[Courses] [python] Object-oriented programming

Leslie leslie.brothers at verizon.net
Sun Jul 31 13:44:43 UTC 2011

Hi.  This is a question pertaining to Lesson 7.
It is about functions I find in python 'help'.

In interactive mode, let's say I create a simple list named 'mylist'.
I type dir() and I can see that it is there.
I type help (mylist).

This puts me in Help on list objects.
First I get some methods (__add__, __contains__, and so on).
Then come entries which  do not have double underscores on either side
(append, count, etc.).

I have learned from Lesson 7 how to use the latter (e.g., mylist.append,

Here is my question. I don't understand how to use the ones with double
underscores around them.  The only example we saw of such a creature in
this lesson is __init__.



On Fri, 2011-07-29 at 20:34 -0700, Akkana Peck wrote:
> This lesson is a little more advanced and covers object-oriented
> programming in Python. It's not something you need for writing little
> one-off scripts for yourself ... but knowing a little about Python
> objects will help you if you try to read and understand open-source
> Python programs, and it will also help you understand how to use
> existing Python packages. It's especially common in GUI code -- no
> matter what toolkit you use for the graphics, a GUI program will
> usually have objects for windows, objects for dialogs, objects for
> buttons, labels etc.
> If you find today's lesson confusing, don't panic. If you haven't
> done object-oriented programming, it takes a while to get the mindset.
> As long as you know it exists and what words like "class" and "self"
> mean, it's not so important to remember all the details.
> ===================== Objects ===========================
> So what's an object, anyway?
> An object is a data type that has some data of its own, and some
> things it knows how to do with that data. It can be as simple as an
> integer number, like 42, or as complicated as a browser window.
> Suppose you have a list object, like mylist = [ 1, 2, 3 ]
> It has its data -- all the objects in the list, and maybe some
> additional information like how many items there are.
> It also has some functions specific to the list.  You could say
> mylist.append(4), which would add a fourth list element at the
> end. mylist.insert(4) also adds a fourth element, but adds it at the
> beginning. mylist.remove(2) removes that element; mylist.reverse()
> reverses the order of all the elements in the list.
> All those functions -- append, insert, remove, reverse -- are called
> "member functions" because they belong to -- are members of -- an object.
> ===================== Classes ===========================
> An object is just one thing -- one variable containing one string,
> one int, one Dictionary. (Of course, like a list or a dictionary, it
> might contain more than one thing within itself, but you can still
> think of the whole list as one thing.)
> The word for a type of object, like string or list, is a class.
> So if you say:
> mylist = [ 1, 2, 3 ]
> then mylist is a variable which is an object, and its class (type) is
> a list.
> If you're in the Python console and you ask what type mylist is:
> >>> type(mylist)
> <type 'list'>
> it tells you it's a list. If it helps, you can think of "type" and
> "class" as meaning the same thing.
> =================== Defining a class ========================
> You can define your own classes. Remember the flashcard exercise from
> lesson 6? In that lesson, you had a dictionary of flashcards. But you
> could also make a simple class called Flashcard:
> class Flashcard :
>     def __init__(self, q, a) :
>         self.question = q
>         self.answer = a
>     def print_question(self) :
>         print self.question
> Now you can create Flashcard objects:
> card1 = Flashcard("What is a baby swan called?", "cygnet")
> card2 = Flashcard("What is a group of larks called?", "exaltation")
> You may be wondering about the capitalization. It's fairly common to
> capitalize names of classes, but it's just a convention -- it's
> not required.
> ======================== self ==============================
> The big new thing you'll see with object-oriented code is this "self"
> thing all over the place. Inside a class, "self" means the current
> object. So when card1 is a Flashcard object, and its question is
> "What is a baby swan called?", that's what self.question will be.
> (If you've programmed in another object-oriented language, "self"
> in Python is equivalent to "this" in most other languages. You could
> even use "this" instead of "self", but don't: you'll confuse the heck
> out of any other Python programmer who reads your code.)
> You also have to add self as the first argument to just about any
> class function. (There are a few exceptions, but that gets complicated
> so let's not worry about that right now.)
> You might wonder (especially if you've used other object-oriented
> languages) why you have to keep typing these selfs everywhere.
> Why doesn't Python just assume that if you say question, it means
> self.question, and that class functions always know self means the
> current object? If you wonder that, you're not alone. But that's the
> way Python is, so just get used to seeing lots of "self." all over the
> place in Python classes.
> ================== The init function ========================
> It's not very useful to have a class if you can't create an object
> of that class ... that's what the __init__ function is for.
> (That's two underscores before init and two after it.)
>     def __init__(self, q, a) :
> Use the __init__ function to set up any variables your class objects
> must have. A Flashcard isn't useful if it doesn't have both a question
> and an answer, so I made the init function take both q and a.
> ================== Other member functions ======================
> The other member functions work the same way: they can refer to
> self.question and self.answer. Inside class Flashcard, you could have:
>     line = "============================================="
>     def quiz_user(self) :
>         print self.line
>         self.print_question()
>         print self.line
>         ans = raw_input("? ")
>         if ans.strip().lower() == self.answer.strip().lower() :
>             print "Good job!"
>             return True
>         print "Sorry, the answer was:", self.answer
>         return False
> Now there's a variable called line that's common to any object
> of type Flashcard ... any Flashcard function, like quiz_user, can use
> it by referencing self.line.
> Now that we have the Flashcard object defined, writing a program
> to quiz the user is easy:
> cards = [
>     Flashcard("What is a baby swan called?", "cygnet"),
>     Flashcard("What is a group of larks called?", "exaltation"),
>     Flashcard("How many years does it take Neptune to orbit the sun?", "165"),
>     ]
> while True :
>     random.choice(cards).quiz_user()
> ========================= Homework =============================
> 1. Write a better loop for that flashcard program so that it exits
> if the user types 'q', and prints out the number right or wrong.
> Hint: you'll probably have to change quiz_user so it returns something
> other than just True or False.
> 2. Write a Quiz class that creates flashcards and runs the loop to
> quiz the user.
> 3. (optional) Rewrite your random sentence generation program from
> lesson 5 so it's object oriented. Hint: you could make your list of
> nouns, verbs etc. could be class variables, like "line" in my example
> above.
> 4. (optional) Come up with a better homework assignment for object-
> oriented programming in Python, then solve it. :-)
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