constructing binary \n

Jeff Shannon jeff at
Thu Sep 30 04:16:40 CEST 2004

Steven Arnold wrote:

> Is there a more elegant way to construct \[a-z] in a string than 
> something like:
> s = '\\n'
> result = eval( "'%s'" ) % s
> Another ugly method would be to build a dict with all the different 
> special letters I want as keys, and their corresponding values as 
> values.  Or I could have a huge if/elif structure.  I can't make ord 
> work, because while ord( '\n' ) gives me a reasonable integer that I 
> can interpolate with %c, I don't have '\n', I have '\\n'.

No, you actually *do* have '\n', the single byte that represents ASCII 

 >>> len('\n')
 >>> len('\\n')
 >>> ord('\n')
 >>> ord('\\n')
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<interactive input>", line 1, in ?
TypeError: ord() expected a character, but string of length 2 found
 >>> for char in '\\n':
...     print ord(char)

Note that '\n' is a single byte, while '\\n' is two bytes.  In the first 
case, '\n' is interpreted as the single LF byte.  In the second case, 
'\\' collapses into a single backslash, giving you a backslash byte and 
a 'n' byte.

When you type a string literal containing a backslash, if that backslash 
can combine with the following character to make a valid escape code, it 
*will* do so unless you've explicitly turned off escaping (by, e.g., 
using raw strings).  Of course, if the combination is *not* a valid 
escape code, then the backslash and following character will be 
interpreted normally.

Jeff Shannon
Credit International

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