Python Code Style

2 minute read

Guidelines for writing efficient Python code.

Slow vs. Fast

This section shall help in writing quicker and more elegant python code. It therefore contrasts currently recommended practices with code snippets from our projects and thesis.

Sorting dictionaries

Using methods from the operator module often pays of.

items = [ (v,k) for k,v in token_dict.iteritems() ]


from operator import itemgetter
items = sorted(token_dict.iteritems(), key=itemgetter(1), reverse=True)

Extracting Indices from Lists

v = [ x for nr, x in enumerate(mylist) if nr in indices ]


from operator import itemgetter
v = itemgetter(*indices)(mylist)

Info: itemgetter returns a scalar if only one index is requested, otherwise a tuple of the requested values.

Detecting digits and alphanumerical data in strings

String functions are much quicker (but less powerful) than regular expression matching.

import re
digit_pattern = re.compile('.*\d+.*')
alnum_pattern = re.compile('.*[a-zA-Z0-9_-].*')
if digit_pattern.match(s): return "digit"
if alpha_pattern.match(s): return "alnum"


if s.isdigit(): return "digit"
if s.isalnum(): return "alnum"


Programming patterns

Conditions and List Comprehensions

  [ {cond} and {true} or {false} for x in lst ]

Example: replace all values, which are bigger than v_max with v_max.

  [ x>v_max and v_max or x for x in lst ]



from eWRT import MemoryCached

def mySlowFunction(a):

Python Hacks

  • IPython - An enhanced interactive Python shell & architecture for interactive parallel computing] - eases the work in the python shell (Homepage | ONLamp Article).

Python Unit Testing

  • Nose extends python’s default testing framework.
  • An excellent article on python testing frameworks: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Default arguments

  • Default arguments are a handy way to define default values, but keep in mind, that Python sets the value, when the function is definied. So setting the actual value directly could lead to unexpected sideeffects. For example if the first example is called several times without a value for delimiters, the append ‘hello world” to the previous list and not to an empty one.
def function(delimiters=[]) 
    delimiters.append('hello world')
  • Correct way of using default arguments:
def function(delimiters=None) 
    if delimiters == None:
        delimiters = []
    delimiters.append('hello world')

Python Profiling

  • One of the best ways to profile your python code can be found here.Please note that you need to install the python-profiler package to use the pstats module in Debian.

Example Code

The example code below demonstrates some techniques you should consider, when programming in python.

#!/usr/bin/env python
# -----------------------------------------------------------------------

# dictionary creation using dict and a list of tuples(!)
myDict = dict(  [ (key,value) for key,value in values ] )

# multiple assignments
a,b = 2,3

# use str instead of the depreciated string class
import string
lowerCase = map(string.lower, upperCase)
lowerCase = map(str.lower, upperCase)

class MyExample

        # do not use setter/getter functions for instance variables
        # use the "property" function instead (if required)
        def __init__(self, vorname, nachname, extension):
                self.v   = vorname
                self.n   = nachname
                self.ext = extension

        def setValidExtension(self, extension):
                if not isinstance(extension, int):
                        raise "Extensions must be numeric!"

        # use static methods, where they make sense(!)
        def aStaticMethod():

Recommended Resources


Tutorials and Intros



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