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Are static class variables possible in Python?


Question

Is it possible to have static class variables or methods in Python? What syntax is required to do this?

2019/06/22
1
1984
6/22/2019 12:09:48 PM

Accepted Answer

Variables declared inside the class definition, but not inside a method are class or static variables:

>>> class MyClass:
...     i = 3
...
>>> MyClass.i
3 

As @millerdev points out, this creates a class-level i variable, but this is distinct from any instance-level i variable, so you could have

>>> m = MyClass()
>>> m.i = 4
>>> MyClass.i, m.i
>>> (3, 4)

This is different from C++ and Java, but not so different from C#, where a static member can't be accessed using a reference to an instance.

See what the Python tutorial has to say on the subject of classes and class objects.

@Steve Johnson has already answered regarding static methods, also documented under "Built-in Functions" in the Python Library Reference.

class C:
    @staticmethod
    def f(arg1, arg2, ...): ...

@beidy recommends classmethods over staticmethod, as the method then receives the class type as the first argument, but I'm still a little fuzzy on the advantages of this approach over staticmethod. If you are too, then it probably doesn't matter.

2019/07/16
1938
7/16/2019 6:06:59 AM

@Blair Conrad said static variables declared inside the class definition, but not inside a method are class or "static" variables:

>>> class Test(object):
...     i = 3
...
>>> Test.i
3

There are a few gotcha's here. Carrying on from the example above:

>>> t = Test()
>>> t.i     # "static" variable accessed via instance
3
>>> t.i = 5 # but if we assign to the instance ...
>>> Test.i  # we have not changed the "static" variable
3
>>> t.i     # we have overwritten Test.i on t by creating a new attribute t.i
5
>>> Test.i = 6 # to change the "static" variable we do it by assigning to the class
>>> t.i
5
>>> Test.i
6
>>> u = Test()
>>> u.i
6           # changes to t do not affect new instances of Test

# Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!
>>> Test.__dict__
{'i': 6, ...}
>>> t.__dict__
{'i': 5}
>>> u.__dict__
{}

Notice how the instance variable t.i got out of sync with the "static" class variable when the attribute i was set directly on t. This is because i was re-bound within the t namespace, which is distinct from the Test namespace. If you want to change the value of a "static" variable, you must change it within the scope (or object) where it was originally defined. I put "static" in quotes because Python does not really have static variables in the sense that C++ and Java do.

Although it doesn't say anything specific about static variables or methods, the Python tutorial has some relevant information on classes and class objects.

@Steve Johnson also answered regarding static methods, also documented under "Built-in Functions" in the Python Library Reference.

class Test(object):
    @staticmethod
    def f(arg1, arg2, ...):
        ...

@beid also mentioned classmethod, which is similar to staticmethod. A classmethod's first argument is the class object. Example:

class Test(object):
    i = 3 # class (or static) variable
    @classmethod
    def g(cls, arg):
        # here we can use 'cls' instead of the class name (Test)
        if arg > cls.i:
            cls.i = arg # would be the same as Test.i = arg1

Pictorial Representation Of Above Example

2019/11/11

Static and Class Methods

As the other answers have noted, static and class methods are easily accomplished using the built-in decorators:

class Test(object):

    # regular instance method:
    def MyMethod(self):
        pass

    # class method:
    @classmethod
    def MyClassMethod(klass):
        pass

    # static method:
    @staticmethod
    def MyStaticMethod():
        pass

As usual, the first argument to MyMethod() is bound to the class instance object. In contrast, the first argument to MyClassMethod() is bound to the class object itself (e.g., in this case, Test). For MyStaticMethod(), none of the arguments are bound, and having arguments at all is optional.

"Static Variables"

However, implementing "static variables" (well, mutable static variables, anyway, if that's not a contradiction in terms...) is not as straight forward. As millerdev pointed out in his answer, the problem is that Python's class attributes are not truly "static variables". Consider:

class Test(object):
    i = 3  # This is a class attribute

x = Test()
x.i = 12   # Attempt to change the value of the class attribute using x instance
assert x.i == Test.i  # ERROR
assert Test.i == 3    # Test.i was not affected
assert x.i == 12      # x.i is a different object than Test.i

This is because the line x.i = 12 has added a new instance attribute i to x instead of changing the value of the Test class i attribute.

Partial expected static variable behavior, i.e., syncing of the attribute between multiple instances (but not with the class itself; see "gotcha" below), can be achieved by turning the class attribute into a property:

class Test(object):

    _i = 3

    @property
    def i(self):
        return type(self)._i

    @i.setter
    def i(self,val):
        type(self)._i = val

## ALTERNATIVE IMPLEMENTATION - FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT TO ABOVE ##
## (except with separate methods for getting and setting i) ##

class Test(object):

    _i = 3

    def get_i(self):
        return type(self)._i

    def set_i(self,val):
        type(self)._i = val

    i = property(get_i, set_i)

Now you can do:

x1 = Test()
x2 = Test()
x1.i = 50
assert x2.i == x1.i  # no error
assert x2.i == 50    # the property is synced

The static variable will now remain in sync between all class instances.

(NOTE: That is, unless a class instance decides to define its own version of _i! But if someone decides to do THAT, they deserve what they get, don't they???)

Note that technically speaking, i is still not a 'static variable' at all; it is a property, which is a special type of descriptor. However, the property behavior is now equivalent to a (mutable) static variable synced across all class instances.

Immutable "Static Variables"

For immutable static variable behavior, simply omit the property setter:

class Test(object):

    _i = 3

    @property
    def i(self):
        return type(self)._i

## ALTERNATIVE IMPLEMENTATION - FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT TO ABOVE ##
## (except with separate methods for getting i) ##

class Test(object):

    _i = 3

    def get_i(self):
        return type(self)._i

    i = property(get_i)

Now attempting to set the instance i attribute will return an AttributeError:

x = Test()
assert x.i == 3  # success
x.i = 12         # ERROR

One Gotcha to be Aware of

Note that the above methods only work with instances of your class - they will not work when using the class itself. So for example:

x = Test()
assert x.i == Test.i  # ERROR

# x.i and Test.i are two different objects:
type(Test.i)  # class 'property'
type(x.i)     # class 'int'

The line assert Test.i == x.i produces an error, because the i attribute of Test and x are two different objects.

Many people will find this surprising. However, it should not be. If we go back and inspect our Test class definition (the second version), we take note of this line:

    i = property(get_i) 

Clearly, the member i of Test must be a property object, which is the type of object returned from the property function.

If you find the above confusing, you are most likely still thinking about it from the perspective of other languages (e.g. Java or c++). You should go study the property object, about the order in which Python attributes are returned, the descriptor protocol, and the method resolution order (MRO).

I present a solution to the above 'gotcha' below; however I would suggest - strenuously - that you do not try to do something like the following until - at minimum - you thoroughly understand why assert Test.i = x.i causes an error.

REAL, ACTUAL Static Variables - Test.i == x.i

I present the (Python 3) solution below for informational purposes only. I am not endorsing it as a "good solution". I have my doubts as to whether emulating the static variable behavior of other languages in Python is ever actually necessary. However, regardless as to whether it is actually useful, the below should help further understanding of how Python works.

UPDATE: this attempt is really pretty awful; if you insist on doing something like this (hint: please don't; Python is a very elegant language and shoe-horning it into behaving like another language is just not necessary), use the code in Ethan Furman's answer instead.

Emulating static variable behavior of other languages using a metaclass

A metaclass is the class of a class. The default metaclass for all classes in Python (i.e., the "new style" classes post Python 2.3 I believe) is type. For example:

type(int)  # class 'type'
type(str)  # class 'type'
class Test(): pass
type(Test) # class 'type'

However, you can define your own metaclass like this:

class MyMeta(type): pass

And apply it to your own class like this (Python 3 only):

class MyClass(metaclass = MyMeta):
    pass

type(MyClass)  # class MyMeta

Below is a metaclass I have created which attempts to emulate "static variable" behavior of other languages. It basically works by replacing the default getter, setter, and deleter with versions which check to see if the attribute being requested is a "static variable".

A catalog of the "static variables" is stored in the StaticVarMeta.statics attribute. All attribute requests are initially attempted to be resolved using a substitute resolution order. I have dubbed this the "static resolution order", or "SRO". This is done by looking for the requested attribute in the set of "static variables" for a given class (or its parent classes). If the attribute does not appear in the "SRO", the class will fall back on the default attribute get/set/delete behavior (i.e., "MRO").

from functools import wraps

class StaticVarsMeta(type):
    '''A metaclass for creating classes that emulate the "static variable" behavior
    of other languages. I do not advise actually using this for anything!!!

    Behavior is intended to be similar to classes that use __slots__. However, "normal"
    attributes and __statics___ can coexist (unlike with __slots__). 

    Example usage: 

        class MyBaseClass(metaclass = StaticVarsMeta):
            __statics__ = {'a','b','c'}
            i = 0  # regular attribute
            a = 1  # static var defined (optional)

        class MyParentClass(MyBaseClass):
            __statics__ = {'d','e','f'}
            j = 2              # regular attribute
            d, e, f = 3, 4, 5  # Static vars
            a, b, c = 6, 7, 8  # Static vars (inherited from MyBaseClass, defined/re-defined here)

        class MyChildClass(MyParentClass):
            __statics__ = {'a','b','c'}
            j = 2  # regular attribute (redefines j from MyParentClass)
            d, e, f = 9, 10, 11   # Static vars (inherited from MyParentClass, redefined here)
            a, b, c = 12, 13, 14  # Static vars (overriding previous definition in MyParentClass here)'''
    statics = {}
    def __new__(mcls, name, bases, namespace):
        # Get the class object
        cls = super().__new__(mcls, name, bases, namespace)
        # Establish the "statics resolution order"
        cls.__sro__ = tuple(c for c in cls.__mro__ if isinstance(c,mcls))

        # Replace class getter, setter, and deleter for instance attributes
        cls.__getattribute__ = StaticVarsMeta.__inst_getattribute__(cls, cls.__getattribute__)
        cls.__setattr__ = StaticVarsMeta.__inst_setattr__(cls, cls.__setattr__)
        cls.__delattr__ = StaticVarsMeta.__inst_delattr__(cls, cls.__delattr__)
        # Store the list of static variables for the class object
        # This list is permanent and cannot be changed, similar to __slots__
        try:
            mcls.statics[cls] = getattr(cls,'__statics__')
        except AttributeError:
            mcls.statics[cls] = namespace['__statics__'] = set() # No static vars provided
        # Check and make sure the statics var names are strings
        if any(not isinstance(static,str) for static in mcls.statics[cls]):
            typ = dict(zip((not isinstance(static,str) for static in mcls.statics[cls]), map(type,mcls.statics[cls])))[True].__name__
            raise TypeError('__statics__ items must be strings, not {0}'.format(typ))
        # Move any previously existing, not overridden statics to the static var parent class(es)
        if len(cls.__sro__) > 1:
            for attr,value in namespace.items():
                if attr not in StaticVarsMeta.statics[cls] and attr != ['__statics__']:
                    for c in cls.__sro__[1:]:
                        if attr in StaticVarsMeta.statics[c]:
                            setattr(c,attr,value)
                            delattr(cls,attr)
        return cls
    def __inst_getattribute__(self, orig_getattribute):
        '''Replaces the class __getattribute__'''
        @wraps(orig_getattribute)
        def wrapper(self, attr):
            if StaticVarsMeta.is_static(type(self),attr):
                return StaticVarsMeta.__getstatic__(type(self),attr)
            else:
                return orig_getattribute(self, attr)
        return wrapper
    def __inst_setattr__(self, orig_setattribute):
        '''Replaces the class __setattr__'''
        @wraps(orig_setattribute)
        def wrapper(self, attr, value):
            if StaticVarsMeta.is_static(type(self),attr):
                StaticVarsMeta.__setstatic__(type(self),attr, value)
            else:
                orig_setattribute(self, attr, value)
        return wrapper
    def __inst_delattr__(self, orig_delattribute):
        '''Replaces the class __delattr__'''
        @wraps(orig_delattribute)
        def wrapper(self, attr):
            if StaticVarsMeta.is_static(type(self),attr):
                StaticVarsMeta.__delstatic__(type(self),attr)
            else:
                orig_delattribute(self, attr)
        return wrapper
    def __getstatic__(cls,attr):
        '''Static variable getter'''
        for c in cls.__sro__:
            if attr in StaticVarsMeta.statics[c]:
                try:
                    return getattr(c,attr)
                except AttributeError:
                    pass
        raise AttributeError(cls.__name__ + " object has no attribute '{0}'".format(attr))
    def __setstatic__(cls,attr,value):
        '''Static variable setter'''
        for c in cls.__sro__:
            if attr in StaticVarsMeta.statics[c]:
                setattr(c,attr,value)
                break
    def __delstatic__(cls,attr):
        '''Static variable deleter'''
        for c in cls.__sro__:
            if attr in StaticVarsMeta.statics[c]:
                try:
                    delattr(c,attr)
                    break
                except AttributeError:
                    pass
        raise AttributeError(cls.__name__ + " object has no attribute '{0}'".format(attr))
    def __delattr__(cls,attr):
        '''Prevent __sro__ attribute from deletion'''
        if attr == '__sro__':
            raise AttributeError('readonly attribute')
        super().__delattr__(attr)
    def is_static(cls,attr):
        '''Returns True if an attribute is a static variable of any class in the __sro__'''
        if any(attr in StaticVarsMeta.statics[c] for c in cls.__sro__):
            return True
        return False

You can also add class variables to classes on the fly

>>> class X:
...     pass
... 
>>> X.bar = 0
>>> x = X()
>>> x.bar
0
>>> x.foo
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<interactive input>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: X instance has no attribute 'foo'
>>> X.foo = 1
>>> x.foo
1

And class instances can change class variables

class X:
  l = []
  def __init__(self):
    self.l.append(1)

print X().l
print X().l

>python test.py
[1]
[1, 1]
2014/08/24

Personally I would use a classmethod whenever I needed a static method. Mainly because I get the class as an argument.

class myObj(object):
   def myMethod(cls)
     ...
   myMethod = classmethod(myMethod) 

or use a decorator

class myObj(object):
   @classmethod
   def myMethod(cls)

For static properties.. Its time you look up some python definition.. variable can always change. There are two types of them mutable and immutable.. Also, there are class attributes and instance attributes.. Nothing really like static attributes in the sense of java & c++

Why use static method in pythonic sense, if it has no relation whatever to the class! If I were you, I'd either use classmethod or define the method independent from the class.

2008/09/16

Static methods in python are called classmethods. Take a look at the following code

class MyClass:

    def myInstanceMethod(self):
        print 'output from an instance method'

    @classmethod
    def myStaticMethod(cls):
        print 'output from a static method'

>>> MyClass.myInstanceMethod()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: unbound method myInstanceMethod() must be called [...]

>>> MyClass.myStaticMethod()
output from a static method

Notice that when we call the method myInstanceMethod, we get an error. This is because it requires that method be called on an instance of this class. The method myStaticMethod is set as a classmethod using the decorator @classmethod.

Just for kicks and giggles, we could call myInstanceMethod on the class by passing in an instance of the class, like so:

>>> MyClass.myInstanceMethod(MyClass())
output from an instance method
2017/07/12

Source: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/68645
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