt command, you can fix these code inconsistencies all at once.

Read on, and you will learn how to automatically rewrite Terraform configuration files with a single command while applying the proper code formatting. You can even preview the changes before committing them! Let’s get started enhancing your infrastructure provisioning experience!


If you’d like to follow along in this tutorial, ensure you have the following in place:

  • A code editor such as Visual Studio Code (VSCode), but feel free to use your preferred editor.

Creating a Terraform Configuration File

Before going any further, you should have a Terraform configuration file(s) to use as the target for the Terraform code formatting. Follow the instructions below to create the working directories and configuration files for your project.

1. Open a new terminal window on your computer.

2. Create a folder named terraform-s3-demo on your home directory. This folder is where your Terraform files will reside. Run the command below to create the working folder.

# Create the parent folder for your Terraform files
mkdir ~/terraform-s3-demo
# Change the current working directory to the new folder
cd ~/terraform-s3-demo

3. Next, create an empty file with the name This file will contain your Terraform configuration code.

# Create a blank configuration file on the current directory

4. Now, open the file in your code editor. Suppose your code editor is VSCode, type code . to open the current working directory in VSCode.

Opening the Terraform file for editing
Opening the Terraform file for editing

5. Copy the configuration below that defines the creation of an AWS S3 bucket, paste it into the, and save the file. Refer to the inline comments for each code block.

Note: The Bucket name must be unique across the AWS infrastructure. Make sure to change the bucket name terraform-demo-bucket-8972376 in the code to something else to make it unique; for example –terraform-demo-bucket-68574321.

Note: The configuration code below is deliberately malformed to demonstrate how to apply the correct formatting later in the later sections.

# Declaring the Provider Requirements
terraform {
  required_providers {
    aws = {
      source  = "hashicorp/aws"
      version = "~> 3.0"

# Configuring the AWS Provider (aws) with region set to 'us-east-2'
provider "aws" {
  region = "us-east-2"

# Creating the encryption key which will encrypt the bucket objects
resource "aws_kms_key" "mykey" {
  deletion_window_in_days = "20"

# Granting the Bucket Access
resource "aws_s3_bucket_public_access_block" "publicaccess" {
  bucket =
  block_public_acls = false
  block_public_policy = false

# Creating the S3 Bucket and apply encryption
resource "aws_s3_bucket" "demobucket" {
## Change the "bucket" name into a unique value before provisioning.
bucket = "terraform-demo-bucket-8972376"
        force_destroy = false
server_side_encryption_configuration {
rule {
apply_server_side_encryption_by_default {
kms_master_key_id = aws_kms_key.mykey.arn
        sse_algorithm = "aws:kms"
  # Keeping multiple versions of an object in the same bucket
  versioning {
    enabled = true

Enhancing Code Readability with Terraform fmt Command

So far, you’ve created the boilerplate configuration file necessary to create an AWS S3 bucket. Terraform fmt command have several flags to help determine whether the file follows the canonical format or style.

Checking Files for Formatting Inconsistencies

To check which files on the current working directory contain formatting inconsistencies, follow these steps.

Open a terminal and navigate to the ~/*terraform-s3-demo* directory if you haven’t already.

Next, run the command below. The -check flag will return the filenames that need formatting correction.

terraform fmt -check 

As you can see below, the command returned the filename, indicating that this file contains malformed code.

Checking for formatting inconsistencies
Checking for formatting inconsistencies

To check a file under sub-directories (if any), append the -recursive flag to the terraform fmt command to process the files under those sub-directories such as: terraform fmt -check -recursive

Previewing Formatting Changes

So you were able to check the files and determine which ones need format correcting. But wouldn’t it be nice if you knew which parts of the file have inconsistent formatting?

Luckily, the terraform fmt command allows you to preview the changes by running the terraform fmt command with the -diff flag. Copy the command below and run it in the terminal.

terraform fmt -check -diff

After running the command, you should see a similar output to the image below. The result shows you the filename at the top and which lines do not conform with the correct formatting.

For clarity, the lines that start with “-” with the red arrow are the original (current configuration) code. The lines beginning with “+” with the green arrow show the proposed changes to the code.

Previewing proposed formatting changes
Previewing proposed formatting changes

Rewriting Configuration Files with Proper Formatting

You now understand how to determine which files contain inconsistent code and how to preview the changes. How do you now apply the proper Terraform configuration format? To rewrite the configuration files, run the command below without any flags.

terraform fmt

After running the command, view your code in the editor again and confirm the changes. The image below shows the before and after formatting of the configuration file.

Confirming the terraform fmt command result
Confirming the terraform fmt command result

Provisioning Resources using the Terraform fmt Formatted Configuration

You’ve now formatted your configuration file using the Terraform fmt command. But how do you know if the new configurations still work? Why not use it to provision a new AWS S3 bucket?

To provision a Terraform configuration, Terraform typically uses a three-command approach in sequential order:

  • terraform init – initializes the working directory, which includes installing the provider inside the directory.
  • terraform plan – create an execution plan based on your Terraform configurations.
  • terraform apply – execute the execution plan that the terraform plan command proposed.

Follow these steps to start provisioning.

1. Open a terminal and navigate to the ~/terraform-s3-demo directory.

cd ~/terraform-s3-demo

2. Next, initialize (init) the working directory by running the command below. The initialization includes installing the plugins and providers necessary to work with resources.

terraform init

If all goes well, you should see the message Terraform has been successfully initialized in the output, as shown below.

Initializing the terraform code
Initializing the terraform code

3. Now, run the command below to create an execution plan. This step is not mandatory but highly recommended to ensure your configuration files are error-free. Additionally, performing this step gives you the blueprint of resources that Terraform will provision in your infrastructure.

terraform plan

If successful, you should see a message saying Plan: {X} to add, {Y} to change, {Z} to destroy in the output.

Running the terraform plan command
Running the terraform plan command

4. Lastly, apply the execution plan by running the below command. This command reads each configuration (*.tf files) on the working directory to compile a terraform state file and sends that state to AWS, which in turn provisions the AWS S3 bucket.

The -auto-approve suppresses the confirmation prompt and automatically approves the plan execution.

terraform apply -auto-approve

As you can see, Terraform has successfully created the AWS bucket in the AWS account.

Running the terraform apply command
Running the terraform apply command

5. You should now have an AWS S3 bucket created in the us-east-2 region. But to make sure, verify that the bucket exists using the AWS Management Console.

Open your favorite web browser, navigate to the AWS S3 Management Console at, and log in to your account.

As you can see below, the S3 bucket you created using Terraform is now present on the AWS S3 buckets in the us-east-2 region.

Confirming the new S3 bucket
Confirming the new S3 bucket


In this tutorial, you’ve learned how to use Terraform fmt command to apply consistent formatting to your configuration files.

Creating Terraform configuration files that follow a consistent style or format is essential. You and every other developer who would eventually work on your Terraform files will benefit from your code’s enhanced readability.

So if you’re tired of ugly code, make them pretty using the Terraform fmt command.

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