Byte oriented data types in python

Grant Edwards grante at
Sun Jan 25 21:13:24 CET 2009

On 2009-01-25, Martin v. Löwis <martin at> wrote:
>>>> Take a look at the struct and ctypes modules.
>>> struct is really not the choice. it returns an expanded string of the
>>> data and this means larger latency over bluetooth.
>> I don't know what you mean by "returns an expanded string of
>> the data".
>> I do know that struct does exactly what you requested.
> I disagree. He has a format (type, length, value), with the
> value being variable-sized. How do you do that in the struct
> module?

You construct a format string for the "value" portion based on
the type/length header.

>> It converts between Python objects and what is bascially a C
>> "struct" where you specify the endianness of each field and
>> what sort of packing/padding you want.
> Sure. However, in the specific case, there is really no C
> struct that can reasonably represent the data.

I don't see how that can be the case.  There may not be a
single C struct that can represent all frames, but for every
frame you should be able to come up with a C struct that can
represent that frame.

> Hence you cannot really use the struct module.

Perhaps I don't understand his requirements, but I use the
struct module for protocols with type/len/value sorts of

>> I use the struct module frequenty to impliment binary,
>> communications protocols in Python.  I've used Python/struct
>> with transport layers ranging from Ethernet (raw, TCP, and
>> UDP) to async serial, to CAN.
> Do you use it for the fixed-size parts, or also for the
> variable-sized data?

Both.  For varible size/format stuff you decode the first few
bytes and use them to figure out what format/layout to use for
the next chunk of data.  It's pretty much the same thing you do
in other languages.


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