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17 New, Improved, and Deprecated Modules

As usual, Python's standard library received a number of enhancements and bug fixes. Here's a partial list of the most notable changes, sorted alphabetically by module name. Consult the Misc/NEWS file in the source tree for a more complete list of changes, or look through the CVS logs for all the details.

  • The array module now supports arrays of Unicode characters using the "u" format character. Arrays also now support using the += assignment operator to add another array's contents, and the *= assignment operator to repeat an array. (Contributed by Jason Orendorff.)


  • The bsddb module has been replaced by version 4.1.6 of the PyBSDDB package, providing a more complete interface to the transactional features of the BerkeleyDB library.

    The old version of the module has been renamed to bsddb185 and is no longer built automatically; you'll have to edit Modules/Setup to enable it. Note that the new bsddb package is intended to be compatible with the old module, so be sure to file bugs if you discover any incompatibilities. When upgrading to Python 2.3, if the new interpreter is compiled with a new version of the underlying BerkeleyDB library, you will almost certainly have to convert your database files to the new version. You can do this fairly easily with the new scripts and which you will find in the distribution's Tools/scripts directory. If you've already been using the PyBSDDB package and importing it as bsddb3, you will have to change your import statements to import it as bsddb.


  • The new bz2 module is an interface to the bz2 data compression library. bz2-compressed data is usually smaller than corresponding zlib-compressed data. (Contributed by Gustavo Niemeyer.)


  • A set of standard date/type types has been added in the new datetime module. See the following section for more details.


  • The Distutils Extension class now supports an extra constructor argument named depends for listing additional source files that an extension depends on. This lets Distutils recompile the module if any of the dependency files are modified. For example, if sampmodule.c includes the header file sample.h, you would create the Extension object like this:
    ext = Extension("samp",

    Modifying sample.h would then cause the module to be recompiled. (Contributed by Jeremy Hylton.)


  • Other minor changes to Distutils: it now checks for the CC, CFLAGS, CPP, LDFLAGS, and CPPFLAGS environment variables, using them to override the settings in Python's configuration (contributed by Robert Weber).


  • Previously the doctest module would only search the docstrings of public methods and functions for test cases, but it now also examines private ones as well. The DocTestSuite( function creates a unittest.TestSuite object from a set of doctest tests.


  • The new gc.get_referents(object) function returns a list of all the objects referenced by object.


  • The getopt module gained a new function, gnu_getopt(), that supports the same arguments as the existing getopt() function but uses GNU-style scanning mode. The existing getopt() stops processing options as soon as a non-option argument is encountered, but in GNU-style mode processing continues, meaning that options and arguments can be mixed. For example:
    >>> getopt.getopt(['-f', 'filename', 'output', '-v'], 'f:v')
    ([('-f', 'filename')], ['output', '-v'])
    >>> getopt.gnu_getopt(['-f', 'filename', 'output', '-v'], 'f:v')
    ([('-f', 'filename'), ('-v', '')], ['output'])

    (Contributed by Peter Åstrand.)


  • The grp, pwd, and resource modules now return enhanced tuples:
    >>> import grp
    >>> g = grp.getgrnam('amk')
    >>> g.gr_name, g.gr_gid
    ('amk', 500)
  • The gzip module can now handle files exceeding 2 Gb.


  • The new heapq module contains an implementation of a heap queue algorithm. A heap is an array-like data structure that keeps items in a partially sorted order such that, for every index k, heap[k] <= heap[2*k+1] and heap[k] <= heap[2*k+2]. This makes it quick to remove the smallest item, and inserting a new item while maintaining the heap property is O(lg n). (See for more information about the priority queue data structure.)

    The heapq module provides heappush() and heappop() functions for adding and removing items while maintaining the heap property on top of some other mutable Python sequence type. Here's an example that uses a Python list:

    >>> import heapq
    >>> heap = []
    >>> for item in [3, 7, 5, 11, 1]:
    ...    heapq.heappush(heap, item)
    >>> heap
    [1, 3, 5, 11, 7]
    >>> heapq.heappop(heap)
    >>> heapq.heappop(heap)
    >>> heap
    [5, 7, 11]

    (Contributed by Kevin O'Connor.)


  • The IDLE integrated development environment has been updated using the code from the IDLEfork project ( The most notable feature is that the code being developed is now executed in a subprocess, meaning that there's no longer any need for manual reload() operations. IDLE's core code has been incorporated into the standard library as the idlelib package.


  • The imaplib module now supports IMAP over SSL. (Contributed by Piers Lauder and Tino Lange.)


  • The itertools contains a number of useful functions for use with iterators, inspired by various functions provided by the ML and Haskell languages. For example, itertools.ifilter(predicate, iterator) returns all elements in the iterator for which the function predicate() returns True, and itertools.repeat(obj, N) returns obj N times. There are a number of other functions in the module; see the package's reference documentation for details. (Contributed by Raymond Hettinger.)


  • Two new functions in the math module, degrees(rads) and radians(degs), convert between radians and degrees. Other functions in the math module such as math.sin() and math.cos() have always required input values measured in radians. Also, an optional base argument was added to math.log() to make it easier to compute logarithms for bases other than e and 10. (Contributed by Raymond Hettinger.)


  • Several new POSIX functions (getpgid(), killpg(), lchown(), loadavg(), major(), makedev(), minor(), and mknod()) were added to the posix module that underlies the os module. (Contributed by Gustavo Niemeyer, Geert Jansen, and Denis S. Otkidach.)


  • In the os module, the *stat() family of functions can now report fractions of a second in a timestamp. Such time stamps are represented as floats, similar to the value returned by time.time().

    During testing, it was found that some applications will break if time stamps are floats. For compatibility, when using the tuple interface of the stat_result time stamps will be represented as integers. When using named fields (a feature first introduced in Python 2.2), time stamps are still represented as integers, unless os.stat_float_times() is invoked to enable float return values:

    >>> os.stat("/tmp").st_mtime
    >>> os.stat_float_times(True)
    >>> os.stat("/tmp").st_mtime

    In Python 2.4, the default will change to always returning floats.

    Application developers should enable this feature only if all their libraries work properly when confronted with floating point time stamps, or if they use the tuple API. If used, the feature should be activated on an application level instead of trying to enable it on a per-use basis.


  • The optparse module contains a new parser for command-line arguments that can convert option values to a particular Python type and will automatically generate a usage message. See the following section for more details.


  • The old and never-documented linuxaudiodev module has been deprecated, and a new version named ossaudiodev has been added. The module was renamed because the OSS sound drivers can be used on platforms other than Linux, and the interface has also been tidied and brought up to date in various ways. (Contributed by Greg Ward and Nicholas FitzRoy-Dale.)


  • The new platform module contains a number of functions that try to determine various properties of the platform you're running on. There are functions for getting the architecture, CPU type, the Windows OS version, and even the Linux distribution version. (Contributed by Marc-André Lemburg.)


  • The parser objects provided by the pyexpat module can now optionally buffer character data, resulting in fewer calls to your character data handler and therefore faster performance. Setting the parser object's buffer_text attribute to True will enable buffering.


  • The sample(population, k) function was added to the random module. population is a sequence or xrange object containing the elements of a population, and sample() chooses k elements from the population without replacing chosen elements. k can be any value up to len(population). For example:
    >>> days = ['Mo', 'Tu', 'We', 'Th', 'Fr', 'St', 'Sn']
    >>> random.sample(days, 3)      # Choose 3 elements
    ['St', 'Sn', 'Th']
    >>> random.sample(days, 7)      # Choose 7 elements
    ['Tu', 'Th', 'Mo', 'We', 'St', 'Fr', 'Sn']
    >>> random.sample(days, 7)      # Choose 7 again
    ['We', 'Mo', 'Sn', 'Fr', 'Tu', 'St', 'Th']
    >>> random.sample(days, 8)      # Can't choose eight
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "<stdin>", line 1, in ?
      File "", line 414, in sample
          raise ValueError, "sample larger than population"
    ValueError: sample larger than population
    >>> random.sample(xrange(1,10000,2), 10)   # Choose ten odd nos. under 10000
    [3407, 3805, 1505, 7023, 2401, 2267, 9733, 3151, 8083, 9195]

    The random module now uses a new algorithm, the Mersenne Twister, implemented in C. It's faster and more extensively studied than the previous algorithm.

    (All changes contributed by Raymond Hettinger.)


  • The readline module also gained a number of new functions: get_history_item(), get_current_history_length(), and redisplay().


  • The rexec and Bastion modules have been declared dead, and attempts to import them will fail with a RuntimeError. New-style classes provide new ways to break out of the restricted execution environment provided by rexec, and no one has interest in fixing them or time to do so. If you have applications using rexec, rewrite them to use something else.

    (Sticking with Python 2.2 or 2.1 will not make your applications any safer because there are known bugs in the rexec module in those versions. To repeat: if you're using rexec, stop using it immediately.)


  • The rotor module has been deprecated because the algorithm it uses for encryption is not believed to be secure. If you need encryption, use one of the several AES Python modules that are available separately.


  • The shutil module gained a move(src, dest) function that recursively moves a file or directory to a new location.


  • Support for more advanced POSIX signal handling was added to the signal but then removed again as it proved impossible to make it work reliably across platforms.


  • The socket module now supports timeouts. You can call the settimeout(t) method on a socket object to set a timeout of t seconds. Subsequent socket operations that take longer than t seconds to complete will abort and raise a socket.timeout exception.

    The original timeout implementation was by Tim O'Malley. Michael Gilfix integrated it into the Python socket module and shepherded it through a lengthy review. After the code was checked in, Guido van Rossum rewrote parts of it. (This is a good example of a collaborative development process in action.)


  • On Windows, the socket module now ships with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support.


  • The value of the C PYTHON_API_VERSION macro is now exposed at the Python level as sys.api_version. The current exception can be cleared by calling the new sys.exc_clear() function.


  • The new tarfile module allows reading from and writing to tar-format archive files. (Contributed by Lars Gustäbel.)


  • The new textwrap module contains functions for wrapping strings containing paragraphs of text. The wrap(text, width) function takes a string and returns a list containing the text split into lines of no more than the chosen width. The fill(text, width) function returns a single string, reformatted to fit into lines no longer than the chosen width. (As you can guess, fill() is built on top of wrap(). For example:
    >>> import textwrap
    >>> paragraph = "Not a whit, we defy augury: ... more text ..."
    >>> textwrap.wrap(paragraph, 60)
    ["Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special providence in",
     "the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it",
    >>> print textwrap.fill(paragraph, 35)
    Not a whit, we defy augury: there's
    a special providence in the fall of
    a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not
    to come; if it be not to come, it
    will be now; if it be not now, yet
    it will come: the readiness is all.

    The module also contains a TextWrapper class that actually implements the text wrapping strategy. Both the TextWrapper class and the wrap() and fill() functions support a number of additional keyword arguments for fine-tuning the formatting; consult the module's documentation for details. (Contributed by Greg Ward.)


  • The thread and threading modules now have companion modules, dummy_thread and dummy_threading, that provide a do-nothing implementation of the thread module's interface for platforms where threads are not supported. The intention is to simplify thread-aware modules (ones that don't rely on threads to run) by putting the following code at the top:
        import threading as _threading
    except ImportError:
        import dummy_threading as _threading

    In this example, _threading is used as the module name to make it clear that the module being used is not necessarily the actual threading module. Code can call functions and use classes in _threading whether or not threads are supported, avoiding an if statement and making the code slightly clearer. This module will not magically make multithreaded code run without threads; code that waits for another thread to return or to do something will simply hang forever.


  • The time module's strptime() function has long been an annoyance because it uses the platform C library's strptime() implementation, and different platforms sometimes have odd bugs. Brett Cannon contributed a portable implementation that's written in pure Python and should behave identically on all platforms.


  • The new timeit module helps measure how long snippets of Python code take to execute. The file can be run directly from the command line, or the module's Timer class can be imported and used directly. Here's a short example that figures out whether it's faster to convert an 8-bit string to Unicode by appending an empty Unicode string to it or by using the unicode() function:
    import timeit
    timer1 = timeit.Timer('unicode("abc")')
    timer2 = timeit.Timer('"abc" + u""')
    # Run three trials
    print timer1.repeat(repeat=3, number=100000)
    print timer2.repeat(repeat=3, number=100000)
    # On my laptop this outputs:
    # [0.36831796169281006, 0.37441694736480713, 0.35304892063140869]
    # [0.17574405670166016, 0.18193507194519043, 0.17565798759460449]
  • The Tix module has received various bug fixes and updates for the current version of the Tix package.


  • The Tkinter module now works with a thread-enabled version of Tcl. Tcl's threading model requires that widgets only be accessed from the thread in which they're created; accesses from another thread can cause Tcl to panic. For certain Tcl interfaces, Tkinter will now automatically avoid this when a widget is accessed from a different thread by marshalling a command, passing it to the correct thread, and waiting for the results. Other interfaces can't be handled automatically but Tkinter will now raise an exception on such an access so that you can at least find out about the problem. See for a more detailed explanation of this change. (Implemented by Martin von Löwis.)


  • Calling Tcl methods through _tkinter no longer returns only strings. Instead, if Tcl returns other objects those objects are converted to their Python equivalent, if one exists, or wrapped with a _tkinter.Tcl_Obj object if no Python equivalent exists. This behavior can be controlled through the wantobjects() method of tkapp objects.

    When using _tkinter through the Tkinter module (as most Tkinter applications will), this feature is always activated. It should not cause compatibility problems, since Tkinter would always convert string results to Python types where possible.

    If any incompatibilities are found, the old behavior can be restored by setting the wantobjects variable in the Tkinter module to false before creating the first tkapp object.

    import Tkinter
    Tkinter.wantobjects = 0

    Any breakage caused by this change should be reported as a bug.


  • The UserDict module has a new DictMixin class which defines all dictionary methods for classes that already have a minimum mapping interface. This greatly simplifies writing classes that need to be substitutable for dictionaries, such as the classes in the shelve module.

    Adding the mix-in as a superclass provides the full dictionary interface whenever the class defines __getitem__, __setitem__, __delitem__, and keys. For example:

    >>> import UserDict
    >>> class SeqDict(UserDict.DictMixin):
    ...     """Dictionary lookalike implemented with lists."""
    ...     def __init__(self):
    ...         self.keylist = []
    ...         self.valuelist = []
    ...     def __getitem__(self, key):
    ...         try:
    ...             i = self.keylist.index(key)
    ...         except ValueError:
    ...             raise KeyError
    ...         return self.valuelist[i]
    ...     def __setitem__(self, key, value):
    ...         try:
    ...             i = self.keylist.index(key)
    ...             self.valuelist[i] = value
    ...         except ValueError:
    ...             self.keylist.append(key)
    ...             self.valuelist.append(value)
    ...     def __delitem__(self, key):
    ...         try:
    ...             i = self.keylist.index(key)
    ...         except ValueError:
    ...             raise KeyError
    ...         self.keylist.pop(i)
    ...         self.valuelist.pop(i)
    ...     def keys(self):
    ...         return list(self.keylist)
    >>> s = SeqDict()
    >>> dir(s)      # See that other dictionary methods are implemented
    ['__cmp__', '__contains__', '__delitem__', '__doc__', '__getitem__',
     '__init__', '__iter__', '__len__', '__module__', '__repr__',
     '__setitem__', 'clear', 'get', 'has_key', 'items', 'iteritems',
     'iterkeys', 'itervalues', 'keylist', 'keys', 'pop', 'popitem',
     'setdefault', 'update', 'valuelist', 'values']

    (Contributed by Raymond Hettinger.)


  • The DOM implementation in xml.dom.minidom can now generate XML output in a particular encoding by providing an optional encoding argument to the toxml() and toprettyxml() methods of DOM nodes.


  • The xmlrpclib module now supports an XML-RPC extension for handling nil data values such as Python's None. Nil values are always supported on unmarshalling an XML-RPC response. To generate requests containing None, you must supply a true value for the allow_none parameter when creating a Marshaller instance.


  • The new DocXMLRPCServer module allows writing self-documenting XML-RPC servers. Run it in demo mode (as a program) to see it in action. Pointing the Web browser to the RPC server produces pydoc-style documentation; pointing xmlrpclib to the server allows invoking the actual methods. (Contributed by Brian Quinlan.)


  • Support for internationalized domain names (RFCs 3454, 3490, 3491, and 3492) has been added. The ``idna'' encoding can be used to convert between a Unicode domain name and the ASCII-compatible encoding (ACE) of that name.
     >>> u"www.Alliancefran¸".encode("idna")

    The socket module has also been extended to transparently convert Unicode hostnames to the ACE version before passing them to the C library. Modules that deal with hostnames such as httplib and ftplib) also support Unicode host names; httplib also sends HTTP "Host" headers using the ACE version of the domain name. urllib supports Unicode URLs with non-ASCII host names as long as the path part of the URL is ASCII only.

    To implement this change, the stringprep module, the mkstringprep tool and the punycode encoding have been added.


17.1 Date/Time Type

Date and time types suitable for expressing timestamps were added as the datetime module. The types don't support different calendars or many fancy features, and just stick to the basics of representing time.

The three primary types are: date, representing a day, month, and year; time, consisting of hour, minute, and second; and datetime, which contains all the attributes of both date and time. There's also a timedelta class representing differences between two points in time, and time zone logic is implemented by classes inheriting from the abstract tzinfo class.

You can create instances of date and time by either supplying keyword arguments to the appropriate constructor, e.g., month=10, day=15), or by using one of a number of class methods. For example, the class method returns the current local date.

Once created, instances of the date/time classes are all immutable. There are a number of methods for producing formatted strings from objects:

>>> import datetime
>>> now =
>>> now.isoformat()
>>> now.ctime()  # Only available on date, datetime
'Mon Dec 30 21:27:03 2002'
>>> now.strftime('%Y %d %b')
'2002 30 Dec'

The replace() method allows modifying one or more fields of a date or datetime instance, returning a new instance:

>>> d =
>>> d
datetime.datetime(2002, 12, 30, 22, 15, 38, 827738)
>>> d.replace(year=2001, hour = 12)
datetime.datetime(2001, 12, 30, 12, 15, 38, 827738)

Instances can be compared, hashed, and converted to strings (the result is the same as that of isoformat()). date and datetime instances can be subtracted from each other, and added to timedelta instances. The largest missing feature is that there's no standard library support for parsing strings and getting back a date or datetime.

For more information, refer to the module's reference documentation. (Contributed by Tim Peters.)


17.2 The optparse Module

The getopt module provides simple parsing of command-line arguments. The new optparse module (originally named Optik) provides more elaborate command-line parsing that follows the Unix conventions, automatically creates the output for --help, and can perform different actions for different options.

You start by creating an instance of OptionParser and telling it what your program's options are.

import sys
from optparse import OptionParser

op = OptionParser()
op.add_option('-i', '--input',
              action='store', type='string', dest='input',
              help='set input filename')
op.add_option('-l', '--length',
              action='store', type='int', dest='length',
              help='set maximum length of output')

Parsing a command line is then done by calling the parse_args() method.

options, args = op.parse_args(sys.argv[1:])
print options
print args

This returns an object containing all of the option values, and a list of strings containing the remaining arguments.

Invoking the script with the various arguments now works as you'd expect it to. Note that the length argument is automatically converted to an integer.

$ ./python -i data arg1
<Values at 0x400cad4c: {'input': 'data', 'length': None}>
$ ./python --input=data --length=4
<Values at 0x400cad2c: {'input': 'data', 'length': 4}>

The help message is automatically generated for you:

$ ./python --help
usage: [options]

  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -iINPUT, --input=INPUT
                        set input filename
  -lLENGTH, --length=LENGTH
                        set maximum length of output

See the module's documentation for more details.

Optik was written by Greg Ward, with suggestions from the readers of the Getopt SIG.




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