This is similar to How to print a list in Python “nicely”, but I would like to print the list even more nicely — without the brackets and apostrophes and commas, and even better in columns.

foolist = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
    'pdcurses-devel',     'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
    'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']

evenNicerPrint(foolist)

Desired result:

exiv2-devel       msvcrt        
mingw-libs        gdal-grass    
tcltk-demos       iconv         
fcgi              qgis-devel    
netcdf            qgis1.1       
pdcurses-devel    php_mapscript 

thanks!

This answer uses the same method in the answer by @Aaron Digulla, with slightly more pythonic syntax. It might make some of the above answers easier to understand.

>>> for a,b,c in zip(foolist[::3],foolist[1::3],foolist[2::3]):
>>>     print '{:<30}{:<30}{:<}'.format(a,b,c)

exiv2-devel                   mingw-libs                    tcltk-demos
fcgi                          netcdf                        pdcurses-devel
msvcrt                        gdal-grass                    iconv
qgis-devel                    qgis1.1                       php_mapscript

This can be easily adapt to any number of columns or variable columns, which would lead to something like the answer by @gnibbler. The spacing can be adjusted for screen width.


Update: Explanation as requested.

Indexing

foolist[::3] selects every third element of foolist. foolist[1::3] selects every third element, starting at the second element (‘1’ because python uses zero-indexing).

In [2]: bar = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]
In [3]: bar[::3]
Out[3]: [1, 4, 7]

zip

Zipping lists (or other iterables) generates tuples of the elements of the the lists. For example:

In [5]: zip([1,2,3],['a','b','c'],['x','y','z'])
Out[5]: [(1, 'a', 'x'), (2, 'b', 'y'), (3, 'c', 'z')]

together

Putting these ideas together we get our solution:

for a,b,c in zip(foolist[::3],foolist[1::3],foolist[2::3]):

Here we first generate three “slices” of foolist, each indexed by every-third-element and offset by one. Individually they each contain only a third of the list. Now when we zip these slices and iterate, each iteration gives us three elements of foolist.

Which is what we wanted:

In [11]: for a,b,c in zip(foolist[::3],foolist[1::3],foolist[2::3]):
   ....:      print a,b,c                           
Out[11]: exiv2-devel mingw-libs tcltk-demos
         fcgi netcdf pdcurses-devel
        [etc]

Instead of:

In [12]: for a in foolist: 
   ....:     print a
Out[12]: exiv2-devel
         mingw-libs
         [etc]

Although not designed for it, the standard-library module in Python 3 cmd has a utility for printing a list of strings in multiple columns

import cmd
cli = cmd.Cmd()
cli.columnize(foolist, displaywidth=80)

You even then have the option of specifying the output location, with cmd.Cmd(stdout=my_stream)

Simple:

l = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
    'pdcurses-devel',     'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
    'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']

if len(l) % 2 != 0:
    l.append(" ")

split = len(l)/2
l1 = l[0:split]
l2 = l[split:]
for key, value in zip(l1,l2):
    print '%-20s %s' % (key, value)         #python <2.6
    print "{0:<20s} {1}".format(key, value) #python 2.6+

Inspired by gimel’s answer, above.

import math

def list_columns(obj, cols=4, columnwise=True, gap=4):
    """
    Print the given list in evenly-spaced columns.

    Parameters
    ----------
    obj : list
        The list to be printed.
    cols : int
        The number of columns in which the list should be printed.
    columnwise : bool, default=True
        If True, the items in the list will be printed column-wise.
        If False the items in the list will be printed row-wise.
    gap : int
        The number of spaces that should separate the longest column
        item/s from the next column. This is the effective spacing
        between columns based on the maximum len() of the list items.
    """

    sobj = [str(item) for item in obj]
    if cols > len(sobj): cols = len(sobj)
    max_len = max([len(item) for item in sobj])
    if columnwise: cols = int(math.ceil(float(len(sobj)) / float(cols)))
    plist = [sobj[i: i+cols] for i in range(0, len(sobj), cols)]
    if columnwise:
        if not len(plist[-1]) == cols:
            plist[-1].extend(['']*(len(sobj) - len(plist[-1])))
        plist = zip(*plist)
    printer="\n".join([
        ''.join([c.ljust(max_len + gap) for c in p])
        for p in plist])
    print printer

Results (the second one satisfies your request):

>>> list_columns(foolist)
exiv2-devel       fcgi              msvcrt            qgis-devel        
mingw-libs        netcdf            gdal-grass        qgis1.1           
tcltk-demos       pdcurses-devel    iconv             php_mapscript     

>>> list_columns(foolist, cols=2)
exiv2-devel       msvcrt            
mingw-libs        gdal-grass        
tcltk-demos       iconv             
fcgi              qgis-devel        
netcdf            qgis1.1           
pdcurses-devel    php_mapscript     

>>> list_columns(foolist, columnwise=False)
exiv2-devel       mingw-libs        tcltk-demos       fcgi              
netcdf            pdcurses-devel    msvcrt            gdal-grass        
iconv             qgis-devel        qgis1.1           php_mapscript     

>>> list_columns(foolist, gap=1)
exiv2-devel    fcgi           msvcrt         qgis-devel     
mingw-libs     netcdf         gdal-grass     qgis1.1        
tcltk-demos    pdcurses-devel iconv          php_mapscript  

See formatting-a-list-of-text-into-columns,

A general solution, handles any number of columns and odd lists.
Tab characters separate columns, using generator expressions to save space.

def fmtcols(mylist, cols):
    lines = ("\t".join(mylist[i:i+cols]) for i in xrange(0,len(mylist),cols))
    return '\n'.join(lines)

The way Aaron has done it can work with more than two colums


>>> l = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
...     'pdcurses-devel',     'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
...     'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']
>>> cols = 4
>>> split=[l[i:i+len(l)/cols] for i in range(0,len(l),len(l)/cols)]
>>> for row in zip(*split):
...  print "".join(str.ljust(i,20) for i in row)
... 
exiv2-devel         fcgi                msvcrt              qgis-devel          
mingw-libs          netcdf              gdal-grass          qgis1.1             
tcltk-demos         pdcurses-devel      iconv               php_mapscript       

If the data is in the format you have provided, it is a little more work


>>> d = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
...     'pdcurses-devel',     'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
...     'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']
>>> print "\n".join("%-20s %s"%(d[i],d[i+len(d)/2]) for i in range(len(d)/2))
exiv2-devel          msvcrt
mingw-libs           gdal-grass
tcltk-demos          iconv
fcgi                 qgis-devel
netcdf               qgis1.1
pdcurses-devel       php_mapscript

I use IPython internal columnize function

import IPython
foolist = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
           'pdcurses-devel', 'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
           'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']

foolist_columnized = IPython.utils.text.columnize(foolist)
print(foolist_columnized)

output will look like:

exiv2-devel  tcltk-demos  netcdf          msvcrt      iconv       qgis1.1
mingw-libs   fcgi         pdcurses-devel  gdal-grass  qgis-devel  php_mapscript

Here’s my solution. (Copy in GitHub gist)

It takes terminal width as input and displays only as many columns that can be fit in it.

def col_print(lines, term_width=80, indent=0, pad=2):
  n_lines = len(lines)
  if n_lines == 0:
    return

  col_width = max(len(line) for line in lines)
  n_cols = int((term_width + pad - indent)/(col_width + pad))
  n_cols = min(n_lines, max(1, n_cols))

  col_len = int(n_lines/n_cols) + (0 if n_lines % n_cols == 0 else 1)
  if (n_cols - 1) * col_len >= n_lines:
    n_cols -= 1

  cols = [lines[i*col_len : i*col_len + col_len] for i in range(n_cols)]

  rows = list(zip(*cols))
  rows_missed = zip(*[col[len(rows):] for col in cols[:-1]])
  rows.extend(rows_missed)

  for row in rows:
    print(" "*indent + (" "*pad).join(line.ljust(col_width) for line in row))

I extend an n column solution to @Aman‘s answer

def printMultiCol(l, n_cols, buffer_len=5):
    """formats a list of strings, l, into n_cols with a separation of buffer_len"""
    if not l: return [] # return if not iterable!
    max_l = max(map(len, l))
    formatter="{{:<{max_l}}}".format(max_l=max_l+buffer_len)*n_cols
    zip_me_up = [l[i::n_cols] for i in xrange(n_cols)]
    max_zip_l = max(map(len, zip_me_up))
    zip_me_up = map(lambda x: x + ['']*(max_zip_l-len(x)), zip_me_up)
    return [formatter.format(*undress_me) for undress_me in zip(*zip_me_up)]

Testing

Set up the test with random string lengths

import random
list_length = 16
random_strings = [
    ''.join(random.choice('spameggsbaconbeanssausage') 
    for x in range(random.randint(1,10)))
    for i in xrange(list_length)
]

print 'for 4 columns (equal length cols) ...\n{}'.format(
    '\n'.join(printMultiCol(random_strings, 4))
)
print 'for 7 columns (odd length cols) ...\n{}'.format(
    '\n'.join(printMultiCol(random_strings, 5))
)

which returns

## -- End pasted text --
for 4 columns (equal length cols) ...
sgsebpasgm     assgaesse      ossmeagan      ebesnagec
mees           eeges          m              gcb
sm             pbe            bbgaa          ganopabnn
bmou           asbegu         a              psoge


for 7 columns (odd length cols) ...
sgsebpasgm     assgaesse      ossmeagan      ebesnagec      mees
eeges          m              gcb            sm             pbe
bbgaa          ganopabnn      bmou           asbegu         a
psoge

How about something like this?

def strlistToColumns( strl, maxWidth, spacing=4 ):

longest = max([len(s) for s in strl])
width = longest+spacing

# compute numCols s.t. (numCols-1)*(longest+spacing)+longest < maxWidth
numCols = 1 + (maxWidth-longest)//width
C = range(numCols)

# If len(strl) does not have a multiple of numCols, pad it with empty strings
strl += [""]*(len(strl) % numCols)
numRows = len(strl)/numCols
colString = ''

for r in range(numRows):
    colString += "".join(["{"+str(c)+":"+str(width)+"}" \
        for c in C]+["\n"]).format(*(strl[numCols*r+c] \
        for c in C))

return colString 


if __name__ == '__main__':

fruits = ['apple', 'banana', 'cantaloupe', 'durian', 'elderberry',         \
          'fig', 'grapefruit', 'honeydew', 'indonesian lime', 'jackfruit', \
          'kiwi', 'lychee', 'mango', 'orange', 'pomegranate', 'quince',    \
          'raspberry', 'tangerine', 'ugli fruit', 'watermelon', 'xigua',
          'yangmei', 'zinfandel grape']

cols = strlistToColumns( fruits, 80 )

print(cols)

Output

apple              banana             cantaloupe         durian
elderberry         fig                grapefruit         honeydew
indonesian lime    jackfruit          kiwi               lychee
mango              orange             pomegranate        quince
raspberry          tangerine          ugli fruit         watermelon
xigua              yangmei            zinfandel grape

[print('{:20}'.format(key), end='\t') if (idx + 1) % 5 else print(key, end='\n') for idx, key in enumerate(list_variable)]

or

for idx, key in enumerate(list_variable):
    if (idx + 1) % 5:
        print('{:20}'.format(key), end='\t')
    else:
        print(key, end='\n')

Here’s a solution in python 3.4 that automatically detects terminal width and takes it into account. Tested on Linux and Mac.

def column_print(list_to_print, column_width=40):
    import os
    term_height, term_width = os.popen('stty size', 'r').read().split()
    total_columns = int(term_width) // column_width
    total_rows = len(list_to_print) // total_columns
    # ceil
    total_rows = total_rows + 1 if len(list_to_print) % total_columns != 0 else total_rows

    format_string = "".join(["{%d:<%ds}" % (c, column_width) \
            for c in range(total_columns)])
    for row in range(total_rows):
        column_items = []
        for column in range(total_columns):
            # top-down order
            list_index = row + column*total_rows
            # left-right order
            #list_index = row*total_columns + column
            if list_index < len(list_to_print):
                column_items.append(list_to_print[list_index])
            else:
                column_items.append("")
        print(format_string.format(*column_items))

Found this question as a met almost the same task. And I’ve created function to print list in multi columns with the number of columns as parameter. Maybe not so elegant as one-liner solutions, but it could be useful for someone.

However, it handles incomplete lists, ex.: it can print list of 11 in 3 rows.

Function splitted for better readability:

def is_printable(my_list):
    return len(my_list) > 0

def create_empty_list(columns):
    result = []
    for num in range(0, columns):
        result.append([])
    return result

def fill_empty_list(empty_list, my_list, columns):
    column_depth = len(my_list) / columns if len(my_list) % columns == 0 else len(my_list) / columns + 1
    item_index = 0
    for column in range(0, columns):
        while len(empty_list[column]) < column_depth:
            if item_index < len(my_list):
                empty_list[column].append(my_list[item_index])
            else:
                empty_list[column].append(" ")  # last column could be incomplete, fill it with space
            item_index += 1

def print_list_in_columns(my_list, columns=1):
    if not is_printable(my_list):
        print 'Nothing to print, sorry...'
        return
    column_width = 25  #(in symbols) Also can be calculated automatically  
    list_to_print = create_empty_list(columns)
    fill_empty_list(list_to_print, my_list, columns)
    iterators = ["it" + str(i) for i in range(0, columns)]
    for iterators in zip(*list_to_print):
        print ("".join(str.ljust(i, column_width) for i in iterators))

and the call part:

foolist = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
    'pdcurses-devel',     'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
    'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']

print_list_in_columns(foolist, 2)

It’s useful to allow for uneven columns, without having to know in advance how many columns you can fit:

>>> words = [string.ascii_lowercase] + list(string.ascii_lowercase)
>>> print format_list(words)
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz  b  d  f  h  j  l  n  p  r  t  v  x  z
a                           c  e  g  i  k  m  o  q  s  u  w  y

For your example:

>>> foolist = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi',
... 'netcdf', 'pdcurses-devel', 'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv',
... 'qgis-devel', 'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']
>>> print format_list(foolist, spacing=4, width=31)
exiv2-devel       msvcrt
mingw-libs        gdal-grass
tcltk-demos       iconv
fcgi              qgis-devel
netcdf            qgis1.1
pdcurses-devel    php_mapscript

Here is the code. Note that it also handles words with ANSI color codes (such as from the colorama package) – they won’t mess up the column widths.

ansi_pattern = re.compile(r'\x1b\[\d{1,2}m')


def get_nchars(string):
    """Return number of characters, omitting ANSI codes."""
    return len(ansi_pattern.sub('', string))


def format_list(items, indent=0, spacing=2, width=79):
    """Return string listing items along columns.

    items : sequence
        List of items to display that must be directly convertible into
        unicode strings. ANSI color codes may be present, and are taken
        into account in determining column widths
    indent : int
        Number of spaces in left margin.
    spacing : int
        Number of spaces between columns.
    width : int
        Maximum number of characters per line, including indentation.
    """
    if not items:
        return u''
    # Ensure all items are strings
    items = [unicode(item) for item in items]
    # Estimate number of columns based on shortest and longest items
    minlen = min(get_nchars(item) for item in items)
    maxlen = max(get_nchars(item) for item in items)
    # Assume one column with longest width, remaining with shortest.
    # Use negative numbers for ceiling division.
    ncols = 1 - (-(width - indent - maxlen) // (spacing + min(1, minlen)))
    ncols = max(1, min(len(items), ncols))

    # Reduce number of columns until items fit (or only one column)
    while ncols >= 1:
        # Determine number of rows by ceiling division
        nrows = -(-len(items) // ncols)
        # Readjust to avoid empty last column
        ncols = -(-len(items) // nrows)
        # Split items into columns, and test width
        columns = [items[i*nrows:(i+1)*nrows] for i in range(ncols)]
        totalwidth = indent - spacing + sum(
            spacing + max(get_nchars(item) for item in column)
            for column in columns
            )
        # Stop if columns fit. Otherwise, reduce number of columns and
        # try again.
        if totalwidth <= width:
            break
        else:
            ncols -= 1

    # Pad all items to column width
    for i, column in enumerate(columns):
        colwidth = max(get_nchars(item) for item in column)
        columns[i] = [
            item + ' ' * (colwidth - get_nchars(item))
            for item in column
            ]

    # Transpose into rows, and return joined rows
    rows = list(itertools.izip_longest(*columns, fillvalue=""))
    return '\n'.join(
        ' ' * indent + (u' ' * spacing).join(row).rstrip()
        for row in rows
        )

There are tons of answers already, but I will share my solution, which in addition to printing the list into multiple columns, it also chooses the amount of columns dynamically, from the terminal width and the longest string on the list.

import os
cols = os.popen('stty size', 'r').read().split()[1]

def print_multicol(my_list):
    max_len = len(max(my_list,key=len)) + 2
    ncols = (int(cols) -4 ) / max_len
    while my_list:
        n = 0
        while n < ncols:
            if len(my_list) > 0 :
                fstring = "{:<"+str(max_len)+"}"
                print fstring.format(my_list.pop(0)),
            n += 1
        print

a_list = "a ab abc abcd abcde b bc bcde bcdef c cde cdef cdfg d de defg"
a_list += "defgh e ef efg efghi efghij f fg fgh fghij fghijk"

print_multicol(a_list.split())

As an expansion of @Aman below is a function which takes a list of strings and outputs them in columns based on the terminal size.

import os
def column_display(input_list):
    '''
    Used to create a structured column display based on the users terminal size

    input_list : A list of string items which is desired to be displayed
    '''
    rows, columns = os.popen('stty size', 'r').read().split()
    terminal_space_eighth = int(columns)/8
    terminal_space_seventh = int(columns)/7
    terminal_space_sixth = int(columns)/6
    terminal_space_fifth = int(columns)/5
    terminal_space_quarter = int(columns)/4
    terminal_space_third = int(columns)/3
    terminal_space_half = int(columns)/2
    longest_string = max(input_list, key=len)
    longest_length = len(longest_string) + 1
    list_size = len(input_list)

    if longest_length > terminal_space_half:
         for string in input_list:
             print(string)
    elif terminal_space_eighth >= longest_length and list_size >= 8:
         for a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h in zip(input_list[::8],input_list[1::8],input_list[2::8], input_list[3::8], input_list[4::8], input_list[5::8], input_list[6::8], input_list[7::8]):
             column_space="{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<}" % (longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length )
             output = column_space.format(a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h)
             print(output)
    elif terminal_space_seventh >= longest_length and list_size >= 7:
        for a,b,c,d,e,f,g in zip(input_list[::7],input_list[1::7],input_list[2::7], input_list[3::7], input_list[4::7], input_list[5::7], input_list[6::7]):
             column_space="{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<}" % (longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length)
             output = column_space.format(a,b,c,d,e,f,g)
             print(output)
    elif terminal_space_sixth >= longest_length and list_size >= 6:
         for a,b,c,d,e,f in zip(input_list[::6],input_list[1::6],input_list[2::6], input_list[3::6], input_list[4::6], input_list[5::6]):
             column_space="{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<}" % (longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length)
             output = column_space.format(a,b,c,d,e,f)
             print(output)
    elif terminal_space_fifth >= longest_length and list_size >= 5:
        for a,b,c,d,e in zip(input_list[::5],input_list[1::5],input_list[2::5], input_list[3::5], input_list[4::5]):
            column_space="{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<}" % (longest_length, longest_length, longest_length, longest_length)
            output = column_space.format(a,b,c,d,e)
            print(output)
    elif terminal_space_quarter >= longest_length and list_size >= 4:
        for a,b,c,d in zip(input_list[::4],input_list[1::4],input_list[2::4], input_list[3::4]):
            column_space="{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<}" % (longest_length, longest_length, longest_length)
            output = column_space.format(a,b,c,d)
            print(output)
    elif terminal_space_third >= longest_length and list_size >= 3:
        for a,b,c in zip(input_list[::3],input_list[1::3],input_list[2::3]):
            column_space="{:<%s}{:<%s}{:<}" % (longest_length, longest_length)
            output = column_space.format(a,b,c)
            print(output)
    elif terminal_space_half >= longest_length and list_size >= 2:
        for a,b in zip(input_list[::2],input_list[1::2]):
            column_space="{:<%s}{:<}" % longest_length
            output = column_space.format(a,b)
            print(output)

As an explanation this does a few different things.

First it gets the number of columns for the current user’s terminal using os.popen.

Second it takes the number of columns and divides in half, increasing to eighth. This will be used to compare the longest string in the list to determine the number of columns best suited for this.

Third is the longest string of the list pulled using the build in python function max().

Forth the length of the longest string is taken and then has one added to it for padding. The length of the list is taken as well so that if the list is less than 8 items it will only list the number of items that exist.

Fifth the longest string length is compared to each of the terminal spaces from one column to eight. If the column is greater than or equal to the length then it can be used. For example is the longest string is 10 and the columns divided by eight(terminal_space_eighth) is 8 but columns divided by seven(terminal_space_seventh) is 12, there will be seven columns. There will be seven because the longest string can fit in 12 characters but not in 8 characters.

It’s also worth noting the length of the list is taken into consideration to prevent creating more columns than list items.

Sixth is an expansion of the explanation by @Aman : https://stackoverflow.com/a/1524132/11002603

Indexing
Lets let i represent the number determined by terminal size for the sake of this example.
input_list[::i] This selects element at i. Adding a number at the front such as input_list[1::i] offsets the starting point(remember python considers 0 a valid number which is why it’s not used initially.)

Zipping

Zip is used to create a tuple with elements of a list. For example The output list will look similar to below

zip([string1,string2,string3], [string4,string5, string6], [string7,string8,string9])
output : [(string1,string4,string7), (string2,string5, string8), (string3,string6,string9)]

Using together
Depending on the number of columns, the letters are just used to represent a split. So for example if only 5 columns fit in the terminal, the following will be used

for a,b,c,d,e in zip(input_list[::5],input_list[1::5],input_list[2::5], input_list[3::5], input_list[4::5]):

This will take of the tuples created from zipping and store then as a,b,c,d and e variables so we can call them within the loop.

The column space is then used for format each of a,b,c,d and e into respective columns and is where the length of each column is determined. The length is based on the string length determined above.

I needed to adjust each of the columns. I have implemented this code

def print_sorted_list(data, columns):
    if data:
        gap = 2
        ljusts = {}
        for count, item in enumerate(sorted(data), 1):
            column = count % columns
            ljusts[column] = len(item) if (column not in ljusts) else max(ljusts[column], len(item))

        for count, item in enumerate(sorted(data), 1):
            print item.ljust(ljusts[count % columns] + gap),
            if (count % columns == 0) or (count == len(data)):
                print

Example:

foolist = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf',
           'pdcurses-devel', 'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel',
           'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript', 'blablablablablablabla', 'fafafafafafa']
print_sorted_list(foolist, 4)

Output:

blablablablablablabla   exiv2-devel      fafafafafafa    fcgi        
gdal-grass              iconv            mingw-libs      msvcrt      
netcdf                  pdcurses-devel   php_mapscript   qgis-devel  
qgis1.1                 tcltk-demos   

Here is a straightforward way. See the inline comments for explanation:

import shutil
import itertools
from functools import reduce


def split_list(lst, ncols):
    """Split list into rows"""
    return itertools.zip_longest(
        *[lst[i::ncols] for i in range(ncols)], fillvalue=""
    )
    # -- Alternatively --
    # import numpy as np
    # array = np.array(lst)
    # nrows = array.size / ncols + 1
    # return np.array_split(array, int(nrows))


def print_in_columns(lst):
    """Print a list in columns."""
    # Find maximum length of a string in colors_list
    colsize = reduce(lambda x, y: max(x, len(y)), lst, 0)
    # Terminal width
    maxcols = shutil.get_terminal_size()[0]
    ncols = maxcols / (colsize + 1)
    rows = split_list(lst, int(ncols))

    print(
        # Join rows
        "\n".join(
            (
                # Fill items left justified
                " ".join(item.ljust(colsize) for item in row)
                for row in rows
            )
        )
    )

this one prints list in separate columns (order is preserved)

from itertools import zip_longest

def ls(items, n_cols=2, pad=30):
    if len(items) == 0:
        return
    total = len(items)
    chunk_size = total // n_cols
    if chunk_size * n_cols < total:
        chunk_size += 1
    start = range(0, total, chunk_size)
    end = range(chunk_size, total + chunk_size, chunk_size)
    groups = (items[s:e] for s, e in zip(start, end))
    for group in zip_longest(*groups, fillvalue=""):
        template = (' ').join(['%%-%ds' % pad] * len(group))
        print(template % group)

usage:

ls([1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], n_cols=3, pad=10)

output:

1          4          7         
2          5                    
3          6                    

note that there may be missing columns if there is not enough number of items, because columns are filled first.

ls([1, 2, 3, 4, 5], n_cols=4)

output:

1          3          5         
2          4    

For Python >=3.6, slight update to @JoshuaZastrow‘s answer using f-strings and adding clear method to adjust columns

cols = 5
[print(f'{key:20}', end='\t') if (idx + 1) % cols else print(f'{key}') for idx, key in enumerate(list_variable)]

or

cols = 5
for idx, key in enumerate(list_variable):
    if (idx + 1) % cols:
        print(f'{key:20}', end='\t')
    else:
        print(f'{key}')

Here is the short and simple method:

def printList1(list, col, STR_FMT='{}', gap=1):
    list = [STR_FMT.format(x).lstrip() for x in list]
    FMT2 = '%%%ds%%s' % (max(len(x) for x in list)+gap)
    print(''.join([FMT2 % (v, "" if (i+1) % col else "\n") for i, v in enumerate(list)]))

Then here is the better method which can turn off the constant width across the entire list instead optimizing it across the columns, restrict the number of columns to fit the max characters per line or find the optimal number of columns to fit the max characters per line, then force left or right justify, and can still can take the optional format string, and gap width between each column.

def printList2(list, col=None, gap=2, uniform=True, ljust=True, STR_FMT="{}", MAX_CHARS=120, end='\n'):
   list = [STR_FMT.format(x).strip() for x in list]
   Lmax, valid, valid_prev, cp, c = [MAX_CHARS+1], None, None, 1, max(col,1) if col else 1
   LoL_prev, Lmax_prev = [], []

   while True:
       LoL = [list[i::c] for i in range(c)]
       Lmax = [max(len(x)+gap for x in L) for L in LoL]    # Find max width of each column with gap width
       if uniform:                                         # Set each max column width to max across entire set.
           Lmax = [max(Lmax) for m in Lmax]

       valid_prev, valid = valid, sum(Lmax) <= MAX_CHARS

       if (col and (valid or (c == 1))) or not MAX_CHARS:  # If column and valid strlen or MAX_CHARS is empty
           break
       elif valid_prev and not valid_prev == valid:        # If valid_prev exist
           c = cp if valid_prev and not valid else c
           LoL, Lmax = (LoL_prev, Lmax_prev) if valid_prev else (LoL, Lmax)
           break

       LoL_prev, Lmax_prev = LoL, Lmax
       cp, c = c, (c + (+1 if valid else -1))
  
   ljust="-" if ljust else ''
   FMT = ["%%%s%ds%s" % (ljust, max(Lmax) if uniform else m, end if i+1 == c else '') for i, m in enumerate(Lmax)]
   outStr="".join([''.join([f % v for v, f in zip(L, FMT)]) for L in zip(*LoL)])
   remStr="".join([f % v for v, f in zip(list[c * (len(list) // c):], FMT)])
   print(outStr+(remStr+end if remStr else remStr), end='')

Testing w/ outputs:

>>> foolist = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf',
             'pdcurses-devel', 'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
             'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']
>>> printList2(foolist)
exiv2-devel     mingw-libs      tcltk-demos     fcgi            netcdf          pdcurses-devel  msvcrt          
gdal-grass      iconv           qgis-devel      qgis1.1         php_mapscript   

>>> printList2(foolist, MAX_CHARS=48, uniform=False, gap=3)
exiv2-devel   mingw-libs   tcltk-demos      
fcgi          netcdf       pdcurses-devel   
msvcrt        gdal-grass   iconv            
qgis-devel    qgis1.1      php_mapscript    

>>> printList2(foolist, col=2, MAX_CHARS=48, uniform=False, gap=3)
exiv2-devel   mingw-libs       
tcltk-demos   fcgi             
netcdf        pdcurses-devel   
msvcrt        gdal-grass       
iconv         qgis-devel       
qgis1.1       php_mapscript    

>>> printList2(foolist, col=2, MAX_CHARS=48, uniform=False, ljust=False, gap=2)
  exiv2-devel      mingw-libs
  tcltk-demos            fcgi
       netcdf  pdcurses-devel
       msvcrt      gdal-grass
        iconv      qgis-devel
      qgis1.1   php_mapscript

>>> printList2(foolist, col=10, MAX_CHARS=48, uniform=True, ljust=False, gap=2)
     exiv2-devel      mingw-libs     tcltk-demos
            fcgi          netcdf  pdcurses-devel
          msvcrt      gdal-grass           iconv
      qgis-devel         qgis1.1   php_mapscript

>>> from math import pi
>>> FloatList = [pi**(i+1) for i in range(32)]
>>> printList2(FloatList, STR_FMT="{:.5g},", col=7, ljust=False)
      3.1416,      9.8696,      31.006,      97.409,      306.02,      961.39,      3020.3,
      9488.5,       29809,       93648,   2.942e+05,  9.2427e+05,  2.9037e+06,  9.1222e+06,
  2.8658e+07,  9.0032e+07,  2.8284e+08,  8.8858e+08,  2.7916e+09,    8.77e+09,  2.7552e+10,
  8.6556e+10,  2.7192e+11,  8.5427e+11,  2.6838e+12,  8.4313e+12,  2.6488e+13,  8.3214e+13,
  2.6142e+14,  8.2129e+14,  2.5802e+15,  8.1058e+15,

For Python3, I used python – How do you split a list into evenly sized chunks? – Stack Overflow to create

def chunkSectionList(listToPrint, columns):
    """ separate a list into chunks of n-items """
    for i in range(0, len(listToPrint), columns):
        yield listToPrint[i:i + columns]


def printSections(listToPrint, columns):
    remainder = len(listToPrint) % columns
    listToPrint += (columns - remainder) * \
        (" ") if remainder != 0 else listToPrint
    for sectionsLine in chunkSectionList(listToPrint, columns):
        formatStr = columns * '{:<30}'
        print(formatStr.format(* sectionsLine))

from itertools import izip_longest, islice
L = ['exiv2-devel', 'mingw-libs', 'tcltk-demos', 'fcgi', 'netcdf', 
    'pdcurses-devel',     'msvcrt', 'gdal-grass', 'iconv', 'qgis-devel', 
    'qgis1.1', 'php_mapscript']

def columnize(sequence, columns=2):
    size, remainder = divmod(len(sequence), columns)
    if remainder: 
        size += 1
    slices = [islice(sequence, pos, pos + size) 
              for pos in xrange(0, len(sequence), size)]
    return izip_longest(fillvalue="", *slices)

for values in columnize(L):
    print ' '.join(value.ljust(20) for value in values)