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Using an exception to initialise a static variable in a Python function / method

Exceptions are sometimes "sold" as a way of trapping errors - but they're more than that - they're an excellent way of trapping conditions where there isn't a valid result.

Church Walk, Melksham"How many people live in this house" you may ask of a function / method call, and the answer may come back as "2" or "5" ... or "0" if the house is unoccupied. But what if the function needs to say "I don't know":

• It could return a separate flag variable ... but that would need to be saved / checked every time and would require great care from the programmer to ensure it was picked up

• It could return a "cardinal value" - a result that's impossible and then have the code check for that value. Again, great care is needed by the programmer, and - worse - if a check for the values is missed by mistake it could result in the cardinal number being added in to a total or stats and letting the program proceed with wrong data

• Or it could throw an exception - and that's a neat way of ensuring, fail-safe, that the programmer making the call will allow for the "no proper result" case each and every time.

In fact ... at times exceptions are so good that they are an elegant solution to what would otherwise be messy coding. Example ...

Let's say that you're writing a Python program that needs a static variable within a function. That's a variable who's value is retained from one call to the next - the sort of thing you would want to do in an iterator where you're asking for the next item in a sequence.

You COULD initialise the variable outside the function - after you have defined the function but before you first call it. But - better - you can catch the NameError exception when you try and reference it the first time, and in the exception handling code you can initialise it.

  try:
    double.copyright += " I tell you!"
  except:
    double.copyright = "Issa MYNE!"


Source code examples - [without exception] and (much better) [using exception]

(written 2010-10-13, updated 2010-10-20)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Y105 - Python - Functions, Modules and Packages
  [4212] Python functions - an introduction to how they work - (2013-11-16)
  [4161] Python varables - checking existance, and call by name or by value? - (2013-08-27)
  [4029] Exception, Lambda, Generator, Slice, Dict - examples in one Python program - (2013-03-04)
  [3945] vargs in Python - how to call a method with unknown number of parameters - (2012-12-06)
  [3931] Optional positional and named parameters in Python - (2012-11-23)
  [3885] Default local - a good choice by the author of Python - (2012-10-08)
  [3852] Static variables in Python? - (2012-08-29)
  [3766] Python timing - when to use a list, and when to use a generator - (2012-06-16)
  [3695] Functions are first class variables in Lua and Python - (2012-04-13)
  [3662] Finding all the unique lines in a file, using Python or Perl - (2012-03-20)
  [3474] Python Packages - groupings of modules. An introduction - (2011-10-11)
  [3472] Static variables in functions - and better ways using objects - (2011-10-10)
  [3464] Passing optional and named parameters to python methods - (2011-10-04)
  [3459] Catching the fishes first? - (2011-09-27)
  [3280] Passing parameters to Python functions - the options you have - (2011-05-07)
  [3159] Returning multiple values from a function call in various languages - a comparison - (2011-02-06)
  [2994] Python - some common questions answered in code examples - (2010-10-10)
  [2929] Passing a variable number of parameters in to a function / method - (2010-08-20)
  [2878] Program for reliability and efficiency - do not duplicate, but rather share and re-use - (2010-07-19)
  [2766] Optional and named parameters to Python functions/methods - (2010-05-15)
  [2718] Python - access to variables in the outer scope - (2010-04-12)
  [2520] Global and Enable - two misused words! - (2009-11-30)
  [2506] Good example of recursion in Python - analyse an RSS feed - (2009-11-18)
  [2481] Sample code with errors in it on our web site - (2009-10-29)
  [2440] Optional parameters to Python functions - (2009-10-07)
  [2439] Multiple returns from a function in Python - (2009-10-06)
  [2011] Conversion of OSI grid references to Eastings and Northings - (2009-01-28)
  [1879] Dynamic code - Python - (2008-11-11)
  [1871] Optional and named parameters in Python - (2008-11-05)
  [1870] What to do with a huge crop of apples - (2008-11-04)
  [1869] Anonymous functions (lambdas) and map in Python - (2008-11-04)
  [1790] Sharing variables with functions, but keeping them local too - Python - (2008-09-09)
  [1784] Global - Tcl, PHP, Python - (2008-09-03)
  [1464] Python Script - easy examples of lots of basics - (2007-12-08)
  [1202] Returning multiple values from a function (Perl, PHP, Python) - (2007-05-24)
  [1163] A better alternative to cutting and pasting code - (2007-04-26)
  [1134] Function / method parameters with * and ** in Python - (2007-04-04)
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  [949] Sludge off the mountain, and Python and PHP - (2006-11-27)
  [913] Python - A list of methods - (2006-11-03)
  [912] Recursion in Python - (2006-11-02)
  [900] Python - function v method - (2006-10-20)
  [821] Dynamic functions and names - Python - (2006-08-03)
  [775] Do not duplicate your code - (2006-06-23)
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  [745] Python modules. The distribution, The Cheese Shop and the Vaults of Parnassus. - (2006-06-05)
  [668] Python - block insets help with documentation - (2006-04-04)
  [561] Python's Generator functions - (2006-01-11)
  [418] Difference between import and from in Python - (2005-08-18)
  [386] What is a callback? - (2005-07-22)
  [340] Code and code maintainance efficiency - (2005-06-08)
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  [303] Lambdas in Python - (2005-05-06)
  [294] Python generator functions, lambdas, and iterators - (2005-04-28)
  [105] Distance Learning - (2004-10-31)
  [96] Variable Scope - (2004-10-22)

Y109 - Python - Exceptions
  [3930] Reporting the full stack trace when you catch a Python exception - (2012-11-22)
  [3913] How many times ... has this loco headed west through Tenby? - Python exceptions - (2012-11-05)
  [3664] Error checking in a Python program - making your program robust via exceptions - (2012-03-22)
  [3441] Pressing ^C in a Python program. Also Progress Bar. - (2011-09-15)
  [3433] Exceptions - a fail-safe way of trapping things that may go wrong - (2011-09-11)
  [3177] Insurance against any errors - Volcanoes and Python - (2011-02-19)
  [2622] Handling unusual and error conditions - exceptions - (2010-02-03)
  [2408] Robust user input (exception handling) example in Python - (2009-09-17)
  [2368] Python - fresh examples of all the fundamentals - (2009-08-20)
  [2281] Python - using exceptions to set a fallback - (2009-07-12)
  [2018] UnboundLocalError - Python Message - (2009-01-31)
  [1236] Trying things in Python - (2007-06-18)
  [1042] Nested exceptions in Python - (2007-01-18)
  [381] Exceptions in Python - (2005-07-17)


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