[Python-checkins] r79949 - in python/trunk/Doc/howto: descriptor.rst index.rst

raymond.hettinger python-checkins at python.org
Sun Apr 11 10:14:46 CEST 2010

Author: raymond.hettinger
Date: Sun Apr 11 10:14:45 2010
New Revision: 79949

Add descriptor howto to main documentation

   python/trunk/Doc/howto/descriptor.rst   (contents, props changed)

Added: python/trunk/Doc/howto/descriptor.rst
--- (empty file)
+++ python/trunk/Doc/howto/descriptor.rst	Sun Apr 11 10:14:45 2010
@@ -0,0 +1,431 @@
+Descriptor HowTo Guide
+:Author: Raymond Hettinger
+:Contact: <python at rcn dot com>
+.. Contents::
+Defines descriptors, summarizes the protocol, and shows how descriptors are
+called.  Examines a custom descriptor and several built-in python descriptors
+including functions, properties, static methods, and class methods.  Shows how
+each works by giving a pure Python equivalent and a sample application.
+Learning about descriptors not only provides access to a larger toolset, it
+creates a deeper understanding of how Python works and an appreciation for the
+elegance of its design.
+Definition and Introduction
+In general, a descriptor is an object attribute with "binding behavior", one
+whose attribute access has been overridden by methods in the descriptor
+protocol.  Those methods are :meth:`__get__`, :meth:`__set__`, and
+:meth:`__delete__`.  If any of those methods are defined for an object, it is
+said to be a descriptor.
+The default behavior for attribute access is to get, set, or delete the
+attribute from an object's dictionary.  For instance, ``a.x`` has a lookup chain
+starting with ``a.__dict__['x']``, then ``type(a).__dict__['x']``, and
+continuing through the base classes of ``type(a)`` excluding metaclasses. If the
+looked-up value is an object defining one of the descriptor methods, then Python
+may override the default behavior and invoke the descriptor method instead.
+Where this occurs in the precedence chain depends on which descriptor methods
+were defined.  Note that descriptors are only invoked for new style objects or
+classes (a class is new style if it inherits from :class:`object` or
+Descriptors are a powerful, general purpose protocol.  They are the mechanism
+behind properties, methods, static methods, class methods, and :func:`super()`.
+They are used used throughout Python itself to implement the new style classes
+introduced in version 2.2.  Descriptors simplify the underlying C-code and offer
+a flexible set of new tools for everyday Python programs.
+Descriptor Protocol
+``descr.__get__(self, obj, type=None) --> value``
+``descr.__set__(self, obj, value) --> None``
+``descr.__delete__(self, obj) --> None``
+That is all there is to it.  Define any of these methods and an object is
+considered a descriptor and can override default behavior upon being looked up
+as an attribute.
+If an object defines both :meth:`__get__` and :meth:`__set__`, it is considered
+a data descriptor.  Descriptors that only define :meth:`__get__` are called
+non-data descriptors (they are typically used for methods but other uses are
+Data and non-data descriptors differ in how overrides are calculated with
+respect to entries in an instance's dictionary.  If an instance's dictionary
+has an entry with the same name as a data descriptor, the data descriptor
+takes precedence.  If an instance's dictionary has an entry with the same
+name as a non-data descriptor, the dictionary entry takes precedence.
+To make a read-only data descriptor, define both :meth:`__get__` and
+:meth:`__set__` with the :meth:`__set__` raising an :exc:`AttributeError` when
+called.  Defining the :meth:`__set__` method with an exception raising
+placeholder is enough to make it a data descriptor.
+Invoking Descriptors
+A descriptor can be called directly by its method name.  For example,
+Alternatively, it is more common for a descriptor to be invoked automatically
+upon attribute access.  For example, ``obj.d`` looks up ``d`` in the dictionary
+of ``obj``.  If ``d`` defines the method :meth:`__get__`, then ``d.__get__(obj)``
+is invoked according to the precedence rules listed below.
+The details of invocation depend on whether ``obj`` is an object or a class.
+Either way, descriptors only work for new style objects and classes.  A class is
+new style if it is a subclass of :class:`object`.
+For objects, the machinery is in :meth:`object.__getattribute__` which
+transforms ``b.x`` into ``type(b).__dict__['x'].__get__(b, type(b))``.  The
+implementation works through a precedence chain that gives data descriptors
+priority over instance variables, instance variables priority over non-data
+descriptors, and assigns lowest priority to :meth:`__getattr__` if provided.  The
+full C implementation can be found in :cfunc:`PyObject_GenericGetAttr()` in
+`Objects/object.c <http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Objects/object.c?view=markup>`_\.
+For classes, the machinery is in :meth:`type.__getattribute__` which transforms
+``B.x`` into ``B.__dict__['x'].__get__(None, B)``.  In pure Python, it looks
+    def __getattribute__(self, key):
+        "Emulate type_getattro() in Objects/typeobject.c"
+        v = object.__getattribute__(self, key)
+        if hasattr(v, '__get__'):
+           return v.__get__(None, self)
+        return v
+The important points to remember are:
+* descriptors are invoked by the :meth:`__getattribute__` method
+* overriding :meth:`__getattribute__` prevents automatic descriptor calls
+* :meth:`__getattribute__` is only available with new style classes and objects
+* :meth:`object.__getattribute__` and :meth:`type.__getattribute__` make
+  different calls to :meth:`__get__`.
+* data descriptors always override instance dictionaries.
+* non-data descriptors may be overridden by instance dictionaries.
+The object returned by ``super()`` also has a custom :meth:`__getattribute__`
+method for invoking descriptors.  The call ``super(B, obj).m()`` searches
+``obj.__class__.__mro__`` for the base class ``A`` immediately following ``B``
+and then returns ``A.__dict__['m'].__get__(obj, A)``.  If not a descriptor,
+``m`` is returned unchanged.  If not in the dictionary, ``m`` reverts to a
+search using :meth:`object.__getattribute__`.
+Note, in Python 2.2, ``super(B, obj).m()`` would only invoke :meth:`__get__` if
+``m`` was a data descriptor.  In Python 2.3, non-data descriptors also get
+invoked unless an old-style class is involved.  The implementation details are
+in :cfunc:`super_getattro()` in
+`Objects/typeobject.c <http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Objects/typeobject.c?view=markup>`_
+and a pure Python equivalent can be found in `Guido's Tutorial`_.
+.. _`Guido's Tutorial`: http://www.python.org/2.2.3/descrintro.html#cooperation
+The details above show that the mechanism for descriptors is embedded in the
+:meth:`__getattribute__()` methods for :class:`object`, :class:`type`, and
+:func:`super`.  Classes inherit this machinery when they derive from
+:class:`object` or if they have a meta-class providing similar functionality.
+Likewise, classes can turn-off descriptor invocation by overriding
+Descriptor Example
+The following code creates a class whose objects are data descriptors which
+print a message for each get or set.  Overriding :meth:`__getattribute__` is
+alternate approach that could do this for every attribute.  However, this
+descriptor is useful for monitoring just a few chosen attributes::
+    class RevealAccess(object):
+        """A data descriptor that sets and returns values
+           normally and prints a message logging their access.
+        """
+        def __init__(self, initval=None, name='var'):
+            self.val = initval
+            self.name = name
+        def __get__(self, obj, objtype):
+            print 'Retrieving', self.name
+            return self.val
+        def __set__(self, obj, val):
+            print 'Updating' , self.name
+            self.val = val
+    >>> class MyClass(object):
+        x = RevealAccess(10, 'var "x"')
+        y = 5
+    >>> m = MyClass()
+    >>> m.x
+    Retrieving var "x"
+    10
+    >>> m.x = 20
+    Updating var "x"
+    >>> m.x
+    Retrieving var "x"
+    20
+    >>> m.y
+    5
+The protocol is simple and offers exciting possibilities.  Several use cases are
+so common that they have been packaged into individual function calls.
+Properties, bound and unbound methods, static methods, and class methods are all
+based on the descriptor protocol.
+Calling :func:`property` is a succinct way of building a data descriptor that
+triggers function calls upon access to an attribute.  Its signature is::
+    property(fget=None, fset=None, fdel=None, doc=None) -> property attribute
+The documentation shows a typical use to define a managed attribute ``x``::
+    class C(object):
+        def getx(self): return self.__x
+        def setx(self, value): self.__x = value
+        def delx(self): del self.__x
+        x = property(getx, setx, delx, "I'm the 'x' property.")
+To see how :func:`property` is implemented in terms of the descriptor protocol,
+here is a pure Python equivalent::
+    class Property(object):
+        "Emulate PyProperty_Type() in Objects/descrobject.c"
+        def __init__(self, fget=None, fset=None, fdel=None, doc=None):
+            self.fget = fget
+            self.fset = fset
+            self.fdel = fdel
+            self.__doc__ = doc
+        def __get__(self, obj, objtype=None):
+            if obj is None:
+                return self
+            if self.fget is None:
+                raise AttributeError, "unreadable attribute"
+            return self.fget(obj)
+        def __set__(self, obj, value):
+            if self.fset is None:
+                raise AttributeError, "can't set attribute"
+            self.fset(obj, value)
+        def __delete__(self, obj):
+            if self.fdel is None:
+                raise AttributeError, "can't delete attribute"
+            self.fdel(obj)
+The :func:`property` builtin helps whenever a user interface has granted
+attribute access and then subsequent changes require the intervention of a
+For instance, a spreadsheet class may grant access to a cell value through
+``Cell('b10').value``. Subsequent improvements to the program require the cell
+to be recalculated on every access; however, the programmer does not want to
+affect existing client code accessing the attribute directly.  The solution is
+to wrap access to the value attribute in a property data descriptor::
+    class Cell(object):
+        . . .
+        def getvalue(self, obj):
+            "Recalculate cell before returning value"
+            self.recalc()
+            return obj._value
+        value = property(getvalue)
+Functions and Methods
+Python's object oriented features are built upon a function based environment.
+Using non-data descriptors, the two are merged seamlessly.
+Class dictionaries store methods as functions.  In a class definition, methods
+are written using :keyword:`def` and :keyword:`lambda`, the usual tools for
+creating functions.  The only difference from regular functions is that the
+first argument is reserved for the object instance.  By Python convention, the
+instance reference is called *self* but may be called *this* or any other
+variable name.
+To support method calls, functions include the :meth:`__get__` method for
+binding methods during attribute access.  This means that all functions are
+non-data descriptors which return bound or unbound methods depending whether
+they are invoked from an object or a class.  In pure python, it works like
+    class Function(object):
+        . . .
+        def __get__(self, obj, objtype=None):
+            "Simulate func_descr_get() in Objects/funcobject.c"
+            return types.MethodType(self, obj, objtype)
+Running the interpreter shows how the function descriptor works in practice::
+    >>> class D(object):
+         def f(self, x):
+              return x
+    >>> d = D()
+    >>> D.__dict__['f'] # Stored internally as a function
+    <function f at 0x00C45070>
+    >>> D.f             # Get from a class becomes an unbound method
+    <unbound method D.f>
+    >>> d.f             # Get from an instance becomes a bound method
+    <bound method D.f of <__main__.D object at 0x00B18C90>>
+The output suggests that bound and unbound methods are two different types.
+While they could have been implemented that way, the actual C implemention of
+:ctype:`PyMethod_Type` in
+`Objects/classobject.c <http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Objects/classobject.c?view=markup>`_
+is a single object with two different representations depending on whether the
+:attr:`im_self` field is set or is *NULL* (the C equivalent of *None*).
+Likewise, the effects of calling a method object depend on the :attr:`im_self`
+field. If set (meaning bound), the original function (stored in the
+:attr:`im_func` field) is called as expected with the first argument set to the
+instance.  If unbound, all of the arguments are passed unchanged to the original
+function. The actual C implementation of :func:`instancemethod_call()` is only
+slightly more complex in that it includes some type checking.
+Static Methods and Class Methods
+Non-data descriptors provide a simple mechanism for variations on the usual
+patterns of binding functions into methods.
+To recap, functions have a :meth:`__get__` method so that they can be converted
+to a method when accessed as attributes.  The non-data descriptor transforms a
+``obj.f(*args)`` call into ``f(obj, *args)``.  Calling ``klass.f(*args)``
+becomes ``f(*args)``.
+This chart summarizes the binding and its two most useful variants:
+      +-----------------+--------------+----------------------+------------------+
+      | Transformation  |              | Called from an       | Called from a    |
+      |                 |              | Object               | Class            |
+      +=================+==============+======================+==================+
+      |                 | function     | f(obj, \*args)       | f(\*args)        |
+      +                 +--------------+----------------------+------------------+
+      | Descriptor      | staticmethod | f(\*args)            | f(\*args)        |
+      +                 +--------------+----------------------+------------------+
+      |                 | classmethod  | f(type(obj), \*args) | f(klass, \*args) |
+      +-----------------+--------------+----------------------+------------------+
+Static methods return the underlying function without changes.  Calling either
+``c.f`` or ``C.f`` is the equivalent of a direct lookup into
+``object.__getattribute__(c, "f")`` or ``object.__getattribute__(C, "f")``. As a
+result, the function becomes identically accessible from either an object or a
+Good candidates for static methods are methods that do not reference the
+``self`` variable.
+For instance, a statistics package may include a container class for
+experimental data.  The class provides normal methods for computing the average,
+mean, median, and other descriptive statistics that depend on the data. However,
+there may be useful functions which are conceptually related but do not depend
+on the data.  For instance, ``erf(x)`` is handy conversion routine that comes up
+in statistical work but does not directly depend on a particular dataset.
+It can be called either from an object or the class:  ``s.erf(1.5) --> .9332`` or
+``Sample.erf(1.5) --> .9332``.
+Since staticmethods return the underlying function with no changes, the example
+calls are unexciting::
+    >>> class E(object):
+         def f(x):
+              print x
+         f = staticmethod(f)
+    >>> print E.f(3)
+    3
+    >>> print E().f(3)
+    3
+Using the non-data descriptor protocol, a pure Python version of
+:func:`staticmethod` would look like this::
+    class StaticMethod(object):
+     "Emulate PyStaticMethod_Type() in Objects/funcobject.c"
+     def __init__(self, f):
+          self.f = f
+     def __get__(self, obj, objtype=None):
+          return self.f
+Unlike static methods, class methods prepend the class reference to the
+argument list before calling the function.  This format is the same
+for whether the caller is an object or a class::
+    >>> class E(object):
+         def f(klass, x):
+              return klass.__name__, x
+         f = classmethod(f)
+    >>> print E.f(3)
+    ('E', 3)
+    >>> print E().f(3)
+    ('E', 3)
+This behavior is useful whenever the function only needs to have a class
+reference and does not care about any underlying data.  One use for classmethods
+is to create alternate class constructors.  In Python 2.3, the classmethod
+:func:`dict.fromkeys` creates a new dictionary from a list of keys.  The pure
+Python equivalent is::
+    class Dict:
+        . . .
+        def fromkeys(klass, iterable, value=None):
+            "Emulate dict_fromkeys() in Objects/dictobject.c"
+            d = klass()
+            for key in iterable:
+                d[key] = value
+            return d
+        fromkeys = classmethod(fromkeys)
+Now a new dictionary of unique keys can be constructed like this::
+    >>> Dict.fromkeys('abracadabra')
+    {'a': None, 'r': None, 'b': None, 'c': None, 'd': None}
+Using the non-data descriptor protocol, a pure Python version of
+:func:`classmethod` would look like this::
+    class ClassMethod(object):
+         "Emulate PyClassMethod_Type() in Objects/funcobject.c"
+         def __init__(self, f):
+              self.f = f
+         def __get__(self, obj, klass=None):
+              if klass is None:
+                   klass = type(obj)
+              def newfunc(*args):
+                   return self.f(klass, *args)
+              return newfunc

Modified: python/trunk/Doc/howto/index.rst
--- python/trunk/Doc/howto/index.rst	(original)
+++ python/trunk/Doc/howto/index.rst	Sun Apr 11 10:14:45 2010
@@ -16,6 +16,7 @@
+   descriptor.rst

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