IronPython – multiple inheritance and monkey patching

by DotNetNerd 16. July 2009 18:16

Multiple inheritance 

Besides the basic OOP stuff that I covered in my last post there are some things that you can do in IronPython which is not possible in languages like C# and java.

One nice thing that I have heard people moan about not having in other languages is multiple inheritance. Working with it is very straight forward in Python as the following sample illustrates:

class MyFirstClass:   
    def MethodOne(self, arg):
        print "1 " + arg

class MySecondClass:   
    def MethodOne(self, arg):
        print "1 Overwritten " + arg         
    def MethodTwo(self, arg):
        print "2 " + arg

class MyThirdClass(MySecondClass, MyFirstClass):
    def MethodThree(self, arg):
        print "3 " + arg

class MyFourthClass(MyFirstClass, MySecondClass):
    def MethodFour(self, arg):
        print "4 " + arg

Multiple inheritance is obtained simply by listing the classes that are to be inherited, where the order dictates the precedence of the members. This means that if the classes inherited have methods with the same signature, the first class takes precedence.

The following code can be used to test the above classes, and it also illustrates that a variable name can be reused for different types, which is a very basic feature of dynamic languages. Basic as it may be it is also one of the things that can make code really messy!

t = MyThirdClass()

t = MyFourthClass()

Monkey patching

I wrote in my last post that it is possible to modify objects and add methods to the instance itself. Besides that it is also possible to add methods to the class in the same way. Adding or overriding methods in this way is sometimes referred to as monkey patching. As with multiple inheritance it can get really messy, but used wisely it can also make code really simple and elegang. An obvious place to use this is for mocking when writing unittests. A simple way to illustrate the technique is to first create a class and two methods:

class MyFirstClass:   
    def MethodOne(self, arg):
        print "1 " + arg
def MethodTwo():
    return "Monkey patched to instance 2"
def MethodThree(self):
    return "Monkey patched to class 3"

Now the methods can be monkey patched onto the instance and class as the following code illustrates.

t = MyFirstClass()
t.MethodTwo = MethodTwo
MyFirstClass.MethodThree = MethodThree

print t.MethodTwo()
print t.MethodThree()

As the observant reader will notice it is required that MethodThree which is added to the class takes the self argument, where MethodTwo which is added to the instance does not.


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IronPython – OOP basics

by DotNetNerd 1. July 2009 14:12

A while ago I heard a podcast where it was discussed that some believe that languages like C#/java etc are actually not object oriented but that they are really oriented. This provoked my thinking quite a bit, since OOP was the corner stone during my education, and we wrote all code in Java.

As the discussion went on I ended up seeing their point – even though I (of course) would never admit that C# is not object oriented :) The key point is that everything in C# is based around classes because the language is statically typed around classes. In a language like IronPython it is actually possible to manipulate each object, add methods, fields etc.

Manipulating objects in this way is also known as monkey patching, and it is something I will look into in a later blogpost. Today I will start off with a basic example of how to write a class in IronPython.

The following piece of code shows a basic class with a private field, constructor, property and a public method:

from System import Console

class Customer(object):   
    "This class contains info about a customer"
    #Private field
    _saysText = " says: "     
    def __init__(self, name = "Christian"):
        self._name = name  
    def _getName(self):
        print "From within property getter"
        return self._name
    def _setName(self, value):
        print "From within property setter " + value
        self._name = value
    def _delName(self):
        print "From within property delete"
    Name = property(_getName, _setName, _delName) 
    def __getitem__(self, index):
        return self.Name[index]
    #Private method   
    def _Write(self, text):
        print self.Name + self._saysText + text
    #Public method
    def Say(self, text):

There are a few things that are worth noticing here. First of all you see that import statements explicitly state which classes are imported. A * can be used to import all classes, but this is seen as bad practice in IronPython.

Private is not a keyword in IronPython, but when a member is prefixed with an underscore (_) it is private by convention. The constructor and indexer is also named in a special way, which is what is know as magic methods. Magic methods are used instead of implementing interfaces like IComparable and for constructors, indexers and the like. Magic methods are easy to spot as they are pre- and postfixes with a double underscore. The constructor is defined with a default value for the name parameter, in the same way as you can use default in params in VB and in C# from vNext.

All methods start by taking a parameter called self. As you can probably guess, this is so it can access members located on itself – so it is used like “this” in C#, but here it is required to use it when accessing members from the object itself.

The biggest thing to notice is the way the property is constructed. Properties are quite special in IronPython compared to C#. Because the language is dynamic properties do not have to be declared up front, and this means that properties are only created when you want to do something when the property is actually called. Because this is the case there is also a delete part, which is called when the property is removed from the object.

Note that the class inherits object – this is required to use properties! This is no big issue though, because IronPython supports multiple inheritance.

When we have this in place we can use the class like you see here:

print Customer.__doc__

obj = Customer(name = "Jens")
obj.Say("I'm the king of the world!")
obj.Name = "Hans"
obj.Say("I'm the king of the world!")
print obj[0] + obj[1] + obj[2]
del obj.Name

Functions and statements do not have to be contained within a class, so this can be written directly beneath the code above where we declared the class.

The first two likes show how you can access information about the class. The first line writes out the string that I put directly under the constructor – which is how documentation can be added and introspected directly in IronPython. The second like prints an overview of which members exist on the class, which is something you will use a lot to examine new classes as you work with them.

The rest should be pretty straight forward. A few things to note are that named parameters are used in the constructor, and that you could actually set and print any property on the object – name is only used here to illustrate that the code in the get/set/delete functions is run when the property is used.


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Who am I?

My name is Christian Holm Diget, and I work as an independent consultant, in Denmark, where I write code, give advice on architecture and help with training. On the side I get to do a bit of speaking and help with miscellaneous community events.

Some of my primary focus areas are code quality, programming languages and using new technologies to provide value.

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