[Python-Dev] code blocks using 'for' loops and generators

Brian Sabbey sabbey at u.washington.edu
Sun Mar 13 00:54:06 CET 2005

On Sat, 12 Mar 2005, Steven Bethard wrote:
> The goals behind this seem a lot like the goals of PEP 288[1].  I
> remember discussions suggesting code like:
> def gen():
>    a, b, c=3 = yield 1
>    yield a + b*c
> g = gen()
> print g.next() # prints 1
> print g.next(1, 2) # prints 7
> But as you can see, this creates a weird asymmetry because the last
> yield throws away its arguments, and depending on how the generator is
> written, different calls to next may require a different number of
> arguments.  This means that, unless the code is extremely well
> documented, you have to read the source code for the generator to know
> how to call it.

The intention of my proposal was for using generators with 'for' loops. 
In this case, the generator runs to completion, so the arguments to the 
last yield are never thrown away.  If 'next' were not able to take any 
arguments, that would be compatible with my proposal.

Also, there was the issue that there is an asymmetry because the first 
call to 'next' does not take any arguments.  This asymmetry does not 
exist, however, when using the generator in a 'for' loop, because there is 
no "first" call to 'continue' in such a case.

> Because of these and other complications, I believe the PEP is now
> lobbying for a way to get the generator instance object and a way to
> cause an exception to be thrown from outside the generator.  Take a
> look and see if the PEP might meet your needs -- I haven't seen much
> action on it recently, but it seems much less invasive than your
> proposal...

This PEP solves similar problems, yes.  And I would agree that my proposal 
is much more invasive on python's implementation.  From the users' point 
of view, however, I think it is much less invasive.  For example, no doubt 
there will be many users who write a generator that is to be used in a 
'for' loop and are baffled that they receive a syntax error when they try 
to write some try/finally cleanup code.  With the PEP, they would have to 
figure out that they have to use the 'throw' method of generators to 
trigger cleanup code (and then have to remember to call it each time they 
are done with the generator).  With this proposal, try/finally would just 
work as they expect and they would be non the wiser.

> def pickled_file(name):
>    self = mygen.get_instance()
>    f = open(name, 'r')
>    yield pickle.load(f)
>    f.close()
>    f = open(name, 'w')
>    pickle.dump(self.l, f)
>    f.close()

> And this would be written something like:
> gen = pickled_file('greetings.pickle')
> for l in gen:
>    l.append('hello')
>    l.append('howdy')
>    gen.l = l
> Personally, I find this use of a generator thoroughly confusing, and I
> don't see what you gain from it.  The PEP 288 examples are perhaps
> somewhat more convincing though...

The disadvantage of doing it this way (or with a class wrapping the 
generator) is that it is implicit.  If I were reading the pickled_file 
code, I would have no idea where the self.l comes from.  If it is coming 
from the 'for' loop, why not just be able to explicitly say that?

I agree that this is a confusing way to use generators.  But it is the 
expected way to use "code blocks" as found in other languages.  It would 
take some getting used to that 'for' can be used this way, but I think it 
would be worth it.


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