[Python-ideas] Provide a way to import module without exec body

Neil Schemenauer nas-python-ideas at arctrix.com
Fri Dec 1 13:12:26 EST 2017

On 2017-12-01, Chris Angelico wrote:
> Can you elaborate on where this is useful, please?

Introspection tools, for example, might want to look at the module
without executing it.  Also, it is a building block to make lazy loading
of modules work.  As Nick points out, importlib can do this already.

Currently, the IMPORT_NAME both loads the code for a module and also
executes it.  The exec happens fairly deep in the guts of importlib.
This makes import.c and ceval.c mutually recursive.  The locking gets
complicated.  There are hacks like _call_with_frames_removed() to hide
the recursion going on.

Instead, we could have two separate opcodes, one that gets the module
but does not exec it (i.e. a function like __import__() that returns a
future) and another opcode that actually does the execution.  Figuring
out all the details is complicated.

Possible benefits:

- importlib is simpler

- reduce the amount of stack space used (removing recursion by
  "continuation passing style").

- makes profiling Python easier.  Tools like valgrind get confused
  by call cycle between ceval.c and import.c.

- easier to implement lazy loading of modules (not necessarily a
  standard Python feature but will make 3rd party implementations

I'm CCing Brett as I'm sure he has thoughts on this, given his intimate
knowledge of importlib.  To me, it seems like __import__() has a
terribly complicated API because it does so many different things.

Maybe two opcodes is not even enough.  Maybe we should have one to
resolve relative imports (i.e. import.c:resolve_name), one to load but
not exec a module given its absolute name (i.e.  _find_and_load()
without the exec), one to exec a loaded module, one or more to handle
the horror of "fromlist" (i.e.  _handle_fromlist()).



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