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BareNecessitites v0.2.3 documentation

BareNecessities Manual

BareNeccessities contains functions and classes I use so frequently I wish they were in the standard library (in fact one of them is as of Python 2.6!).

These all work with Python 2.4 and above and may work with earlier versions too.

This is a dictionary which allows read access to the keys via attributes but raises an error if you try to set an attribute.
A function to calculate the relative path between two locations (only works on POSIX systems)
Returns an absolute normalised path with any \ characters replaced with / characters
Return the imported module based on the module path specified as a string
Provides a relative import which overcomes a glaring problem with the Python 2.5 relative import. This version works in scripts too. Really though if you ever need to use this you would be better off designing your API to call a function which took the module name as a parameter and then using absimport() instead.
Python 2.x cannot accept dictionaries where the keys are Unicode strings as arguments to functions using the ** operator, even if they are only made of characters a-zA-Z0-9_. str_dict() takes such a dictionary with Unicode keys and turns the keys into 8-bit strings.
Class which allows you to build up a Unicode string comprised of escaped and unescaped strings. It automatically and efficiently escapes the unescaped strings for you. Serves an alternative to webhelpers.html.literal

Lets look at each in turn.

The AttributeDict class

This is simply a dictionary which allows its keys to be accessed as attributes. This means that sttribute dictionaries behave a little like JavaScript objects and is very useful if you want to avoid the use of classes but still want to be able to group functions together.

Attribute dictionaries cannot have new keys added by attribute assignment to avoid a user accidentally setting a value which doesn’t exist.

Here are some examples:

>>> from bn import AttributeDict
>>> database = AttributeDict()
>>> database['connect'] = 'This is just a string, it could be a function'
>>> print database.connect
This is just a string, it could be a function
>>> print database['connect']
This is just a string, it could be a function
>>> database.commit = "You can't set new keys as attributes"
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: You cannot set attributes of this object directly

The relpath() function

This is an implementation of the Python 2.6 os.relpath() function but it only works on POSIX platforms and will work with Python 2.4 and 2.5 as well as Python 2.6.

os.path.relpath(path[, start])

Return a relative filepath to path either from the current directory or from an optional start point.

Here are some examples. First let’s find a directory we know exists:

>>> import os.path
>>> import bn
>>> bn_path = '/'.join(os.path.split(bn.__file__)[:-1])

Now let’s calculate a relative path:

>>> from bn import relpath
>>> relpath(bn_path, start=os.path.join(bn_path, '../', 'other_dir'))

You can also specify a start path:

>>> doc_dir = os.path.join(bn_path, '../', 'doc')
>>> relpath(doc_dir, bn_path)

The uniform_path() function

When working with paths you often want to know the absolute path with any ../ components normalised out and any \ characters converted to / characters and any cases normailised so that when you compare two different paths as strings you know you are comparing like with like. The uniform_path() does this.

>>> from bn import uniform_path
>>> import os.path
>>> uniform_path(bn_path) ==  os.path.abspath(os.path.normcase(os.path.normpath(bn_path)).replace('\\', '/'))

The absimport() function

bn.absimport(mod_path, from_=None)
Perform an absolute import of mod_path and return the last module

This function allows you to import a module based on its module path just like you would in a normal import statement. It is useful because it allows you to import another module at runtime from within a function or method rather than when the module is first loaded.

It is similar to the builtin Python __import__() function apart from two differences. The absimport() function:

  • returns the module you’ve imported at the end of the path, not the start so absimport('path.to.my.module') returns the module module, not the path module
  • it takes a from_ argument which allows you to specify a string containing the names of objects you want imported from a module

Here are some examples:

>>> from bn import absimport
>>> absimport('email.utils')
<module 'email.utils' from ...>
>>> random, quote = absimport('email.utils', from_='random, quote')
>>> random, quote
(<module 'random' from '...'>, <function quote at 0x...>)
>>> random = absimport('email.utils', from_='random')
>>> random
<module 'random' from '...'>

The relimport() function

Sometimes even the absimport() function isn’t flexible enough. For example, what if you want to import a module which you know is in a directory two levels up but you don’t know the package name but you have to have the module imported at load time. In this case you need to use a relative import.

Relative imports were introduced into Python 2.5 after the discussion in PEP 328. They are documented in the Intra-package References part of the Python documentation but they have a severe limitation: if you try to do a relative import in a package being run as a script the Python uses the package name __main__ and will not know which package the Python files really belong to so it won’t be able to calculate relative imports and instead gives up with this error:

ValueError: Attempted relative import in non-package

To get around this we have the relimport() function which performs a working relative import in Python 2.4 and above and works in scripts too. The downside is that the syntax isn’t as nice. Here’s how it looks:

bn.relimport(module_path, current_module_filename, path_to_package, from_=None)

It can be used like this:

from bn import relimport

absimport = relimport(

We can’t test this from documentation but the bn.relimport_test module contains a relative import to the bn module so by importing that we can check it works:

>>> import bn.relimport_test

There are a number of other functions which provide functionality related to the relimport() which you can also use if you like.

bn.adjust_path_for_imp(new_abs_mod_path, package_directory)
Adjust the path so that imp doesn’t need to deal with sub-modules
bn.module_path_of_current_module(current_module_filename, package_directory, up)
Calculate the absoulte module path of the current module and adjust the value of the up variable if the module filename ends with __init__.py as the module path should be one lower than other files in the same directory.
bn.dir_containing_package_root(path_to_package, current_module_filename)
Returns the directory path containing the package’s top __init__.py file based on the value provided for the path to the package and the path and filename of the module the import is occurring from.

Calculates how many directories up the relative import starts and returns:

  • the number of directories up as an integer
  • the module path from the directory where the import starts
bn.handle_from_clause(module, from_)
Takes care of parsing the from_ string and finding the objects in module. If one object is imported it is returned, otherwise a tuple of the requested objects is returned.

The str_dict() function

Used like this to convert dictionaries with Unicode keys to ones without so that they can be used with the ** operator to call functions.

>>> from bn import str_dict
>>> def test(a, b):
...     print a, b
>>> test(**{u'a': u'1', u'b': u'2'})
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File ...
TypeError: test() keywords must be strings
>>> test(**str_dict({u'a': u'1', u'b': u'2'}))
1 2

The HTMLFragment class

When working on the web you frequently need to generate fragments of HTML code. The predominant approach today is to use a templating language but there are a few drawbacks to doing so:

  • You have to learn the templating language
  • You have to include the templating language as a dependency
  • The templating language could be significantly slower than Python itself

An alternative approach is to write HTML directly in Python. This has the advantage of making the code instantly accessible to other Python developers and avoids the need for extra dependencies. For smaller applications or libraries this turns out to be a very sensible approach.

Most templating languages designed for web use will automatically escape variables to avoid cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. HTMLFragment fulfils this role:

>>> from bn import HTMLFragment

It is used like this:

>>> name = u'James'
>>> f=HTMLFragment()
>>> f.write(u'Hello, my name is ')
>>> f.write(name)
>>> print f.getvalue()
Hello, my name is James

This behaves much as you might expect a StringIO.StringIO object to behave. Look what happens when name contains HTML characters though:

>>> name = u'<b>James</b>'
>>> f=HTMLFragment()
>>> f.write(u'Hello, my name is ')
>>> f.write(name)
>>> print f.getvalue()
Hello, my name is &lt;b&gt;James&lt;/b&gt;

The HTML characters are correctly escaped.

If you know that the variables you want to write are already safe you can use the safe() method like this:

>>> name = u'<b>James</b>'
>>> f=HTMLFragment()
>>> f.safe(u'<p>')
>>> f.write(u'Hello, my name is ')
>>> f.write(name)
>>> f.safe(u'.</p>')
>>> print f.getvalue()
<p>Hello, my name is &lt;b&gt;James&lt;/b&gt;.</p>

Strings passed using safe() are not escaped.

Although generating strings like this looks cumbersome, it is actually safe and very fast. In the test directory is a file called html_escape_benchmark.py which compares this approach to others.


Interestingly, since Python 2.5, the conventional wisdom that concatenating strings with += is slow turns out to be wrong so internally HTMLFragment uses += rather than using a list and then joining it with ''.join().

James Gardner: Home > Work > Code > BareNecessities > 0.2.3 > BareNecessities Manual