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Should Python classes each be in their own file?

Should classes each be defined in a file of their own? In Java, unless you're making a use of inner classes, you're coerced into writing one class per file. In C++, you'll typically have the code for a class in one source file and the headers in another, as other schemes are impractical to use and maintain. But in many other languages - and the example I've chosen is Python - there's nothing stopping you defining multiple classes in the same file. You can ... but should you???

One of the big gains from using objects is that it allows you to compartmentalize your logic - putting everything that relates to a film into one class, and everything that relates to a cycle race in another. There's then no "leak" between the namespaces - no confusion when you say milkrace.getlength() or shrek3.getlength() as to which logic you're running. And there's the ability for you to have separate files, maintainance team and schedules for the various types of object / classes. But there is a bit of a "downer" it that it's pretty hard to work out what you can do with an object sometimes as it inherits through a web of classes that are based on other classes, picking up cascading code (bit like the problems with "where did THAT font come from" you may have if you're using CSS / Cascading style sheets)

Where you've got a group of classes which are (a) maintained by the same person, (b) maintained on the same schedule and (c) going to be used together ... then there's no good reason I can see that you should separate each of them out into a file of its own. Go ahead and combine them!. The small gains you might make will be a consistency of naming with all classes being in files of the same name, but having them in separate files would lead to a needless layer of files. You have only to look at Java to realise what an issue this can be in the Java world, where the files are often bundled up into another structure called a jar file ...

I have put a complete class structure into a single file in an example [here]. There are four classes with three layers of inheritance joining them - so they will naturally fall together into the same application (you can't use a taxi without a travel ... which you can't use without an event!).




If you want to find out what you can do on your object in Python, you can use the dir function. Using the code example above, I decided to find out what methods I could use on a taxi ... and here's how I did it:

wizard:python graham$ python
Python 2.6.1 (r261:67515, Feb 11 2010, 15:47:53)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5646)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> from teapot import *
>>> ap = taxi("Seend","13:15",5)
>>> dir(ap)
['__class__', '__delattr__', '__dict__', '__doc__', '__format__', '__getattribute__',
'__hash__', '__init__', '__module__', '__new__', '__reduce__', '__reduce_ex__',
'__repr__', '__setattr__', '__sizeof__', '__str__', '__subclasshook__', '__weakref__',
'celebrate', 'destiny', 'getcapacity', 'getdestiny', 'gettime', 'seats', 'time']
>>> ^D
wizard:python graham$


To do a similar thing in Java, use the javap utility with the class file in which the object type you wish to examine available in your class path:

wizard:java graham$ javap gowdie/Isobel
Compiled from "Isobel.java"
public class gowdie.Isobel extends java.lang.Object{
  float age;
  float factor;
  public java.lang.String name;
  static int nanimals;
  public gowdie.Isobel(int, int);
  public gowdie.Isobel(java.lang.String, int, int);
  public gowdie.Isobel(java.lang.String, int);
  public float getEffAge();
  public static int getCount();
  static {};
}
 
wizard:java graham$


(See [here] for more about Isobel Gowdie!)
(written 2010-07-27, updated 2010-07-30)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Y112 - Python - Objects - Intermediate
  [296] Using a Python dictionary as a holder of object attributes - (2005-04-30)
  [383] Overloading of operators on standard objects in Python - (2005-07-19)
  [477] Class, static and unbound variables - (2005-10-25)
  [656] Think about your design even if you don't use full UML - (2006-03-24)
  [831] Comparison of Object Oriented Philosophy - Python, Java, C++, Perl - (2006-08-13)
  [903] Pieces of Python - (2006-10-23)
  [964] Practical polymorphism in action - (2006-12-04)
  [1146] __new__ v __init__ - python constructor alternatives? - (2007-04-14)
  [1217] What are factory and singleton classes? - (2007-06-04)
  [1517] Python - formatting objects - (2008-01-24)
  [1644] Using a utility method to construct objects of different types - Python - (2008-05-17)
  [1661] Equality, sameness and identity - Python - (2008-05-31)
  [1819] Calling base class constructors - (2008-10-03)
  [2368] Python - fresh examples of all the fundamentals - (2009-08-20)
  [2409] TypeError: super() argument 1 must be type, not classobj (Python) - (2009-09-18)
  [2485] How do I set up a constant in Python? - (2009-10-31)
  [2693] Methods that run on classes (static methods) in Python - (2010-03-25)
  [2717] The Multiple Inheritance Conundrum, interfaces and mixins - (2010-04-11)
  [2720] Multiple inheritance in Python - complete working example - (2010-04-14)
  [2722] Mixins example in Python - (2010-04-14)
  [2764] Python decorators - your own, staticmethod and classmethod - (2010-05-14)
  [2785] The Light bulb moment when people see how Object Orientation works in real use - (2010-05-28)
  [2905] Defining static methods in Python - (2010-08-05)
  [2994] Python - some common questions answered in code examples - (2010-10-10)
  [3002] A list of special method and attribute names in Python - (2010-10-17)
  [3442] A demonstration of how many Python facilities work together - (2011-09-16)
  [3472] Static variables in functions - and better ways using objects - (2011-10-10)
  [3524] Metaclasses (Python) and Metatables (Lua) - (2011-11-17)
  [3796] Backquote, backtic, str and repr in Python - conversion object to string - (2012-07-05)
  [3887] Inheritance, Composition and Associated objects - when to use which - Python example - (2012-10-10)
  [4028] Really Simple Class and Inheritance example in Python - (2013-03-04)
  [4094] Python Properties - how and why - (2013-05-18)
  [4344] Python base and inherited classes, test harness and unit testing - new examples - (2014-12-07)
  [4356] Object factories in C++, Python, PHP and Perl - (2014-12-19)
  [4366] Changing what operators do on objects - a comparison across different programming languages - (2014-12-26)
  [4410] A good example of recursion - a real use in Python - (2015-02-01)
  [4449] Spike solution, refactoring into encapsulated object methods - good design practise - (2015-03-05)
  [4450] Deciding whether to use parameters, conditional statements or subclasses - (2015-03-05)
  [4541] Setting up and tearing down with the Python with keyword - (2015-10-16)
  [4649] Object and Static methods - what is the difference; example in Python 3 - (2016-02-17)
  [4717] with in Python - examples of use, and of defining your own context - (2016-11-02)
  [4718] Defining an object that is a modified standard type in Python - (2016-11-02)
  [4719] Nesting decorators - (2016-11-02)

Q907 - Object Orientation and General technical topics - Object Orientation: Design Techniques
  [80] OO - real benefits - (2004-10-09)
  [236] Tapping in on resources - (2005-03-05)
  [507] Introduction to Object Oriented Programming - (2005-11-27)
  [534] Design - one name, one action - (2005-12-19)
  [747] The Fag Packet Design Methodology - (2006-06-06)
  [836] Build on what you already have with OO - (2006-08-17)
  [1047] Maintainable code - some positive advice - (2007-01-21)
  [1224] Object Relation Mapping (ORM) - (2007-06-09)
  [1435] Object Oriented Programming in Perl - Course - (2007-11-18)
  [1528] Object Oriented Tcl - (2008-02-02)
  [1538] Teaching Object Oriented Java with Students and Ice Cream - (2008-02-12)
  [2169] When should I use OO techniques? - (2009-05-11)
  [2170] Designing a heirarcy of classes - getting inheritance right - (2009-05-11)
  [2327] Planning! - (2009-08-08)
  [2380] Object Oriented programming - a practical design example - (2009-08-27)
  [2501] Simples - (2009-11-12)
  [2523] Plan your application before you start - (2009-12-02)
  [2741] What is a factory? - (2010-04-26)
  [2747] Containment, Associative Objects, Inheritance, packages and modules - (2010-04-30)
  [2865] Relationships between Java classes - inheritance, packaging and others - (2010-07-10)
  [2878] Program for reliability and efficiency - do not duplicate, but rather share and re-use - (2010-07-19)
  [2953] Turning an exercise into the real thing with extreme programming - (2010-09-11)
  [2977] What is a factory method and why use one? - Example in Ruby - (2010-09-30)
  [3063] Comments in and on Perl - a case for extreme OO programming - (2010-11-21)
  [3085] Object Oriented Programming for Structured Programmers - conversion training - (2010-12-14)
  [3260] Ruby - a training example that puts many language elements together to demonstrate the whole - (2011-04-23)
  [3454] Your PHP website - how to factor and refactor to reduce growing pains - (2011-09-24)
  [3607] Designing your application - using UML techniques - (2012-02-11)
  [3760] Why you should use objects even for short data manipulation programs in Ruby - (2012-06-10)
  [3763] Spike solutions and refactoring - a Python example - (2012-06-13)
  [3798] When you should use Object Orientation even in a short program - Python example - (2012-07-06)
  [3844] Rooms ready for guests - each time, every time, thanks to good system design - (2012-08-20)
  [3878] From Structured to Object Oriented Programming. - (2012-10-02)
  [3928] Storing your intermediate data - what format should you you choose? - (2012-11-20)
  [3978] Teaching OO - how to avoid lots of window switching early on - (2013-01-17)
  [4098] Using object orientation for non-physical objects - (2013-05-22)
  [4374] Test driven development, and class design, from first principles (using C++) - (2014-12-30)
  [4430] The spirit of Java - delegating to classes - (2015-02-18)
  [4628] Associative objects - one object within another. - (2016-01-20)


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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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