Shahriar Tajbakhsh

Computer Sciencer in the making; professional Baseball player; hobbyist photo taker; best-selling author; occasional liar…

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Underscores in Python

This post discusses the use of the _ character in Python. Like with many things in Python, we’ll see that different usages of _ are mostly (not always!) a matter of convention.

 Single Lone Underscore (_)

This is typically used in 3 cases:

  1. In the interpreter: The _ name points to the result of the last executed statement in an interactive interpreter session. This was first done by the standard CPython interpreter, and others have followed too.

    >>> _
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
    NameError: name '_' is not defined
    >>> 42
    >>> _
    >>> 'alright!' if _ else ':('
    >>> _
  2. As a name: This is somewhat related to the previous point. _ is used as a throw-away name. This will allow the next person reading your code to know that, by convention, a certain name is assigned but not intended to be used. For instance, you may not be

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Python’s `NotImplemented` Type

This post discusses Python’s NotImplemented built-in constant/type; what it is, what it means and when it should be used.

 What is it?

>>> type(NotImplemented)
<type 'NotImplementedType'&gt

NotImplemented is one of Python’s six constants living in the built-in namespace. The others are False, True, None, [Ellipsis][ellipsis-doc] and __debug__. Similar to [Ellipsis][ellipsis-doc], NotImplemented can be reassigned (shadowed). Assignments to it, even as an attribute name, do not raise a SyntaxError. So it isn’t really a “real/true” constant. Of course, we should never ever change it. But, for completeness:

>>> None = 'hello'
SyntaxError: can't assign to keyword
>>> NotImplemented
>>> NotImplemented = 'do not'
>>> NotImplemented
'do not'

 What does it mean and when should it be used?

NotImplemented is a special value which should be returned by the binary special

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Importing `*` in Python

This post discusses Python’s from <module> import * and from <package> import *, how they behave and why it may be (is!) a bad idea to use them.

 Importing * from a module

from <module> import * means “I want access to all the names in <module> that I’m meant to have access to”. So, let’s say we have the following


public_variable = 42
_private_variable = 141

def public_function():
    print("I'm a public function! yay!")

def _private_function():
    print("Ain't nobody accessing me from another module...usually")

class PublicClass(object):

class _WeirdClass(object):

In the Python Interpreter, we can execute from something import * and see the following:

>>> from something import *
>>> public_variable
>>> _private_variable
NameError: name '_private_variable' is not defined
>>> public_function()
"I'm a public function! yay!"

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The Possibly Forgotten Optional `else` in Python’s `try` Statement

This post discusses the else clause in Python’s try statement. Although this particular use of else may not be as forgotten and controversial as its use in Python loops, a gentle reminder of how it works and when it’s useful may still be beneficial. Please note that this post only focuses on the else clause of the try statement and does not intend to cover the entire try statement. For a pretty good initial explanation of how the entire try statement works, refer to the official Python documentation on this topic.

A “normal” stripped down try statement seen regularly looks something like this:

    # some code that might raise exception
    # code to handle exception
    # code to run regardless of exception 

This is “normal” in the sense that to anyone coming from most other programming languages can understand/guess what it means:

  • Some code will be tried to

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The Forgotten Optional `else` in Python Loops

This post discusses Python’s for...else and while...else syntax, one of the most rarely used and misunderstood syntactic features in Python.

Both for and while loops in Python also take an optional else suite (like the if statement and the try statement do), which executes if the loop iteration completes normally. In other words, the else suite will be executed if we don’t exit the loop in any way other than its natural way. So, no break statements, no return statement, or no exceptions being raised inside the loop. Consider a simple (and useless) example:

>>> for i in range(5):
...     print(i)
... else:
...     print('Iterated over everything :)')
Iterated over everything :)

In the code above, we iterate over range(5) and print each number. Since we let the loop complete normally, the else suite is also executed and Iterated over everything :) is printed. Conversely

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Test Driven Development?


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