TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac in the Shell: Python: Getting OOPy with it

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 04
Column Tag: Mac in the Shell

Mac in the Shell: Python: Getting OOPy with it

Or, delving into the real Object-Oriented Programming Features of Python

by Edward Marczak

Introduction

The last several articles have been focusing on Python basics: data types, flow control, modules and more. Plus, the first "Learn Python on the Mac" article pointed out some Mac-specific tweaks needed to enable the built-in help docs. Here, we go a little deeper and talk about creating classes, Python's real Object Oriented Programming (OOP) powerhouse. This article will start to introduce OOP in general, and next month's column will get into Python specifics. Without further delay, let's begin.

Why OOP?

Why OOP, indeed? I went back and forth for some time deciding if this was the right time to introduce the topic. There are plenty of other subjects relating to Python that I still haven't addressed. One can write perfectly competent, purely procedural Python programs without ever touching OOP directly. However, understanding OOP and having the class mechanism at your disposal is incredibly powerful. Also, if you ever want to get into GUI applications using Python as the language underneath, the ability to write classes is essential. Finally, those 'other topics' that I mentioned will come along in later articles, so, it will be good to get OOP into your brain sooner rather than later.

Essentially, classes are just another namespace packaging mechanism in Python. Typically, they provide a generic model of a real-world object. Classes promote reusability, and can cut development time. If you're coming to Python from C++ or Java, you're in for a surprise: classes in Python do away with some of the pomp and circumstance found in those languages. Like most things in Python, they're straightforward and easy to understand.

Objects

I've talked a lot about objects in Python in previous article, but we haven't really defined what that means. In one sense, you're using objects in Python if you know it or not. Python generically treats everything as an internal object. For example, when you make the assignment 'x = 'hello', x "is a" string object. On a more pedantic level, though, objects mean several things.

Model Factory

When you define a class, the class itself doesn't really do much. It acts as a model for instantiated objects. It's a factory that can churn out objects based on the namespace it contains.

Inheritance

Classes can inherit methods and objects from other classes.

Extending and Overloading

Related to inheritance, objects can then extended an inherited class by adding new attributes and methods, or, override an attribute or method of the class it inherits from. Extending adds new behavior to the class. Overriding-also called overloading-changes the behavior of the method or class.

It all comes down to the dot operator, which we've been using all along to access module attributes and to call object methods (like a string method to strip whitespace). We've also talked a bit about namespaces. The subtlety behind the dot notation is that it forces python to perform an upward search, through the inheritance tree of namespaces. How does this work?

Last month, we talked about modules, and we can use that initially to illustrate. Take the following example:

#!/usr/bin/env python
x = 5
y = 7
def ModuleA():
  x = 12
  print 'In ModuleA'
  print x
  print y
print 'Main'
print x
ModuleA()

As you may expect, running this short program gives the following output:

Main
5
In ModuleA
12
7

Obvious? Perhaps. The main routine is asked to print x, finds x in its own namespace and does so. Then, we call ModuleA(), which first sets x, and is then asked to print x. Well, at this point, there are two x variables. So, the print statement in ModuleA() starts a search-from the bottom up-to locate x. It first looks in its own namespace, and finds x. Its own version of x, that is, and prints it. ModuleA() is then asked to print y. It again starts a search. Since it doesn't find y in its own namespace, it looks in the namespace directly above it. It finds y there and stops the search.

Note that in the above paragraph, it all comes back to namespaces. In fact, this search-though-the-namespace is initiated any time we use the dot operator in the object.attribute form.

It's all about the dot

As mentioned above, a class is just another Python mechanism of packaging up a namespace. Here's a simple Python class:

class ClassA():
  a = 5
  b = 7

Now, a slightly dirty secret is that a class really is just a namespace package, and we don't even have to instantiate it:

print ClassA.a

will do what you expect and print "5". You can even make further assignments:

ClassA.c = 9
print ClassA.c

Treating a class as a generic, function-like namespace sells the class mechanism a little short, though. Classes have the power to inherit attributes from other classes. Let's define another class:

class ClassB(ClassA):
  b = 44
  c = 88

In this case, ClassB inherits from ClassA. Essentially, all of the attributes from ClassA are copied into ClassB on creation. Let's instantiate three objects to illustrate:

inst_a = ClassA()
inst_b = ClassB()
inst_c = ClassA()

Note that both inst_a and inst_c are instances of ClassA. Each object has a variable a in its namespace:

print inst_a.a
print inst_b.a
print inst_c.a
5
5
5

When inst_b is instantiated, ClassB inherits from ClassA. This is why ClassB has an 'a' variable in its namespace. Figure 1 shows this graphically.


Figure 1: Class inheritance

When ClassB() is asked about variable 'a', it first searches its namespace. Not finding it, the search continues in the class it inherited from-also called its superclass-and the variable is found. We can alter these variables in our instance simply:

inst_b.a = 99
print inst_b.a

This will print 99, as you'd expect. However, it is only changed in the instance, not up the chain:

print ClassB.a
...prints '5'.

Conclusion

Creating an elegant object-oriented program takes some planning. That may be one of the key differences between a straight procedural based program, and an OOP-based one. OOP lets you be a bit more strategic. It also lets you build a larger app based on smaller, reusable objects. Next month, we'll dig into details and implementation a bit more.

Media of the month: "No Line On The Horizon" by U2. Now, this may be an obvious choice, a safe choice, or a polarizing choice. U2 has become pretty palatable to a broad audience these days. If you're one of those people that never gave them a shot, this is actually a decent album to start with.


Ed Marczak is the Executive Editor of MacTech Magazine. He lives in New York with his wife, two daughters and various pets. He has been involved with technology since Atari sucked him in, and has followed Apple since the Apple I days. He spends his days on the Mac team at Google, and free time with his family and/or playing music. Ed is the author of the Apple Training Series book, "Advanced System Administration v10.5," and has written for MacTech since 2004.

 
AAPL
$105.22
Apple Inc.
+0.39
MSFT
$46.13
Microsoft Corpora
+1.11
GOOG
$539.78
Google Inc.
-4.20

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

f.lux 34.0 - Adjusts the color of your d...
f.lux makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake... Read more
Ember 1.8.2 - Versatile digital scrapboo...
Ember (formerly LittleSnapper) is your digital scrapbook of things that inspire you: websites, photos, apps or other things. Just drag in images that you want to keep, organize them into relevant... Read more
Tonality Pro 1.1.2 - Professional-grade...
Tonality Pro gives you the power to create stunning and dramatic black & white images. This is a complete monochrome image editor with more than 150 one-click style presets, totally unique... Read more
VueScan 9.4.49 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
OS X Server 4.0 - For OS X 10.10 Yosemit...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
TotalFinder 1.6.12 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Tab-based... Read more
BusyCal 2.6.3 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. BusyCal's unique... Read more
calibre 2.7 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Skitch 2.7.3 - Take screenshots, annotat...
With Skitch, taking, annotating, and sharing screenshots or images is as fun as it is simple.Communicate and collaborate with images using Skitch and its intuitive, engaging drawing and annotating... Read more
Delicious Library 3.3.2 - Import, browse...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for D...
Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for Developers Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Rami Ismail, Chief Executive of Business and Development at indie game studio | Read more »
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets Ne...
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets New Update – Say That Three Times Fast Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Rival Stars Basketball Review
Rival Stars Basketball Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RESTRICTIVE BUT FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rival Stars Basketball is a fun mixture of basketball and card collecting but its... | Read more »
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen o...
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen of Their Games Free For This Weekend Only Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
I Am Dolphin Review
I Am Dolphin Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEARLY FIN-TASTICUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Swim around and eat nearly everything that moves in I Am Dolphin, a fun Ecco-ish kind of game... | Read more »
nPlayer looks to be the ultimate choice...
Developed by Newin Inc, nPlayer may seem like your standard video player – but is aiming to be the best in its field by providing high quality video play performance and support for a huge number of video formats and codecs. User reviews include... | Read more »
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CLASSY STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch is a sterling... | Read more »
A Few Days Left (Games)
A Few Days Left 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Screenshots are in compliance to App Store's 4+ age rating! Please see App Preview for real game play! **Important: Make... | Read more »
Toca Boo (Education)
Toca Boo 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: BOO! Did I scare you!? My name is Bonnie and my family loves to spook! Do you want to scare them back? Follow me and I'll... | Read more »
Intuon (Games)
Intuon 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Join the battle with your intuition in a new hardcore game Intuon! How well do you trust your intuition? Can you find a needle in a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Weekend sale: 13-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $...
Best Buy has the 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99, or $150 off MSRP, on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid... Read more
Nimbus Note Cross=Platform Notes Utility
Nimbus Note will make sure you never forget or lose your valuable data again. Create and edit notes, save web pages, screenshots and any other type of data – and share it all with your friends and... Read more
NewerTech’s Snuglet Makes MagSafe 2 Power Con...
NewerTech has introduced the Snuglet, a precision-manufactured ring designed to sit inside your MagSafe 2 connector port, providing a more snug fit to prevent your power cable from unintentional... Read more
Apple Planning To Sacrifice Gross Margins To...
Digitimes Research’s Jim Hsiao says its analysts believe Apple is planning to sacrifice its gross margins to save its tablet business, which has recently fallen into decline. They project that Apple’... Read more
Who’s On Now? – First Instant-Connect Search...
It’s nighttime and your car has broken down on the side of the highway. You need a tow truck right away, so you open an app on your iPhone, search for the closest tow truck and send an instant... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $949,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $949.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $150 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Save up to $125 on Retina MacBook Pros
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Textilus New Word, Notes and PDF Processor fo...
Textilus is new word-crunching, notes, and PDF processor designed exclusively for the iPad. I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out yet, but it looks great and early reviews are positive.... Read more
WD My Passport Pro Bus-Powered Thunderbolt RA...
WD’s My Passport Pro RAID solution is powered by an integrated Thunderbolt cable for true portability and speeds as high as 233 MB/s. HighlightsOverviewSpecifications Transfer, Back Up And Edit In... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.