Class method differences in Python: bound, unbound and static


Question

What is the difference between the following class methods?

Is it that one is static and the other is not?

class Test(object):
  def method_one(self):
    print "Called method_one"

  def method_two():
    print "Called method_two"

a_test = Test()
a_test.method_one()
a_test.method_two()
1
232
8/16/2010 6:58:46 AM

Accepted Answer

In Python, there is a distinction between bound and unbound methods.

Basically, a call to a member function (like method_one), a bound function

a_test.method_one()

is translated to

Test.method_one(a_test)

i.e. a call to an unbound method. Because of that, a call to your version of method_two will fail with a TypeError

>>> a_test = Test() 
>>> a_test.method_two()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: method_two() takes no arguments (1 given) 

You can change the behavior of a method using a decorator

class Test(object):
    def method_one(self):
        print "Called method_one"

    @staticmethod
    def method_two():
        print "Called method two"

The decorator tells the built-in default metaclass type (the class of a class, cf. this question) to not create bound methods for method_two.

Now, you can invoke static method both on an instance or on the class directly:

>>> a_test = Test()
>>> a_test.method_one()
Called method_one
>>> a_test.method_two()
Called method_two
>>> Test.method_two()
Called method_two
404
5/23/2017 11:55:02 AM

Methods in Python are a very, very simple thing once you understood the basics of the descriptor system. Imagine the following class:

class C(object):
    def foo(self):
        pass

Now let's have a look at that class in the shell:

>>> C.foo
<unbound method C.foo>
>>> C.__dict__['foo']
<function foo at 0x17d05b0>

As you can see if you access the foo attribute on the class you get back an unbound method, however inside the class storage (the dict) there is a function. Why's that? The reason for this is that the class of your class implements a __getattribute__ that resolves descriptors. Sounds complex, but is not. C.foo is roughly equivalent to this code in that special case:

>>> C.__dict__['foo'].__get__(None, C)
<unbound method C.foo>

That's because functions have a __get__ method which makes them descriptors. If you have an instance of a class it's nearly the same, just that None is the class instance:

>>> c = C()
>>> C.__dict__['foo'].__get__(c, C)
<bound method C.foo of <__main__.C object at 0x17bd4d0>>

Now why does Python do that? Because the method object binds the first parameter of a function to the instance of the class. That's where self comes from. Now sometimes you don't want your class to make a function a method, that's where staticmethod comes into play:

 class C(object):
  @staticmethod
  def foo():
   pass

The staticmethod decorator wraps your class and implements a dummy __get__ that returns the wrapped function as function and not as a method:

>>> C.__dict__['foo'].__get__(None, C)
<function foo at 0x17d0c30>

Hope that explains it.


Licensed under: CC-BY-SA with attribution
Not affiliated with: Stack Overflow
Icon