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.. _tut-brieftour:
Brief Tour of the Standard Library
.. _tut-os-interface:
Operating System Interface
The :mod:`os` module provides dozens of functions for interacting with the
operating system::
>>> import os
>>> os.getcwd() # Return the current working directory
>>> os.chdir('/server/accesslogs') # Change current working directory
>>> os.system('mkdir today') # Run the command mkdir in the system shell
Be sure to use the ``import os`` style instead of ``from os import *``. This
will keep :func:`` from shadowing the built-in :func:`open` function which
operates much differently.
.. index:: pair: built-in function; help
The built-in :func:`dir` and :func:`help` functions are useful as interactive
aids for working with large modules like :mod:`os`::
>>> import os
>>> dir(os)
<returns a list of all module functions>
>>> help(os)
<returns an extensive manual page created from the module's docstrings>
For daily file and directory management tasks, the :mod:`shutil` module provides
a higher level interface that is easier to use::
>>> import shutil
>>> shutil.copyfile('data.db', 'archive.db')
>>> shutil.move('/build/executables', 'installdir')
.. _tut-file-wildcards:
File Wildcards
The :mod:`glob` module provides a function for making file lists from directory
wildcard searches::
>>> import glob
>>> glob.glob('*.py')
['', '', '']
.. _tut-command-line-arguments:
Command Line Arguments
Common utility scripts often need to process command line arguments. These
arguments are stored in the :mod:`sys` module's *argv* attribute as a list. For
instance, let's take the following :file:`` file::
# File
import sys
Here is the output from running ``python one two three`` at the command
['', 'one', 'two', 'three']
The :mod:`argparse` module provides a more sophisticated mechanism to process
command line arguments. The following script extracts one or more filenames
and an optional number of lines to be displayed::
import argparse
parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(
description='Show top lines from each file')
parser.add_argument('filenames', nargs='+')
parser.add_argument('-l', '--lines', type=int, default=10)
args = parser.parse_args()
When run at the command line with ``python --lines=5 alpha.txt
beta.txt``, the script sets ``args.lines`` to ``5`` and ``args.filenames``
to ``['alpha.txt', 'beta.txt']``.
.. _tut-stderr:
Error Output Redirection and Program Termination
The :mod:`sys` module also has attributes for *stdin*, *stdout*, and *stderr*.
The latter is useful for emitting warnings and error messages to make them
visible even when *stdout* has been redirected::
>>> sys.stderr.write('Warning, log file not found starting a new one\n')
Warning, log file not found starting a new one
The most direct way to terminate a script is to use ``sys.exit()``.
.. _tut-string-pattern-matching:
String Pattern Matching
The :mod:`re` module provides regular expression tools for advanced string
processing. For complex matching and manipulation, regular expressions offer
succinct, optimized solutions::
>>> import re
>>> re.findall(r'\bf[a-z]*', 'which foot or hand fell fastest')
['foot', 'fell', 'fastest']
>>> re.sub(r'(\b[a-z]+) \1', r'\1', 'cat in the the hat')
'cat in the hat'
When only simple capabilities are needed, string methods are preferred because
they are easier to read and debug::
>>> 'tea for too'.replace('too', 'two')
'tea for two'
.. _tut-mathematics:
The :mod:`math` module gives access to the underlying C library functions for
floating point math::
>>> import math
>>> math.cos(math.pi / 4)
>>> math.log(1024, 2)
The :mod:`random` module provides tools for making random selections::
>>> import random
>>> random.choice(['apple', 'pear', 'banana'])
>>> random.sample(range(100), 10) # sampling without replacement
[30, 83, 16, 4, 8, 81, 41, 50, 18, 33]
>>> random.random() # random float
>>> random.randrange(6) # random integer chosen from range(6)
The :mod:`statistics` module calculates basic statistical properties
(the mean, median, variance, etc.) of numeric data::
>>> import statistics
>>> data = [2.75, 1.75, 1.25, 0.25, 0.5, 1.25, 3.5]
>>> statistics.mean(data)
>>> statistics.median(data)
>>> statistics.variance(data)
The SciPy project <> has many other modules for numerical
.. _tut-internet-access:
Internet Access
There are a number of modules for accessing the internet and processing internet
protocols. Two of the simplest are :mod:`urllib.request` for retrieving data
from URLs and :mod:`smtplib` for sending mail::
>>> from urllib.request import urlopen
>>> with urlopen('') as response:
... for line in response:
... line = line.decode() # Convert bytes to a str
... if line.startswith('datetime'):
... print(line.rstrip()) # Remove trailing newline
datetime: 2022-01-01T01:36:47.689215+00:00
>>> import smtplib
>>> server = smtplib.SMTP('localhost')
>>> server.sendmail('', '',
... """To:
... From:
... Beware the Ides of March.
... """)
>>> server.quit()
(Note that the second example needs a mailserver running on localhost.)
.. _tut-dates-and-times:
Dates and Times
The :mod:`datetime` module supplies classes for manipulating dates and times in
both simple and complex ways. While date and time arithmetic is supported, the
focus of the implementation is on efficient member extraction for output
formatting and manipulation. The module also supports objects that are timezone
aware. ::
>>> # dates are easily constructed and formatted
>>> from datetime import date
>>> now =
>>> now, 12, 2)
>>> now.strftime("%m-%d-%y. %d %b %Y is a %A on the %d day of %B.")
'12-02-03. 02 Dec 2003 is a Tuesday on the 02 day of December.'
>>> # dates support calendar arithmetic
>>> birthday = date(1964, 7, 31)
>>> age = now - birthday
>>> age.days
.. _tut-data-compression:
Data Compression
Common data archiving and compression formats are directly supported by modules
including: :mod:`zlib`, :mod:`gzip`, :mod:`bz2`, :mod:`lzma`, :mod:`zipfile` and
:mod:`tarfile`. ::
>>> import zlib
>>> s = b'witch which has which witches wrist watch'
>>> len(s)
>>> t = zlib.compress(s)
>>> len(t)
>>> zlib.decompress(t)
b'witch which has which witches wrist watch'
>>> zlib.crc32(s)
.. _tut-performance-measurement:
Performance Measurement
Some Python users develop a deep interest in knowing the relative performance of
different approaches to the same problem. Python provides a measurement tool
that answers those questions immediately.
For example, it may be tempting to use the tuple packing and unpacking feature
instead of the traditional approach to swapping arguments. The :mod:`timeit`
module quickly demonstrates a modest performance advantage::
>>> from timeit import Timer
>>> Timer('t=a; a=b; b=t', 'a=1; b=2').timeit()
>>> Timer('a,b = b,a', 'a=1; b=2').timeit()
In contrast to :mod:`timeit`'s fine level of granularity, the :mod:`profile` and
:mod:`pstats` modules provide tools for identifying time critical sections in
larger blocks of code.
.. _tut-quality-control:
Quality Control
One approach for developing high quality software is to write tests for each
function as it is developed and to run those tests frequently during the
development process.
The :mod:`doctest` module provides a tool for scanning a module and validating
tests embedded in a program's docstrings. Test construction is as simple as
cutting-and-pasting a typical call along with its results into the docstring.
This improves the documentation by providing the user with an example and it
allows the doctest module to make sure the code remains true to the
def average(values):
"""Computes the arithmetic mean of a list of numbers.
>>> print(average([20, 30, 70]))
return sum(values) / len(values)
import doctest
doctest.testmod() # automatically validate the embedded tests
The :mod:`unittest` module is not as effortless as the :mod:`doctest` module,
but it allows a more comprehensive set of tests to be maintained in a separate
import unittest
class TestStatisticalFunctions(unittest.TestCase):
def test_average(self):
self.assertEqual(average([20, 30, 70]), 40.0)
self.assertEqual(round(average([1, 5, 7]), 1), 4.3)
with self.assertRaises(ZeroDivisionError):
with self.assertRaises(TypeError):
average(20, 30, 70)
unittest.main() # Calling from the command line invokes all tests
.. _tut-batteries-included:
Batteries Included
Python has a "batteries included" philosophy. This is best seen through the
sophisticated and robust capabilities of its larger packages. For example:
* The :mod:`xmlrpc.client` and :mod:`xmlrpc.server` modules make implementing
remote procedure calls into an almost trivial task. Despite the modules'
names, no direct knowledge or handling of XML is needed.
* The :mod:`email` package is a library for managing email messages, including
MIME and other :rfc:`2822`-based message documents. Unlike :mod:`smtplib` and
:mod:`poplib` which actually send and receive messages, the email package has
a complete toolset for building or decoding complex message structures
(including attachments) and for implementing internet encoding and header
* The :mod:`json` package provides robust support for parsing this
popular data interchange format. The :mod:`csv` module supports
direct reading and writing of files in Comma-Separated Value format,
commonly supported by databases and spreadsheets. XML processing is
supported by the :mod:`xml.etree.ElementTree`, :mod:`xml.dom` and
:mod:`xml.sax` packages. Together, these modules and packages
greatly simplify data interchange between Python applications and
other tools.
* The :mod:`sqlite3` module is a wrapper for the SQLite database
library, providing a persistent database that can be updated and
accessed using slightly nonstandard SQL syntax.
* Internationalization is supported by a number of modules including
:mod:`gettext`, :mod:`locale`, and the :mod:`codecs` package.