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An Introduction to Python
by Guido van Rossum and Fred L. Drake, Jr.
Paperback (6"x9"), 124 pages
ISBN 0954161769
RRP £12.95 ($19.95)

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9.3.2 Class Objects

Class objects support two kinds of operations: attribute references and instantiation.

Attribute references use the standard syntax used for all attribute references in Python: obj.name. Valid attribute names are all the names that were in the class's namespace when the class object was created. So, if the class definition looked like this:

    class MyClass:
        "A simple example class"
        i = 12345
        def f(self):
            return 'hello world'

then MyClass.i and MyClass.f are valid attribute references, returning an integer and a function object, respectively. Class attributes can also be assigned to, so you can change the value of MyClass.i by assignment. __doc__ is also a valid attribute, returning the docstring belonging to the class: "A simple example class".

Class instantiation uses function notation. Just pretend that the class object is a parameterless function that returns a new instance of the class. For example (assuming the above class):

    x = MyClass()

creates a new instance of the class and assigns this object to the local variable x.

The instantiation operation ("calling" a class object) creates an empty object. Many classes like to create objects with instances customized to a specific initial state. Therefore a class may define a special method named __init__(), like this:

    def __init__(self):
        self.data = []

When a class defines an __init__() method, class instantiation automatically invokes __init__() for the newly-created class instance. So in this example, a new, initialized instance can be obtained by:

    x = MyClass()

Of course, the __init__() method may have arguments for greater flexibility. In that case, arguments given to the class instantiation operator are passed on to __init__(). For example,

    >>> class Complex:
    ...     def __init__(self, realpart, imagpart):
    ...         self.r = realpart
    ...         self.i = imagpart
    ... 
    >>> x = Complex(3.0, -4.5)
    >>> x.r, x.i
    (3.0, -4.5)
ISBN 0954161769An Introduction to PythonSee the print edition