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David M. Beazley

Contents at a Glance

Part I: The Python Language
A Tutorial Introduction
Lexical Conventions and Syntax
Types and Objects
Operators and Expressions
Program Structure and Control Flow
Functions and Functional Programming
Classes and Object-Oriented Programming
Modules, Packages, and Distribution
Input and Output
Execution Environment
Testing, Debugging, Profiling, and Tuning
Part II: The Python Library
Built-In Functions
Python Runtime Services
Data Structures, Algorithms, and Code Simplification
String and Text Handling
Python Database Access
File and Directory Handling
Operating System Services
Threads and Concurrency
Network Programming and Sockets
Internet Application Programming
Web Programming 
Internet Data Handling and Encoding
Miscellaneous Library Modules
Part III: Extending and Embedding
Extending and Embedding Python 
Appendix: Python 3

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Book Details
 745 p
 File Size 
 3,580 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc 

About the Author
David M. Beazley is a long-time Python enthusiast, having been involved with the
Python community since 1996. He is probably best known for his work on SWIG, a
popular software package for integrating C/C++ programs with other programming
languages, including Python, Perl, Ruby,Tcl, and Java. He has also written a number of
other programming tools, including PLY, a Python implementation of lex and yacc.
Dave spent seven years working in the Theoretical Physics Division at Los Alamos
National Laboratory, where he helped pioneer the use of Python with massively parallel
supercomputers. After that, Dave went off to work as an evil professor, where he
enjoyed tormenting college students with a variety of insane programming projects.
However, he has since seen the error of his ways and is now working as an independent
software developer, consultant, Python trainer, and occasional jazz musician living in
Chicago. He can be contacted at

About the Technical Editor
Noah Gift is the co-author of Python For UNIX and Linux System Administration
(O’Reilly) and is also working on Google App Engine In Action (Manning). He is an
author, speaker, consultant, and community leader, writing for publications such as IBM
developerWorks, Red Hat Magazine, O’Reilly, and MacTech. His consulting company’s
website is, and much of his writing can be found at can also follow Noah on Twitter.
Noah has a master’s degree in CIS from Cal State, Los Angeles, a B.S. in nutritional
science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is an Apple and LPI-certified SysAdmin, and
has worked at companies such as Caltech, Disney Feature Animation, Sony Imageworks,
and Turner Studios. He is currently working at Weta Digital in New Zealand. In his free
time he enjoys spending time with his wife Leah and their son Liam, composing for the
piano, running marathons, and exercising religiously.

Table of Contents
Introduction 1
I: The Python Language
1 A Tutorial Introduction 5
Running Python 5
Variables and Arithmetic Expressions 7
Conditionals 9
File Input and Output 10
Strings 11
Lists 12
Tuples 14
Sets 15
Dictionaries 16
Iteration and Looping 17
Functions 18
Generators 19
Coroutines 20
Objects and Classes 21
Exceptions 22
Modules 23
Getting Help 24
2 Lexical Conventions and Syntax 25
Line Structure and Indentation 25
Identifiers and Reserved Words 26
Numeric Literals 26
String Literals 27
Containers 29
Operators, Delimiters, and Special Symbols 30
Documentation Strings 30
Decorators 30
Source Code Encoding 31
3 Types and Objects 33
Terminology 33
Object Identity and Type 33
Reference Counting and Garbage Collection 34
References and Copies 35
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
viii Contents
First-Class Objects 36
Built-in Types for Representing Data 37
The None Type 38
Numeric Types 38
Sequence Types 39
Mapping Types 44
Set Types 46
Built-in Types for Representing Program Structure 47
Callable Types 47
Classes, Types, and Instances 50
Modules 50
Built-in Types for Interpreter Internals 51
Code Objects 51
Frame Objects 52
Traceback Objects 52
Generator Objects 53
Slice Objects 53
Ellipsis Object 54
Object Behavior and Special Methods 54
Object Creation and Destruction 54
Object String Representation 55
Object Comparison and Ordering 56
Type Checking 57
Attribute Access 57
Attribute Wrapping and Descriptors 58
Sequence and Mapping Methods 58
Iteration 59
Mathematical Operations 60
Callable Interface 62
Context Management Protocol 62
Object Inspection and dir() 63
4 Operators and Expressions 65
Operations on Numbers 65
Operations on Sequences 67
String Formatting 70
Advanced String Formatting 72
Operations on Dictionaries 74
Operations on Sets 75
Augmented Assignment 75
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
Contents ix
The Attribute (.) Operator 76
The Function Call () Operator 76
Conversion Functions 76
Boolean Expressions and Truth Values 77
Object Equality and Identity 78
Order of Evaluation 78
Conditional Expressions 79
5 Program Structure and Control Flow 81
Program Structure and Execution 81
Conditional Execution 81
Loops and Iteration 82
Exceptions 84
Built-in Exceptions 86
Defining New Exceptions 88
Context Managers and the with Statement 89
Assertions and __debug__ 91
6 Functions and Functional Programming 93
Functions 93
Parameter Passing and Return Values 95
Scoping Rules 96
Functions as Objects and Closures 98
Decorators 101
Generators and yield 102
Coroutines and yield Expressions 104
Using Generators and Coroutines 106
List Comprehensions 108
Generator Expressions 109
Declarative Programming 110
The lambda Operator 112
Recursion 112
Documentation Strings 113
Function Attributes 114
eval(), exec(), and compile() 115
7 Classes and Object-Oriented Programming 117
The class Statement 117
Class Instances 118
Scoping Rules 118
Inheritance 119
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
Polymorphism Dynamic Binding and Duck Typing 122
Static Methods and Class Methods 123
Properties 124
Descriptors 126
Data Encapsulation and Private Attributes 127
Object Memory Management 128
Object Representation and Attribute Binding 131
__slots__ 132
Operator Overloading 133
Types and Class Membership Tests 134
Abstract Base Classes 136
Metaclasses 138
Class Decorators 141
8 Modules, Packages, and Distribution 143
Modules and the import Statement 143
Importing Selected Symbols from a Module 145
Execution as the Main Program 146
The Module Search Path 147
Module Loading and Compilation 147
Module Reloading and Unloading 149
Packages 149
Distributing Python Programs and Libraries 152
Installing Third-Party Libraries 154
9 Input and Output 157
Reading Command-Line Options 157
Environment Variables 158
Files and File Objects 158
Standard Input, Output, and Error 161
The print Statement 162
The print() Function 163
Variable Interpolation in Text Output 163
Generating Output 164
Unicode String Handling 165
Unicode I/O 167
Unicode Data Encodings 168
Unicode Character Properties 170
Object Persistence and the pickle Module 171
x Contents
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
10 Execution Environment 173
Interpreter Options and Environment 173
Interactive Sessions 175
Launching Python Applications 176
Site Configuration Files 177
Per-user Site Packages 177
Enabling Future Features 178
Program Termination 179
11 Testing, Debugging, Profiling, and Tuning 181
Documentation Strings and the doctest Module 181
Unit Testing and the unittest Module 183
The Python Debugger and the pdb Module 186
Debugger Commands 187
Debugging from the Command Line 189
Configuring the Debugger 190
Program Profiling 190
Tuning and Optimization 191
Making Timing Measurements 191
Making Memory Measurements 192
Disassembly 193
Tuning Strategies 194
II: The Python Library 199
12 Built-In Functions and Exceptions 201
Built-in Functions and Types 201
Built-In Exceptions 212
Exception Base Classes 212
Exception Instances 212
Predefined Exception Classes 213
Built-In Warnings 216
future_builtins 217
13 Python Runtime Services 219
atexit 219
copy 219
Notes 220
Contents xi
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
gc 220
Notes 222
inspect 222
marshal 226
Notes 226
pickle 226
Notes 229
sys 229
Variables 229
Functions 233
traceback 235
types 237
Notes 237
warnings 238
Notes 239
weakref 240
Example 242
Notes 242
14 Mathematics 243
decimal 243
Decimal Objects 244
Context Objects 244
Functions and Constants 247
Examples 248
Notes 249
fractions 250
math 251
Notes 252
numbers 252
Notes 253
random 254
Seeding and Initialization 254
Random Integers 254
Random Sequences 254
Real-Valued Random Distributions 255
Notes 256
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From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
15 Data Structures, Algorithms, and Code Simplification 257
abc 257
array 259
Notes 261
bisect 261
collections 262
deque and defaultdict 262
Named Tuples 263
Abstract Base Classes 265
contextlib 267
functools 268
heapq 269
itertools 270
Examples 273
operator 273
16 String and Text Handling 277
codecs 277
Low-Level codecs Interface 277
I/O-Related Functions 279
Useful Constants 279
Standard Encodings 280
Notes 280
re 281
Pattern Syntax 281
Functions 283
Regular Expression Objects 284
Match Objects 285
Example 286
Notes 287
string 287
Constants 287
Formatter Objects 288
Template Strings 289
Utility Functions 290
struct 290
Packing and Unpacking Functions 290
Struct Objects 291
Contents xiii
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
Format Codes 291
Notes 292
unicodedata 293
17 Python Database Access 297
Relational Database API Specification 297
Connections 297
Cursors 298
Forming Queries 300
Type Objects 301
Error Handling 302
Multithreading 302
Mapping Results into Dictionaries 303
Database API Extensions 303
sqlite3 Module 303
Module-Level Functions 304
Connection Objects 305
Cursors and Basic Operations 308
DBM-Style Database Modules 310
shelve Module 311
18 File and Directory Handling 313
bz2 313
filecmp 314
fnmatch 316
Examples 316
glob 317
Example 317
gzip 317
Notes 317
shutil 318
tarfile 319
Exceptions 322
Example 322
tempfile 323
zipfile 324
zlib 328
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From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
19 Operating System Services 331
commands 331
Notes 332
configParser, Configparser 332
The ConfigParser Class 332
Example 334
Notes 336
datetime 336
date Objects 336
time Objects 338
datetime objects 339
timedelta objects 340
Mathematical Operations Involving Dates 341
tzinfo Objects 342
Date and Time Parsing 343
errno 343
POSIX Error Codes 344
Windows Error Codes 346
fcntl 347
Example 348
Notes 349
io 349
Base I/O Interface 349
Raw I/O 350
Buffered Binary I/O 351
Text I/O 353
The open() Function 354
Abstract Base Classes 354
logging 355
Logging Levels 355
Basic Configuration 355
Logger Objects 356
Handler Objects 362
Message Formatting 364
Miscellaneous Utility Functions 366
Logging Configuration 366
Performance Considerations 369
Notes 369
Contents xv
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
mmap 369
Notes 372
msvcrt 372
optparse 374
Example 377
Notes 378
os 378
Process Environment 379
File Creation and File Descriptors 381
Files and Directories 386
Process Management 390
System Configuration 395
Exceptions 396
os.path 396
signal 399
Example 401
Notes 401
subprocess 402
Examples 404
Notes 404
time 405
Notes 407
winreg 408
Notes 411
20 Threads and Concurrency 413
Basic Concepts 413
Concurrent Programming and Python 414
multiprocessing 415
Processes 415
Interprocess Communication 417
Process Pools 424
Shared Data and Synchronization 426
Managed Objects 428
Connections 433
Miscellaneous Utility Functions 434
General Advice on Multiprocessing 435
threading 436
Thread Objects 436
Timer Objects 437
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From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
Lock Objects 438
RLock 438
Semaphore and Bounded Semaphore 439
Events 440
Condition Variables 441
Working with Locks 442
Thread Termination and Suspension 443
Utility Functions 443
The Global Interpreter Lock 444
Programming with Threads 444
queue, Queue 444
Queue Example with Threads 445
Coroutines and Microthreading 446
21 Network Programming and Sockets 449
Network Programming Basics 449
asynchat 452
asyncore 455
Example 457
select 459
Advanced Module Features 460
Advanced Asynchronous I/O Example 460
When to Consider Asynchronous Networking 467
socket 469
Address Families 470
Socket Types 470
Addressing 471
Functions 473
Exceptions 485
Example 485
Notes 486
ssl 486
Examples 489
SocketServer 489
Handlers 490
Servers 491
Defining Customized Servers 492
Customization of Application Servers 494
Contents xvii
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
22 Internet Application Programming 497
ftplib 497
Example 500
http Package 500
http.client (httplib) 502
http.server (BaseHTTPServer, CGIHTTPServer,
SimpleHTTPServer) 506
http.cookies (Cookie) 511
http.cookiejar (cookielib) 513
smtplib 513
Example 514
urllib Package 514
urllib.request (urllib2) 515
urllib.response 520
urllib.parse 520
urllib.error 523
urllib.robotparser (robotparser) 523
Notes 524
xmlrpc Package 524
xmlrpc.client (xmlrpclib) 524
xmlrpc.server (SimpleXMLRPCServer, DocXMLRPCServer)
23 Web Programming 531
cgi 533
CGI Programming Advice 537
Notes 538
cgitb 539
wsgiref 540
The WSGI Specification 540
wsgiref Package 542
webbrowser 544
24 Internet Data Handling and Encoding 545
base64 545
binascii 547
csv 548
Dialects 551
Example 551
xviii Contents
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
email Package 552
Parsing Email 552
Composing Email 555
Notes 558
hashlib 559
hmac 559
Example 560
HTMLParser 561
Example 562
json 563
mimetypes 566
quopri 567
xml Package 568
XML Example Document 569
xml.dom.minidom 570
xml.etree.ElementTree 573
xml.sax 580
xml.sax.saxutils 583
25 Miscellaneous Library Modules 585
Python Services 585
String Processing 586
Operating System Modules 586
Network 587
Internet Data Handling 587
Internationalization 587
Multimedia Services 588
Miscellaneous 588
III: Extending and Embedding 589
26 Extending and Embedding Python 591
Extension Modules 591
An Extension Module Prototype 593
Naming Extension Modules 595
Compiling and Packaging Extensions 596
Type Conversion from Python to C 597
Type Conversion from C to Python 602
Contents xix
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
Adding Values to a Module 604
Error Handling 605
Reference Counting 607
Threads 607
Embedding the Python Interpreter 608
An Embedding Template 608
Compilation and Linking 608
Basic Interpreter Operation and Setup 608
Accessing Python from C 610
Converting Python Objects to C 611
ctypes 612
Loading Shared Libraries 612
Foreign Functions 612
Datatypes 613
Calling Foreign Functions 615
Alternative Type Construction Methods 616
Utility Functions 617
Example 618
Advanced Extending and Embedding 619
Jython and IronPython 620
Appendix Python 3 621
Who Should Be Using Python 3? 621
New Language Features 622
Source Code Encoding and Identifiers 622
Set Literals 622
Set and Dictionary Comprehensions 623
Extended Iterable Unpacking 623
Nonlocal Variables 624
Function Annotations 624
Keyword-Only Arguments 625
Ellipsis as an Expression 626
Chained Exceptions 626
Improved super() 627
Advanced Metaclasses 627
Common Pitfalls 629
Text Versus Bytes 629
New I/O System 631
xx Contents
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
print() and exec() Functions 631
Use of Iterators and Views 632
Integers and Integer Division 633
Comparisons 633
Iterators and Generators 633
File Names, Arguments, and Environment Variables 633
Library Reorganization 634
Absolute Imports 634
Code Migration and 2to3 634
Porting Code to Python 2.6 634
Providing Test Coverage 635
Using the 2to3 Tool 635
A Practical Porting Strategy 637
Simultaneous Python 2 and Python 3 Support 638
Participate 638
Index 639
Contents xxi

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This book is intended to be a concise reference to the Python programming language.
Although an experienced programmer will probably be able to learn Python from this
book, it’s not intended to be an extended tutorial or a treatise on how to program.
Rather, the goal is to present the core Python language, and the most essential parts of
the Python library in a manner that’s accurate and concise.This book assumes that the
reader has prior programming experience with Python or another language such as C
or Java. In addition, a general familiarity with systems programming topics (for example,
basic operating system concepts and network programming) may be useful in understanding
certain parts of the library reference.
Python is freely available for download at are available
for almost every operating system, including UNIX,Windows, and Macintosh. In
addition, the Python website includes links to documentation, how-to guides, and a
wide assortment of third-party software.

This edition of Python Essential Reference comes at a pivotal time in Python’s evolution.
Python 2.6 and Python 3.0 are being released almost simultaneously.Yet, Python 3
is a release that breaks backwards compatibility with prior Python versions. As an author
and programmer, I’m faced with a dilemma: do I simply jump forward to Python 3.0 or
do I build upon the Python 2.x releases that are more familiar to most programmers?
Years ago, as a C programmer I used to treat certain books as the ultimate authority
on what programming language features should be used. For example, if you were using
something that wasn’t documented in the K&R book, it probably wasn’t going to be
portable and should be approached with caution.This approach served me very well as
a programmer and it’s the approach I have decided to take in this edition of the
Essential Reference. Namely, I have chosen to omit features of Python 2 that have been
removed from Python 3. Likewise, I don’t focus on features of Python 3 that have not
been back-ported (although such features are still covered in an appendix). As a result, I
hope this book can be a useful companion for Python programmers, regardless of what
Python version is being used.

The fourth edition of Python Essential Reference also includes some of the most exciting
changes since its initial publication nearly ten years ago. Much of Python’s development
throughout the last few years has focused on new programming language features—
especially related to functional and meta programming. As a result, the chapters
on functions and object-oriented programming have been greatly expanded to cover
topics such as generators, iterators, coroutines, decorators, and metaclasses.The library
chapters have been updated to focus on more modern modules. Examples and code
fragments have also been updated throughout the book. I think most programmers will
be quite pleased with the expanded coverage.

Finally, it should be noted that Python already includes thousands of pages of useful
documentation.The contents of this book are largely based on that documentation, but
with a number of key differences. First, this reference presents information in a much
more compact form, with different examples and alternative descriptions of many topics.
Second, a significant number of topics in the library reference have been expanded
From the Library of Lee Bogdanoff
to include outside reference material.This is especially true for low-level system and
networking modules in which effective use of a module normally relies on a myriad of
options listed in manuals and outside references. In addition, in order to produce a more
concise reference, a number of deprecated and relatively obscure library modules have
been omitted.
In writing this book, it has been my goal to produce a reference containing virtually
everything I have needed to use Python and its large collection of modules. Although
this is by no means a gentle introduction to the Python language, I hope that you find
the contents of this book to be a useful addition to your programming reference library
for many years to come. I welcome your comments.
David Beazley
Chicago, Illinois
June, 2009
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