[Python-ideas] Dunder method to make object str-like

Paul Moore p.f.moore at gmail.com
Thu Apr 7 11:47:57 EDT 2016

On 7 April 2016 at 16:37, Chris Angelico <rosuav at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 1:26 AM, Paul Moore <p.f.moore at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On 7 April 2016 at 16:05, Émanuel Barry <vgr255 at live.ca> wrote:
>>>> Hmmm -- so maybe you are saying that if the results of __str__ and
>>>> __tostring__ are the same we're fine, just like if the results of
>>>> __int__ and __index__ are the same we're fine?  Otherwise an error is
>>>> raised.
>>> Pretty much; as above, if __tostring__ (in absence of a better name) is
>>> defined and does not raise, it should return the same as __str__.
>> OK, that makes sense as a definition of "what __tostring__ does". But
>> I'm struggling to think of an example of code that would legitimately
>> want to *use* it (unlike __index__ where the obvious motivating case
>> was indexing a sequence). And even with a motivating example of use, I
>> don't know that I can think of an example of something other than a
>> string that might *provide* the method.
>> The problem with the "ASCII byte string" example is that if a type
>> provides __tostring__ I'd expect it to work for all values of that
>> type. I'm not clear if "ASCII byte string" is intended to mean "a
>> value of type bytes that only contains ASCII characters", or "a type
>> that subclasses bytes to refuse to allow non-ASCII". The former would
>> imply __tostring__ working sometimes, but not always. The latter seems
>> like a contrived example (although I'm open to someone explaining a
>> real-world use case where it's important).
> The original use-case was Path objects, which stringify as the
> human-readable representation of the file system path. If you need to
> pass a string-or-Path to something that requires a string, you need to
> convert the Path to a string, but *not* convert other arbitrary
> objects to strings; calling str(x) would happily convert the integer
> 1234 into the string "1234", and then you'd go trying to create that
> file in the current directory. Python does not let you append
> non-strings to strings unless you write __radd__ manually; this
> proposal would allow objects to declare to the interpreter "hey, I'm
> basically a string here", and allow Paths and strings to interoperate.

But the proposal for paths is to have a *specific* method that says
"give me a string representing a filesystem path from this object". An
"interpret this object as a string" wouldn't be appropriate for the
cases where I'd want to do "give me a string representing a filesystem
path". And that's where I get stuck, as I can't think of an example
where I *would* want the more general option. For a number of reasons:

1. I can't think of a real-world example of when I'd *use* such a facility
2. I can't think of a real-world example of a type that might
*provide* such a facility
3. I can't see how something so general would be of benefit.

The __index__ and __fspath__ special methods have clear, focused
reasons for existing. The proposed __tostring__ protocol seems too
general to have a purpose.


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