Import without executing module

Discussion in 'Python' started by Ray, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. Ray

    Ray Guest

    Hi all,

    I'm quite new to python as I've only just started to learn about it a
    few days ago... I am trying to do something and after reading about
    it, I'm still not sure whether or not it can be done.

    Basically, someone has created a python script and I would like to
    make use of his functions. I would prefer to not modify his file so
    what I would like to do is just write my script and import parts that
    are needed. i.e., I would like to separate my changes from his as
    best as I can. However, that other module has both functions (def's,
    which I would like to use) and top-level commands which I don't need
    and in fact, prints errors when I import it since it was meant to be
    run as a top-level module and not imported in. i.e., its expecting
    arguments to be supplied.

    For example, suppose I have a module

    from test2 import foo

    #import test2

    print "test says hello"


    def foo():
    print "foo is being executed"

    print "test2 says hello"

    and I would like to run "python" without "test2 says hello"
    appearing. I figured "import test2" would not work, so I thought that
    maybe "from" would only take the functions listed, but no. In the
    end, it is just importing all of "test2" and then renaming it: foo = .

    This isn't a very serious problem as I obviously have the source and
    can just copy the functions and attribute the original author (that's
    ok). But, it would be nice if I can make use of those functions
    without touching that file [ in the above example].

    Is this possible?

    Thank you!

    Ray, Feb 2, 2009
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  2. Unfortunately, that's not possible, I believe. All the top level
    commands in a particular Python script are executed: that's how the
    functions get created.

    Stephen Hansen, Feb 2, 2009
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  3. Ray

    Kottiyath Guest

    Maybe he can wrap the things he dont need inside
    if __name__ == '__main__':
    Kottiyath, Feb 2, 2009
  4. Maybe he can wrap the things he dont need inside
    Yeah but he said he doesn't want to modify the file itself-- if he can
    modify the file this can all go away readily, yes.

    Stephen Hansen, Feb 2, 2009
  5. I'm not sure if I'm going to explain this right-- so bear with me.

    The code:

    def something(other):
    return other + 1

    Doesn't exist until that def statement is executed. "def", "class" and
    such are not magical and immediately register something somewhere. Its
    a statement that has to be executed to get a result, and that result
    is bound as an assignment to the name specified.

    Its not really all that different from:
    something = lambda other: other + 1

    It can't pick through the top level instructions to determine what to
    execute if imported vs run, as every statement has the possibility of
    producing some binding of name to value and until you go and execute
    it you won't know. You may do something like:

    import blah
    blah = None

    You have to execute all of that to get a value for 'blah'. In Python,
    there's nothing really special about a function vs any other value.
    They are all objects that are assigned to a name in a given namespace.
    You can do dynamic things at the top level to result in different
    things being bound to the modules namespace based upon the statements
    and expressions evaluated.

    Does that make sense? If not someone else'll have to explain :)

    Stephen Hansen, Feb 2, 2009
  6. Ray

    Ray Guest

    Hi Stephen and everyone,

    Thank you for your posts and your explanations; and yes, as you
    (Stephen) said here, I'd prefer not to modify it and use it as-is.
    Ideally, the original author could have separated the functions from
    the top-level code and I would just import the module with the
    functions. But that's whining since the hard work of writing the
    functions was already done and I'm very grateful for it; likewise, I'd
    like to use of the module unchanged.

    As there is no way around it, I'll look into ways of minimizing the
    number of changes and the "if" statement mentioned by Kottiyath would
    be my next step. Thank you all for the replies!

    Ray, Feb 2, 2009
  7. Ray

    python Guest

    If the output is coming from a print command, couldn't the OP
    temporarily redirect STDIO to a file to prevent the output from being


    ----- Original message -----
    From: "Stephen Hansen" <>
    To: "Ray" <>
    Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2009 23:19:09 -0800
    Subject: Re: Import without executing module

    Unfortunately, that's not possible, I believe. All the top level
    commands in a particular Python script are executed: that's how the
    functions get created.

    python, Feb 2, 2009
  8. Ray

    John Machin Guest

    He could, but that'd be a kludge on top of a stuff-up. He should put
    the script-only statements inside
    if __name__ == '__main__':
    and send the result back to the original author, who may in fact
    appreciate being enlightened :)

    John Machin, Feb 2, 2009
  9. Ray

    Steve Holden Guest

    Taskinoor Hasan wrote:
    That's right!

    Steve Holden, Feb 2, 2009
  10. Ray

    Ray Guest

    Hi all,

    Thanks John and Malcolm! In my case the first solution would not
    work. Sorry, that my simple "test" example was only a minimal one
    which did not reflect the true problem. The module that I do not want
    to edit not only runs on the command line and does some processing,
    but also expects arguments. So, when reading it through importing, it
    exits with an error (because no arguments were supplied).

    I'll enclose the top-level commands with the if statement above...its
    just a minor change, but it seems unavoidable.

    Thanks again!

    Ray, Feb 3, 2009
  11. Ray

    Lie Guest

    If you really don't want the file to be changed, you could (depends on
    the module) use the module as a subprocess. The ideal solution is for
    the module to have an if __name__ == '__main__': to determine whether
    it is being used as a module or a standalone program though.
    Lie, Feb 3, 2009
  12. Ray

    Ray Guest

    Hi Lie,

    Thank you for this! I've done the "if __name__ ..." as you and others
    suggested. It isn't what I would have liked, but I'm ok with
    it...especially after finding out that top-level code has to be run
    while importing. As I'm new to python, I didn't know about that, but
    I now see there's no way around it.

    So, is inserting the above if statement common practice for python
    programmers? As a C programmer, it seems that people put a "#ifndef
    XXX...#define XXX...[all of the code]...#endif" almost as a habit. I
    wonder if its the same thing?

    Thank you!

    Ray, Feb 4, 2009
  13. That statement is very common in Python. If a module is only ever
    going to be run as the main script its not needed but as you saw with
    this thread, sometimes you want to import what would be main into
    other places. More commonly I've found, is the use of that statement
    in other modules that are never -really- meant to be main but
    sometimes you want to run on their for testing or other purposes. For
    me, I use it all the time in my GUI modules that are never in the
    normal course of events run directly, but when developing them its
    useful to quickly start up a fake app / frame and load what I'm
    working on into a test display.

    That said, its use is fairly unique and idiomatic just as the 'main
    entry point' of a module. 75%(a number I'm pulling outta my arse!) of
    its uses are things like:
    if __name__ == "__main__":

    Or whatever other minimal scaffolding is required to jumpstart the
    script's driver functions. Its unlikely you'll see anything like it
    elsewhere -- and it serves a very different purpose from what you
    describe seeing in C. There is no need to try to make sure something
    is executed/compiled only once in Python like you may want to do in C.
    Every module is only ever compiled once: if you import it ten times in
    ten different places only the first will compile and execute the code,
    the rest of the calls will return that original module again.

    You're only likely to see "if" statements around definitions and
    larger blocks of top-level code if someone is doing something...
    complicated. Or if they're doing a big procedural script that's not
    really ever meant to be re-used (especially one that grows overtime
    and takes a life of its own). It happens but its really rare, from my
    experience at least.

    Stephen Hansen, Feb 4, 2009
  14. Ray

    Ray Guest

    Hi Stephen,


    Oh, I see...I never thought of module testing as one possible uses of
    it -- but yes, I see that now. Makes sense to test each module
    individually and (in C, at least) to write a separate main() driver in
    another file each time...


    Ah, ok! I'm still trying to get use to how Python does things from
    languages such as C...old habits [from other languages] are harder to
    break. :) If the above "if" statement is fairly common, then I think
    I'll start using it just to get into the habit of it.

    Thank you very much for your detailed explanation!

    Ray, Feb 4, 2009
  15. Ray

    Lie Ryan Guest

    If you import a module, it will be recompiled only if the module changes
    from the precompiled .pyc/.pyo. OTOH, if you run a module, it will be
    recompiled every time even if there is no change.
    Lie Ryan, Feb 10, 2009
  16. Ray

    rdmurray Guest

    As long as we are nitpicking, and trying to clarify things for a new
    Python user....let me give it a try. By doing this I get to find out
    if I really understand it as well as I think I do :)

    If a file is run as a script ('python', or shebang magic on
    unix or the equivalent on other OSes), then the code is compiled/executed
    each time that is done. If a module is imported (or something is imported
    from a module), then the _first time_ during a given run of the python
    interpreter that such an import is done, the timestamp of the .py file
    (if it exists) is compared to the timestamp of the .pyc/.pyo file, and
    if the .py is newer, the .py file is compiled to byte code, the resulting
    byte code is written to the .pyc (or .pyo), and the byte code is executed.
    If the .py file is older, then the saved byte code is loaded and executed.
    It is the execution of the byte code that creates the module's namespace
    (a collection of names pointing to objects). This namespace is registered
    in sys.modules under the module's name. During the remainder of that
    run of the python interpreter, any import statement that draws from
    that module simply loads a pointer to the module's namespace (or to
    objects referenced by the module's namespace if it is a 'import from')
    into the local namespace.

    rdmurray, Feb 10, 2009
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