What is the purpose of class methods?


I'm teaching myself Python and my most recent lesson was that Python is not Java, and so I've just spent a while turning all my Class methods into functions.

I now realise that I don't need to use Class methods for what I would done with static methods in Java, but now I'm not sure when I would use them. All the advice I can find about Python Class methods is along the lines of newbies like me should steer clear of them, and the standard documentation is at its most opaque when discussing them.

Does anyone have a good example of using a Class method in Python or at least can someone tell me when Class methods can be sensibly used?

9/26/2018 7:34:20 PM

Accepted Answer

Class methods are for when you need to have methods that aren't specific to any particular instance, but still involve the class in some way. The most interesting thing about them is that they can be overridden by subclasses, something that's simply not possible in Java's static methods or Python's module-level functions.

If you have a class MyClass, and a module-level function that operates on MyClass (factory, dependency injection stub, etc), make it a classmethod. Then it'll be available to subclasses.

9/1/2008 6:45:56 PM

Factory methods (alternative constructors) are indeed a classic example of class methods.

Basically, class methods are suitable anytime you would like to have a method which naturally fits into the namespace of the class, but is not associated with a particular instance of the class.

As an example, in the excellent unipath module:

Current directory

  • Path.cwd()
    • Return the actual current directory; e.g., Path("/tmp/my_temp_dir"). This is a class method.
  • .chdir()
    • Make self the current directory.

As the current directory is process wide, the cwd method has no particular instance with which it should be associated. However, changing the cwd to the directory of a given Path instance should indeed be an instance method.

Hmmm... as Path.cwd() does indeed return a Path instance, I guess it could be considered to be a factory method...

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