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Python Tricks


  • asserts accept a second expression that can be used to print out useful info, eg. x=5; assert x > 10, f'{x} is not greater than 10' will raise AssertionError: 5 is not less than 10
  • Don't use asserts for data validation or catching run-time errors (since asserts can be globally disabled).
  • asserting a tuple will never result in an assertion error (tuples are truthy)
  • Use asserts as a debugging aid.

Context Managers

with open('hello.txt', 'w') as f:
    f.write('hello, world!')

# is almost equivalent to:
f = open('hello.txt', 'w')
    f.write('hello, world')

A context manager is a simple “protocol” (or interface) that your object needs to follow in order to support the with statement. Basically, all you need to do is add __enter__ and __exit__ methods to an object if you want it to function as a context manager. Python will call these two methods at the appropriate times in the resource management cycle.

There are two ways to support the with statement:

Class Based Context Managers

class ManagedFile:
    def __init__(self, name): = name
    def __enter__(self):
        self.file = open(, 'w')
        return self.file
    def __exit__(self, exc_type, exc_val, exc_tb):
        if self.file:


You can use the contextlib.contextmanager decorator to define a generator-based factory function for a resource that will then automatically support the with statement.

Chapters Checklist

  • Patterns for Cleaner Python
    • Covering Your A** With Assertions
    • Complacent Comma Placement
    • Context Managers and the with Statement
    • Underscores, Dunders, and More
    • A Shocking Truth About String Formatting
    • “The Zen of Python” Easter Egg
  • Effective Functions
    • Python’s Functions Are First-Class
    • Lambdas Are Single-Expression Functions
    • The Power of Decorators
    • Fun With *args and **kwargs
    • Function Argument Unpacking
    • Nothing to Return Here
    • Object Comparisons: “is” vs “==”
    • String Conversion (Every Class Needs a __repr__)
    • Defining Your Own Exception Classes
    • Cloning Objects for Fun and Profit
    • Abstract Base Classes Keep Inheritance in Check
    • What Namedtuples Are Good For
    • Class vs Instance Variable Pitfalls
    • Instance, Class, and Static Methods Demystified
  • Common Data Structures in Python
    • Dictionaries, Maps, and Hashtables
    • Array Data Structures
    • Records, Structs, and Data Transfer Objects
    • Sets and Multisets
    • Stacks (LIFOs)
    • Queues (FIFOs)
    • Priority Queues
  • Looping & Iteration
    • Writing Pythonic Loops
    • Comprehending Comprehensions
    • List Slicing Tricks and the Sushi Operator
    • Beautiful Iterators
    • Generators Are Simplified Iterators
    • Generator Expressions
    • Iterator Chains
  • Dictionary Tricks
    • Dictionary Default Values
    • Sorting Dictionaries for Fun and Profit
    • Emulating Switch/Case Statements With Dicts
    • The Craziest Dict Expression in the West
    • So Many Ways to Merge Dictionaries
    • Dictionary Pretty-Printing
  • Pythonic Productivity Techniques
    • Exploring Python Modules and Objects
    • Isolating Project Dependencies With Virtualenv
    • Peeking Behind the Bytecode Curtain