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Python Language Reference Manual
by Guido van Rossum and Fred L. Drake, Jr.
Paperback (6"x9"), 120 pages
ISBN 0954161785
RRP £12.95 ($19.95)

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3.4.1 Basic customization

__new__(cls[, ...])
Called to create a new instance of class cls. __new__() is a static method (special-cased so you need not declare it as such) that takes the class of which an instance was requested as its first argument. The remaining arguments are those passed to the object constructor expression (the call to the class). The return value of __new__() should be the new object instance (usually an instance of cls). Typical implementations create a new instance of the class by invoking the superclass's __new__() method using ‘super(currentclass, cls).__new__(cls[, ...])’ with appropriate arguments and then modifying the newly-created instance as necessary before returning it. If __new__() returns an instance of cls, then the new instance's __init__() method will be invoked like ‘__init__(self[, ...])’, where self is the new instance and the remaining arguments are the same as were passed to __new__(). If __new__() does not return an instance of cls, then the new instance's __init__() method will not be invoked. __new__() is intended mainly to allow subclasses of immutable types (like int, str, or tuple) to customize instance creation.
__init__(self[, ...])
Called when the instance is created. The arguments are those passed to the class constructor expression. If a base class has an __init__() method, the derived class's __init__() method, if any, must explicitly call it to ensure proper initialization of the base class part of the instance; for example: ‘BaseClass.__init__(self, [args...])’. As a special constraint on constructors, no value may be returned; doing so will cause a TypeError to be raised at runtime.
__del__(self)
Called when the instance is about to be destroyed. This is also called a destructor. If a base class has a __del__() method, the derived class's __del__() method, if any, must explicitly call it to ensure proper deletion of the base class part of the instance. Note that it is possible (though not recommended!) for the __del__() method to postpone destruction of the instance by creating a new reference to it. It may then be called at a later time when this new reference is deleted. It is not guaranteed that __del__() methods are called for objects that still exist when the interpreter exits. Notice: ‘del x’ doesn't directly call x.__del__()---the former decrements the reference count for x by one, and the latter is only called when x's reference count reaches zero. Some common situations that may prevent the reference count of an object from going to zero include: circular references between objects (e.g., a doubly-linked list or a tree data structure with parent and child pointers); a reference to the object on the stack frame of a function that caught an exception (the traceback stored in sys.exc_traceback keeps the stack frame alive); or a reference to the object on the stack frame that raised an unhandled exception in interactive mode (the traceback stored in sys.last_traceback keeps the stack frame alive). The first situation can only be remedied by explicitly breaking the cycles; the latter two situations can be resolved by storing None in sys.exc_traceback or sys.last_traceback. Circular references which are garbage are detected when the optional cycle detector is enabled (it's on by default), but can only be cleaned up if there are no Python-level __del__() methods involved. Refer to the documentation for the ‘gc’ module for more information about how __del__() methods are handled by the cycle detector, particularly the description of the garbage value. Notice: [warning] Due to the precarious circumstances under which __del__() methods are invoked, exceptions that occur during their execution are ignored, and a warning is printed to sys.stderr instead. Also, when __del__() is invoked in response to a module being deleted (e.g., when execution of the program is done), other globals referenced by the __del__() method may already have been deleted. For this reason, __del__() methods should do the absolute minimum needed to maintain external invariants. Starting with version 1.5, Python guarantees that globals whose name begins with a single underscore are deleted from their module before other globals are deleted; if no other references to such globals exist, this may help in assuring that imported modules are still available at the time when the __del__() method is called.
__repr__(self)
Called by the repr() built-in function and by string conversions (reverse quotes) to compute the "official" string representation of an object. If at all possible, this should look like a valid Python expression that could be used to recreate an object with the same value (given an appropriate environment). If this is not possible, a string of the form ‘<...some useful description...>’ should be returned. The return value must be a string object. If a class defines __repr__() but not __str__(), then __repr__() is also used when an "informal" string representation of instances of that class is required. This is typically used for debugging, so it is important that the representation is information-rich and unambiguous.
__str__(self)
Called by the str() built-in function and by the print statement to compute the "informal" string representation of an object. This differs from __repr__() in that it does not have to be a valid Python expression: a more convenient or concise representation may be used instead. The return value must be a string object.
__lt__(self, other)
__le__(self, other)
__eq__(self, other)
__ne__(self, other)
__gt__(self, other)
__ge__(self, other)
Added in version 2.1, these are the so-called "rich comparison" methods, and are called for comparison operators in preference to __cmp__() below. The correspondence between operator symbols and method names is as follows: x<y calls x.__lt__(y), x<=y calls x.__le__(y), x==y calls x.__eq__(y), x!=y and x<>y call x.__ne__(y), x>y calls x.__gt__(y), and x>=y calls x.__ge__(y). These methods can return any value, but if the comparison operator is used in a Boolean context, the return value should be interpretable as a Boolean value, else a TypeError will be raised. By convention, False is used for false and True for true. There are no implied relationships among the comparison operators. The truth of x==y does not imply that x!=y is false. Accordingly, when defining __eq__(), one should also define __ne__() so that the operators will behave as expected. There are no reflected (swapped-argument) versions of these methods (to be used when the left argument does not support the operation but the right argument does); rather, __lt__() and __gt__() are each other's reflection, __le__() and __ge__() are each other's reflection, and __eq__() and __ne__() are their own reflection. Arguments to rich comparison methods are never coerced. A rich comparison method may return NotImplemented if it does not implement the operation for a given pair of arguments.
__cmp__(self, other)
Called by comparison operations if rich comparison (see above) is not defined. Should return a negative integer if self < other, zero if self == other, a positive integer if self > other. If no __cmp__(), __eq__() or __ne__() operation is defined, class instances are compared by object identity ("address"). See also the description of __hash__() for some important notes on creating objects which support custom comparison operations and are usable as dictionary keys. (Note: the restriction that exceptions are not propagated by __cmp__() has been removed since Python 1.5.)
__rcmp__(self, other)
No longer supported since version 2.1.
__hash__(self)
Called for the key object for dictionary operations, and by the built-in function hash() . Should return a 32-bit integer usable as a hash value for dictionary operations. The only required property is that objects which compare equal have the same hash value; it is advised to somehow mix together (e.g., using exclusive or) the hash values for the components of the object that also play a part in comparison of objects. If a class does not define a __cmp__() method it should not define a __hash__() operation either; if it defines __cmp__() or __eq__() but not __hash__(), its instances will not be usable as dictionary keys. If a class defines mutable objects and implements a __cmp__() or __eq__() method, it should not implement __hash__(), since the dictionary implementation requires that a key's hash value is immutable (if the object's hash value changes, it will be in the wrong hash bucket). (Changed in Python version 2.5)
__nonzero__(self)
Called to implement truth value testing, and the built-in operation bool(); should return False or True, or their integer equivalents 0 or 1. When this method is not defined, __len__() is called, if it is defined (see below). If a class defines neither __len__() nor __nonzero__(), all its instances are considered true.
__unicode__(self)
Called to implement the unicode() builtin; should return a Unicode object. When this method is not defined, string conversion is attempted, and the result of string conversion is converted to Unicode using the system default encoding.
ISBN 0954161785Python Language Reference ManualSee the print edition