Writing Better Python#

Whenever you build something big, it usually gets messy. Python has some tools to help


pep stands for python enhancement proposal.

Anyone can submit a pep and they contain a single idea to implement in python

Important peps#

pep8 - how python code should look (don’t live by the rule, it is for preferences)

Avoid single letter variable names as this causes problems with the python debugger

You can use flake8 <script> to check pep8 rules

pep20 - the zen of python

>>> import this

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

Coding should be pleasant


A docstring is a string at the beginning of a class, method or function that documents what that bit of code does

You should never have to read the source code to find out what a library does, that is the job of documentation

Enclosed in 3 quote marks (triplequotes)..doc.py

def does_something(my_var):
    """Takes one argument and does something based on the type
    If arg is a string, returns arg * 3
    If arg is a int or float, returns arg + 10

then check help


returns the info

Better to use them as docstring and not comments, use # for comments


    import logging

    logging.info("You won't see this")
    logging.warn("Oh no")

But this prints the warn out to standard output

Some old packages use camelCase.


Now logs into filename (relative)

Level specifies what logging to pay attention to

Logging Levels#

CRITICAL ERROR WARNING - Keep track of questionable things INFO - Monitoring DEBUG - Info about running of app NOTSET

Also remember to log errors in the Except block


Track the state of variables at any given time

You can actually go inside the script and see the state of variables

You can use the Python Debugger

    import pdb

To set a breakpoint / trace, use:


    $ python ar.py
    > /Users/surfer190/projects/object-oriented-python/test/ar.py(7)<module>()
    -> del my_list[3]

The 7 and next line tells us the line and code that will be run

It works just like python shell and you can inspect variables


  • Use next or n to run the next line
  • q - quit
  • c - continue running as normal

Important to remove pdb when you are done

Most of the time you wil use:

    import pdb;pdb.set_trace()

The only time you can use a ; in python

Other python debugger commands