Using String for new List name

Dave Angel davea at
Mon Sep 28 21:00:50 CEST 2009

Scott wrote:
> Thank you fine folks for getting back with your answers!
> So down the road I do dictname[line42].append("new stuff"). (or [var]
> if I'm looping through the dict)
Nope, you still haven't gotten it.  Of course, I really don't know where 
you're going wrong, since you didn't use the same symbols as any of the 
responses you had gotten.

I suspect that you meant dictname[] to be the dictionary that Duncan 
called values[].  On that assumption, in order to append, you'd want 
something like:

values["line42"].append("new stuff")
values[var].append("new stuff") if you happen to have a variable called 
var with a value of "line42".

You will need to get a firm grasp on the distinctions between symbol 
names, literals, and values.  And although Python lets you blur these in 
some pretty bizarre ways, you haven't a chance of understanding those 
unless you learn how to play by the rules first.  I'd suggest your first 
goal should be to come up with better naming conventions.  And when 
asking questions here, try for more meaningful data than "Line42" to 
make your point.

Suppose a text file called "customers.txt" has on each line a name and 
some data.  We want to initialize an (empty)  list for each of those 
customers, and refer to it by the customer's name.  At first glance we 
might seem to want to initialize a variable for each customer, but our 
program doesn't know any of the names ahead of time, so it's much better 
to have some form of collection. We choose a dictionary.

transactions = {}
with open("customers.txt") as infile:
    for line in infile:
        fields = line.split()
        customername = fields[0]            #customer is first thing on 
the line
        transactions[customername] = []       #this is where we'll put 
the transactions at some later point, for this customer

Now, if our program happens to have a special case for a single 
customer, we might have in our program something like:


But more likely, we'll be in a loop, working through another file:

        for line in otherfile:
               fields = line.split()
               customername = fields[0]
               transaction = fields[1]
transactions[customername].append(transaction)                #append 
one transaction

or interacting:
      name = raw_input("Customer name")
      trans = raw_input("transaction for that customer")

More information about the Python-list mailing list