Bug/Weak Implementation? popen* routines can't handle simultaneous read/write?

dmoore damienlmoore at gmail.com
Thu Jun 7 18:01:11 CEST 2007

Hi folks,

I've seen the following issue come up in multiple posts to this
mailing list:

I have a python program that spawns a child process with popen or
popen2 or popen3 or popen2.popen2 etc.
the child process is interactive: it asks for input then spits out
some output, asks for more input then spits out some output. for
example, consider the trivial child program:

print "welcome"
print ">",
while s!='exit':
    print "you entered:",s
    print ">",

Now I may be completely wrong about this (I did play with popen for a
very long time before writing this message), but it appears that none
of the popen variants allow for a sequence of reads and writes to/from
this child. that is, if I read from the open pipe's output I will
never be able to write the input for the child because the parent
program will block on read until eof (I will have similar blocking
problems if I start with write - using readline does not seem to

the standard proposed remedy I have seen on this list is to use Unix-
only select/fctl, or otherwise dig into the bowls of the win32 api, or
download some half-complete sourceforge process control project. All
well and good, but unsatisfying for writing platform independent code.

it turns out that there is at least one open source multi-platform
(read: win32/linux) api that does handle synchronous I/O with the
child: wxWidgets and wxPython using the class wxProcess. Now the
wxWidgets implementation is far from perfect, but it at least allows a
program to test for new input on the child's stdout and read stdout/
write stdout in a non-blocking way. However, I find it frustrating
that I have to import wx just to have useable interactive pipes in my
python scripts when I would expect this to be part of the native
python implementation.

Anybody have any thoughts on this? Do I have my story straight? (the
popen variants can't handle this case and there are no other
alternatives in the standard python distro) Is there some place I can
submit this as a feature request? (Python dev?)

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