Plugins in Python

David LeBlanc whisper at oz.nospamnet
Wed Jun 13 21:05:58 CEST 2001

[This followup was posted to comp.lang.python and a copy was sent to the 
cited author.]

In article <u7kyh46w7.fsf at>, db3l at 
> David LeBlanc <whisper at oz.nospamnet> writes:
> > How would one generally code something that would look at some dir (or 
> > list of dirs), and dynamically load .py or .pyc modules found there that 
> > where not previously known to the program. Obviously following a standard 
> > API...
> I tend to make plugins for an application a package.
> One approach is that the __init__ file in the package can inspect the
> package directory for other modules, and then use __import__ to import
> them.  I normally then populate a well-known dictionary within the
> __init__ module that applications can use to determine what plugins
> were loaded.  You can also decide to set up the modules for lazy
> loading using a proxy class if you want to avoid the overhead of
> actually importing the plugin until needed.
> Note that one major negative with this approach is that it confuses
> Python installation tools like py2exe and installer, as they can't
> follow the dynamic importing, and also because the directory structure
> may not be similar during execution.
> So in the cases that I need to package things, I instead write my
> __init__ such that it contains explicit imports for supported plugins,
> but nothing more.  Then instead of looping through the filesystem, I
> loop through my local dictionary looking for modules, and then import
> them (or call well defined entry points in them to let them identify
> what they support).  This does mean they all get imported, but it
> works regardless of directory structure, and can be packaged.
> --
> -- David
Thanks David! That's exactly what i'm looking for. Python the ever 
flexible snake! I sort of thought that (dunno why, just didn't occur to 
me) that import wouldn't take a variable as in:

mymodule = "c:/boo/"
import mymodule

I gather that's what you mean?

>From what you're telling me, the general idea is (or could be)?:

import standardplugin1
import standardplugin2

# Inspect some known directory or set of directories for *.py files
plugins = getplugins()	# assume "./plugins"

# alternative 1
for plug in plugins
	import plug
			# or if not plug.hasmethod("registerplugin")
			# is this possible? hasattribute()?
			unload plug

# alternative 2 - this one seems potentially faster or maybe less memory 
# intensive - does unload really reclaim memory used by the module 
# unloaded?
for plug in plugins
	if grep("registerplugin" plug) == 1 # or whatever means is 
							# appropriate to check
							# perhaps arranging a comment
							# as the first line of the file
							# would be fastest and simplest
							# of all - and extra info too!
		import plug

# on with the show...


I take your point about the installer issue, and it's something i'd have 
to live with I guess. I want to be able to dynamically download a new 
plugin and have the user take no further action then putting it in the 
plugins directory. This might even be done automagically as part of a 
dynamic update or install feature and then the user couldn't even get 
putting it in the right directory wrong ;-)

Thanks for the help David and to the other posters too!


David LeBlanc

P.S. Tim Delany's idea only works when the list of plugins is known in 

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