Sorted Returns List and Reversed Returns Iterator

++imanshu himanshu.garg at
Sat Aug 23 06:25:34 CEST 2008

On Aug 22, 12:36 pm, Terry Reedy <tjre... at> wrote:
> Peter Otten wrote:
> > ++imanshu wrote:
> >> I agree. Iterator is more flexible.
> I disagree.  Neither is more flexible.  You can iter the list returned
> by sorted and list the iter returned by reversed.  Both do the minimum
> work necessary.  See below.
>  > Together and both might have returned the same types.
> True, but only by doing potentially unnecessary work and requiring the
> caller to do potentially unnecessary work that might even prevent the
> program from working.  This is less flexible.
> Suppose sorted now returns alist with 50 million items.  Suppose it
> instead returned iter(alist) but the caller wants to randomly index the
> items.  Since the caller could not access the existing 50 million item
> list, the caller would have to make another 50 million item copy.  This
> is non-trivial and might not even work do to memory limitations.
> > It's easy to generate a reversed sequence on the fly but impractical for a
> > sorted one. Python is taking the pragmatic approach here.
> To expand on this: sorting and reversing are algorithmically different
> operations.   Sorting requires that one have all items in hand in a
> mutable sequence (list) for arbitrary re-ordering.  Sorted works on any
> iterable and starts by making a new list.  There is no point to not
> returning that list after it is sorted.  It would be more work and less
> useful to do more.
> sorted(iterable, key=None, reverse=False):
>    newlist = list(iterable)
>    newlist.sort(key, reverse)
>    return newlist
> Iterating over a concrete sequence in reverse order, on the other hand,
> is trivial.  It would be more work and less useful to do more.
> def _reversed(seq): # 'hidden' generator function
>    n = len(seq)
>    while n:
>      n -= 1
>      yield seq[n]
> def reversed(seq):
>    if hasattr(seq, '__reversed__'):
>      return seq.__reversed__() # I presume this is tried first
>    else:
>      return _reversed(seq) # generic fall-back
> Terry Jan Reedy

Thanks for giving the 'behind the scenes' reasons. It looks
reasonable now.

Thank You,

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