How to Achieve Java ‘String.format’ behavior in Python?


Clearly formatting Strings, in any language is a crucial aspect, as it influences how developers represent and display data. In Java, we are offered with an in-built method known as “String.format”. Likewise in Python, we have the ‘%’ operator, used often for this purpose. Among these ‘%g’ stands out because of its versatility in providing a concise representation of numeric values. Here we dive deep into achieving the ‘String.format’ behavior in Python.

Also Read: Python String contains: Check if String Contains Substring

Achieving Java ‘String.format’ Functionality in Python

In Java, ‘String.format’ method is used to format strings by using a specifier. The specifier is used with different special characters like s, d, f and g to control how the arguments are formatted.

public class CustomStringFormat {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Example: Custom formatting
        String productName = "Laptop";
        double price = 1299.998;
        int quantity = 2;

        // Custom formatting with String.format
        String invoiceLine = String.format("Product: %s, Price: $%.2f, Quantity: %d, Total: $%g",
                productName, price, quantity, price * quantity);

        // Print the formatted invoice line

In this example, String.format is used along with specifiers to indicate types of formatting for different datatypes. We have used ‘%s’ which appends the value of String productName. Similarly, we have used ‘%f’ and ‘%g‘ to format floating numbers in variables ‘price’ and ‘total’ to two decimal places. Lastly, we have used ‘%d’ to format integers, specifically appending value of Integer variable quantity.

There are different ways through which we can produce the same behavior in Python. Here we try it using the % operator.

# Example: Custom formatting
product_name = "Laptop"
price = 1299.998
quantity = 2

# Custom formatting with % operator
invoice_line = "Product: %s, Price: $%.2f, Quantity: %d, Total: $%g" % (product_name, price, quantity, price * quantity)

# Print the formatted invoice line


Using the same example, we can see that Python produces the same result using the % operator as in Java. Specifiers like ‘%s’, ‘%d’, %f’, and ‘%g’ are used for formatting strings, integers, and floating numbers respectively. Thus we can say that the % operator in Python can be an equivalent for java String.format behavior.

Also read: String Formatting in Python – A Quick Overview

Different Uses of ‘%g’ in Python

As we have found the equivalent, we will look into how %g is used to enhance our Python programming. The ‘%g’ specifier is used to format a floating-point number as a string while minimizing the number of digits needed to represent the number accurately. This makes it useful when dealing with a range of numerical values.

  1. Basic Usage
number = 123456.789
formatted_string = "%g" % number

Run this code in any Python compiler. Here I am using Google Colab.


The output of this code would be 123457 which shows how %g intelligently adapts to the magnitude of the numeric value and rounds off the number as per the values given.

  1. Controlling Precision
number = 0.000123456
formatted_string = "%.3g" % number

Here, %g is combined with .3 to specify a precision of three digits. Thus the output is 0.000123. If normally %g was used, then the number would have been rounded off to 2

Alternatives to % Operator in Python

Even though we have found an equivalent for Java String.format behavior, we still have other alternatives to choose from.

  1. ‘format’ Method for Strings

Using the format method we can concatenate present string values or format the numeric values of strings, to integers and float.

# Custom example: Formatting information about a product
product_name = "Smartphone"
quantity = 3
unit_price = 499.998

# Custom formatting with the format method
product_info = "Product: {}, Quantity: {:d}, Unit Price: ${:.2f}, Total: ${:.2f}".format(
    product_name, quantity, unit_price, quantity * unit_price

# Print the formatted product information


Here we can see that curly braces ‘{}’ acts as a placeholder and formatting options like ‘d’ and ‘2f’ are used within braces for formatting floating point numbers to two decimal places. Empty braces are used to append normal string values to the resulting statement.

  1. f Strings in Python 3.6 or newer

f Strings provides a very concise way to embed expressions inside string literals. We prefix string literals with the letter ‘f’ or ‘F’ and provide the variables

name = "John"
age = 30
formatted_string = f"Name: {name}, Age: {age}"

Here f Strings are used for concatenating the formatted_String with name and age variables. Likewise we can use f string within curly braces to format decimal values and floating numbers inside String variables.

Tips to Use Different Methods:

As every method produces same result, there are certain merits and demerits each method offers. Thus keeping that in mind, one needs to be careful in their usage.

% Operator

Pros: Simple and concise for basic usages

Cons: Limited formatting options, cannot be used for complex formatting.

format Method

Pros: It is more versatile and provides a large range of formatting options.

Cons: Some may find it more tedious, as compared to % operator.

f Strings

Pros: It is very concise and readable and is considered efficient in terms of its usage.

Cons: Even though it is perfect for modern formatting needs, it requires Python 3.6 or newer to work.

Thus for most modern formatting requirements, the f-Strings and format option is recommended as they provide more flexibility and readability. But for basic utilities, one can choose the % operator for formatting Strings.

Which method of Python is equivalent to ‘String.format’ method in Java?

There are multiple options to format strings in Python. A perfect equivalent would be % operator that can perform alike functionalities like String.format in Java.

Which is the best method to format Strings in Python?

The best method to format strings in Python depends on the requirements of programming. One can use the % operator for day-to-day formatting needs. For more flexibility and readability, we can use f-String or format method.


As we peek into multiple options to format strings in Python, we can conclude that the % operator almost covers all functionalities alike to String.format method in Java. Further %g stands out among all specifiers as it allows us to handle a range of decimal values by minimizing the number of digits needed to represent the number accurately. Secondly, for more advanced formatting options, we can use the format method and f strings for flexible conversions of string values.


Understanding the Python %g in string formatting, achieving Java String.format behavior – Stack Overflow