[Python-Dev] ConfigParser shootout, preliminary entry

Ian Bicking ianb at colorstudy.com
Thu Oct 21 19:26:24 CEST 2004

Guido van Rossum wrote:
>>>>...but -- to answer your question -- the point here isn't really the
>>>>'singleness' of the factory function, but the fact that it is
>>>>type-independent, which (in principle) would allow it to be extended
>>>>to handle arbitrary types by delegating some functionality to the
>>>>types themselves.
>>>This is all a nice generalization, but I don't see that much use for
>>>it. There's only a handful of types that are worth supporting here. So
>>>the cost of the generalization isn't worth the benefits.
>>I definitely disagree.  A common case is a constrained type, where only
>>a limited number of strings are allowed.  Or an IP address, or domain
>>name, or an internationalized boolean converter ("si" -> True), or a
>>color specification, or a valid CSS class name, or... well, the list
>>goes on forever.
>>The advantage of putting this in the parser is that you could have
>>better error messages when the values were malformed.  If the parser
>>doesn't do the conversion, you are likely to have lost the location
>>information by the time you try to do the conversion.  Good error
>>messages are one of the primary visible features for people who use the
>>configuration files.
> Sure, I agree with all of that. But my original (optint, optstr,
> optbool, optfloat) proposal can easily be extended the same way; in
> fact it is in some sense easier than an API that expects a type
> object. (Unless you have an adaptation framework in place; until we
> have a general one, inventing one just for this purpose definitely
> feels like overkill.

OK.  I guess you could subclass opt* to get a new type; I wasn't 
thinking of that.  I shy away from subclassing, but it might be 
appropriate here.  It makes it easier to hang different parameters onto 
the type as well, like not_empty (for strings), max, min, etc.  It would 
even be easier to hang serialization onto it.

I don't think adaptation fits well here, since adaptation seems to 
generally be context-insensitive, and this conversion process is done in 
the context of a specific type declaration.

>>An additional complication, though; if you plan to make the
>>configuration file writable, these types shouldn't just support
>>converting from a string to a Python type, but the other direction -- so
>>that ambiguous Python types (like a boolean; easily confused as an
>>integer) can be converted in specific ways to a configuration string.  I
>>don't think __repr__ or __str__ of the value to be converted are
>>necessarily appropriate.
> Actually, repr() or str() probably *is* the right answer for this,
> even if calling the constructor with a string argument isn't the
> answer for parsing and validation.

In my experience, this stops working as the types become more complex. 
For instance, consider a converter that takes a string that has 
comma-separated names and creates a list of strings; there is a specific 
way to convert back to that representation (','.join(value)), and both 
repr() and str() will be incorrect.

Potentially you could create a list subclass that has the right repr(), 
but that seems prone to error.  repr() only gives an estimated Python 
representation of an object -- it is neither reliable (since obj == 
eval(repr(obj)) isn't true for a large number of objects), nor is it 
appropriate, since we're trying to generate configuration expressions 
that are tightly bound to a context, not Python expressions.  In the 
case of generating a config file, if the conversion isn't reliable or is 
ambiguous it should be an error (which doesn't happen with repr() or str()).

Ian Bicking  /  ianb at colorstudy.com  /  http://blog.ianbicking.org

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