I am trying to get electric indent behaviour in bazel BUILD files. These are essentially python files, although the structure is extremely simple.

Let me give you an example:

    name = "hello-world",
    srcs = ["hello-world.cc"],
    deps = [

What I want is to have electric indentation behaviour for "]" and ")".

What I have tried is:

  • to add these characters to electric-indent-chars
  • to add electric-indent-post-self-insert-function to post-self-insert-hook

Neither of these steps seems to change the behaviour of the characters. What am I doing wrong?

  • What major mode are you using? Does TAB-indentation work in it?
    – Stefan
    Mar 16, 2019 at 13:06
  • Major mode is derived from python-mode. TAB runs 'indent-for-tab-command' and indents the way I want.
    – Realraptor
    Mar 16, 2019 at 15:40
  • Update: python.el sets 'electric-indent-inhibit' to avoid automatic indentation so 'electric-indent-chars' is never used.
    – Realraptor
    Mar 16, 2019 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


If your major mode derives from python-mode, than you likely need to make it

(setq-local electric-indent-inhibit nil)

As for why it's non-nil: python-mode sets this vars to a non-nil value because electric-indent is usually undesirable when indentation is syntactically significant (as in Python).

  • That worked, thanks!
    – Realraptor
    Mar 16, 2019 at 23:43

The solution is slightly more complicated than Stefan's answer, so it might be worth recording the details.

(defun rr-enable-electric-indent ()
  (setq-local electric-indent-inhibit nil)
  (add-to-list 'electric-indent-chars ?\))
  (add-to-list 'electric-indent-chars ?\]))

(add-hook 'python-mode-hook 'rr-enable-electric-indent)

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