By May 21, 2023

YAML: A Human-Friendly Data Serialisation Language

yamlIn the world of software development, the need to store and exchange data between different systems is paramount. YAML (YAML Ain’t Markup Language) has emerged as a popular choice for data serialization due to its simplicity, readability, and broad compatibility across various programming languages. In this blog post, we will explore YAML and understand why it has become a favorite among developers for configuring, storing, and sharing structured data.

What is YAML?

YAML is a human-readable data serialization language designed to be easy to understand and write. It stands out from other data serialization formats, such as XML or JSON, by prioritizing human readability over machine interpretability. The primary goal of YAML is to provide a simple and intuitive way to represent complex data structures, making it an excellent choice for configuration files, data exchange, and storing hierarchical data.

YAML Syntax

YAML utilizes a minimalistic syntax that is both expressive and readable. It employs indentation and whitespace to define the structure of the data, making it less cluttered compared to other formats that rely on explicit tags and brackets. Here are some key aspects of YAML’s syntax:

  • Structure: YAML uses indentation to represent the nesting and hierarchy of data structures. This reliance on whitespace indentation gives YAML a clean and visually appealing appearance.
  • Data Types: YAML supports various data types, including scalars (strings, numbers, booleans), sequences (arrays, lists), and mappings (key-value pairs, dictionaries).
  • Comments: Developers can include comments in YAML files to provide additional context or explanations. Comments begin with the ‘#’ symbol and are ignored during parsing.

Use Cases for YAML

YAML finds application in a wide range of scenarios across different domains. Here are a few notable use cases:

  • Configuration Files: Many software frameworks and applications employ YAML as their configuration file format. Its readability makes it easier for developers and system administrators to understand and modify settings. It’s used heavily in Home Assistant as a configuration language.
  • Continuous Integration/Deployment (CI/CD): YAML is extensively used in CI/CD pipelines to define workflows, build steps, and deployment configurations. It allows developers to define complex build and deployment processes in a human-friendly manner.
  • Data Serialization: YAML’s flexible structure and support for nested data types make it ideal for serializing and deserializing complex data structures between different programming languages.
  • Markup Data: YAML’s simplicity and readability make it an excellent choice for storing markup data, such as blog posts, documentation, or structured content.

Advantages of YAML

YAML offers several advantages that contribute to its popularity:

  • Human-Readable: YAML’s intuitive syntax makes it easy for developers and non-technical users to read and understand.
  • Concise and Expressive: YAML’s minimalistic syntax reduces the need for excessive punctuation and tags, resulting in cleaner and more readable code.
  • Language Independence: YAML is supported by a wide range of programming languages, making it a portable and interoperable choice for data exchange.
  • Easy Integration: YAML integrates well with other data formats like JSON, allowing for seamless conversion and interoperability between different systems.
  • Version Control Friendly: YAML files are text-based, making them compatible with version control systems like Git, enabling easy tracking and collaboration.


YAML has gained significant popularity as a human-friendly data serialization language due to its simplicity, readability, and compatibility across various programming languages. Whether it’s configuration files, data exchange, or storing hierarchical data, YAML offers an elegant and intuitive solution. Its focus on human interpretability makes it an excellent choice for developers looking to create maintainable and easily understandable code. As software development continues to evolve, YAML’s role as a versatile data serialization format is set to grow, making it an essential tool in the developer’s arsenal.

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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