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Master python closure with 3 real-world examples

Introduction

Python closure is a technique for binding function with an environment where the function gets access to all the variables defined in the enclosing scope. Closure typically appears in the programming language with first class function, which means functions are allowed to be passed as arguments, return value or assigned to a variable.

This definition sounds confusing to the python beginners, and sometimes the examples found from online also not intuitive enough in the way that most of the examples are trying to illustrate with some printing statement, so the readers may not get the whole idea of why and how the closure should be used. In this article, I will be using some real-world example to explain how to use closure in your code.

Nested function in Python

To understand closure, we must first know that Python has nested function where one function can be defined inside another. For instance, the below inner_func is the nested function and the outer_func returns it’s nested function as return value.

def outer_func():    
    print("starting outer func")
    def inner_func():
        pi = 3.1415926
        print(f"pi is : {pi}")
    return inner_func

When you invoke the outer_func, it returns the reference to the inner_func, and subsequently you can call the inner_func. Below is the output when you run in Jupyter Notebook:

python closure nested function example

After you have got some feeling about the nested function, let’s continue to explore how nested function is related to closure. If we modify our previous function and move the pi variable into outer function, surprisedly it generates the same result as previously.

def outer_func():    
    print("starting outer func")
    #move pi variable definition to outer function
    pi = 3.1415926
    def inner_func():
        print(f"pi is : {pi}")
    return inner_func

You may wonder the pi variable is defined in outer function which is a local variable to outer_func, why inner_func is able access it since it’s not a global scope? This is exactly where closure happens, the inner_func has the full access to the environment (variables) in it’s enclosing scope. The inner_func refers to pi variable as nonlocal variable since there is no other local variable called pi.

If you want to modify the value of the pi inside the inner_func, you will have to explicitly specify “nonlocal pi” before you modify it since it’s immutable data type.

With the above understanding, now let’s walk through some real-world examples to see how we can use closure in our code.

Hide data with Python closure

Let’s say we want to implement a counter to record how many time the word has been repeated. The first thing you may want to do is to define a dictionary in global scope, and then create a function to add in the words as key into this dictionary and also update the number of times it repeated. Below is the sample code:

counter = {}

def count_word(word):    
    global counter
    counter[word] = counter.get(word, 0) + 1
    return counter[word]

To make sure the count_word function updates the correct “counter”, we need to put the global keyword to explicitly tell Python interpreter to use the “counter” defined in global scope, not any variable we accidentally defined with the same name in the local scope (within this function).

Sample output:

python closure word counter sample output

The above code works as expected, but there are two potential issues: Firstly, the global variable is accessible to any of the other functions and you cannot guarantee your data won’t be modified by others. Secondly, the global variable exists in the memory as long as the program is still running, so you may not want to create so many global variables if not necessary.

To address these two issues, let’s re-implement it with closure:

def word_counter():
    counter = {}
    def count(word):
        counter[word] = counter.get(word, 0) + 1
        return counter[word]
    return count

If we run it from Jupyter Notebook, you will see the below output:

python closure word counter example output

With this implementation, the counter dictionary is hidden from the public access and the functionality remains the same. (you may notice it works even after the word_counter function is deleted)

Convert small class to function with Python closure

Occasionally in your project, you may want to implement a small utility class to do some simple task. Let’s take a look at the below example:

import requests

class RequestMaker:
    def __init__(self, base_url):
        self.url = base_url
    def request(self, **kwargs):
        return requests.get(self.url.format_map(kwargs))

You can see the below output when you call the make_request from an instance of RequestMaker:

python closure small class example

Since you’ve already seen in the word counter example, the closure can also hold the data for your later use, the above class can be converted into a function with closure:

import requests

def request_maker(url):
    def make_request(**kwargs):
        return requests.get(url.format_map(kwargs))
    return make_request

The code becomes more concise and achieves the same result. Take note that in the above code, we are able to pass in the arguments into the nested function with **kwargs (or *args).

python closure convert small class to closure

Replace text with case matching

When you use regular express to find and replace some text, you may realize if you are trying to match text in case insensitive mode, you will not able to replace the text with proper case. For instance:

import re

paragraph = 'To start Python programming, you need to install python and configure PYTHON env.'
re.sub("python", "java", paragraph, flags=re.I)

Output from above:

python closure replace with case

It indeed replaced all the occurrence of the “python”, but the case does not match with the original text. To solve this problem, let’s implement the replace function with closure:

def replace_case(word):
    def replace(m):
        text = m.group()
        if text.islower():
            return word.lower()
        elif text.isupper():
            return word.upper()
        elif text[0].isupper():
            return word.capitalize()
        else:
            return word
    return replace

In the above code, the replace function has the access to the original text we intend to replace with, and when we detect the case of the matched text, we can convert the case of original text and return it back.

So in our original substitute function, let’s pass in a function replace_case(“java”) as the second argument. (You may refer to Python official doc in case you want to know what is the behavior when passing in function to re.sub)

re.sub("python", replace_case("java"), paragraph, flags=re.IGNORECASE)

If we run the above again, you should be able to see the case has been retained during the replacement as per below:

python closure replace with case

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed about the general reasons why Python closure is used and also demonstrated how it can be used in your code with 3 real-world examples. In fact, Python decorator is also a use case of closure, I will be discussing this topic in the next article.

 

Python Variables and Keywords

Python Tutorial – Variables and Keywords

This article serves as a tutorial for Python beginners to gain the essential knowledge to start coding in Python. By complete this tutorial, you shall be able to know how to correctly use Python variables as well as the Python keywords.

Python Variable

Variable is a name that refers to some value. Like any other programming languages, Python allows to define variables and manipulate it in your code logic.

Name convention

Python allows to use letter, number, or underscore [_] in a variable name, but it has to start with a letter or an underscore (_) followed by zero or more letters, underscores and digits (0 to 9).

There is no limit on the length of your variable name, so you can choose anything meaningful to you in your code. but Python provided some guidelines to use lowercase as much as possible for the variables and function name.

Below are some examples of valid variable names:

a = "a"
#Python variable name is case sensitive
A = "a"
 
module_name = "Python Tutorial for Variables & Keywords"
speed_of_gravity = 299792458
pi = 3.14159265359
is_matched = True

And some invalid variable names as per below, if you use them in your code, Python throws “SyntaxError: invalid syntax” error.

1st_name = "John"
#invalid as variable cannot start with digits
first name = "John"
right/wrong = True
#invalid as variable cannot has special characters like /, whitespace, @, &, * etc., except _

Use of underscore

Take note of the _, although it is allowed to use in your variable name, it has some special meaning if you use it at the beginning. e.g. if you use _salary in your class, Python will protect it from accessing from outside of the class. This is out of scope for this topic, but do bear in mind on this.

Also if you use _ as your available name, there will be a conflict in the Python interactive mode, as in interactive mode, _ is interpreted as the result of the last executed expression, check more from this article.

You may also noticed that variables can hold different sorts of values, e.g. single character, multiple characters, numbers, and True or False etc. This is the different data type in Python, we will come to this topic in the later article.

Reserved Keywords

There are some other words we cannot directly use as variable, these words are so called Python reserved keywords, as Python uses these words to recognize the structure of the program.

Below are all the keywords reserved by Python3, and it is not allowed to use them directly as variable name.

False      await      else       import     pass
None       break      except     in         raise
True       class      finally    is         return
and        continue   for        lambda     try
as         def        from       nonlocal   while
assert     del        global     not        with
async      elif       if         or         yield

For Python beginners, if you use some IDE like PyCharm or Jupyter Notebook, these keywords will be automatically highlighted in different color, so you don’t worry about you mistakenly used them as variable name.

Python variables and keywords

Besides these reserved keywords, there are a few more words you shall try to avoid using them when defining your variable. For instance the below:

str
int
float
list
dict
set
tuple
bytes

These are the Python built-in data types which will be covered in the next tutorial. And there won’t be any error prompted immediately when you assign a value to them, but you will face some issues when you want to call the default behavior of the built-in data type later. Below is an example:

python built-in data type

The str() will throw error if you assigned “Test” to it, and it only works again if you delete the “str” as a variable. Hence the best practice is not to use these words as variable name in your code to prevent some unexpected errors and confusions.

 

How to close Windows process with python

When automating some tasks in Windows OS, you may wonder how to automatically close Windows process if you do not have the direct control of the running application or when the application is just running for too long time. In this article, I will be sharing with you how to close the Windows process with some python library, to be more specific, the pywin32 library.

Prerequisites

You will need to install the pywin32 library if you have not yet installed:

pip install pywin32

Find the process name from Windows Task Manager

You will need to first find out the application name which you intend to close, the application name can be found from the Windows task manager. E.g. If you expand the “Windows Command Processor” process, you can see the running process is “cmd.exe”.

python close Windows process

Let’s get started with the code!

Import the below modules that we will be using later:

from win32com.client import GetObject
from datetime import datetime

import os

And we need to get the WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) service via the below code, where we can further access the window processes. For more information about WMI, please check this.

WMI = GetObject('winmgmts:')

Next, we will use the WMI SQL query to get the processes from the Win32_Process table by passing in the application name. Remember we have already found the application name earlier from the task manager.

 

for p in WMI.ExecQuery('select * from Win32_Process where Name="cmd.exe"'):
    #the date format is something like this 20200613144903.166769+480
    create_dt, *_ = p.CreationDate.split('.')
    diff = datetime.now() - datetime.strptime(create_dt,'%Y%m%d%H%M%S')

There are other properties such as Description, Status, Executable Path, etc. You can check the full list of the process properties from this win32-process documentation. Here we want to base on the creation date to calculate how much time the application has been running to determine if we want to kill it.

Assuming we need to close windows process after it is running for 5 minutes.

    if diff.seconds/60 > 5:		
        print("Terminating PID:", p.ProcessId)
	os.system("taskkill /pid "+str(p.ProcessId))

With this taskkill command, we will be able to terminate all the threads under this Windows process peacefully.

Conclusion

The pywin32 is super powerful python library especially when dealing with the Windows applications. You can use it to read & save attachments from outlook, send emails via outlookopen excel files and some more. Do have a check on these articles.

As per always, welcome any comments or questions.

auto switch browser tabs

How to auto switch browser tabs

Imagine you have a big monitor and you would like to display something from multiple web links, would it be nice if there is a way to auto switch between the multiple browser tabs in a fixed period? In this article, I will be sharing with you how to auto switch browser tabs via selenium, an automated testing tool.

There is a very detailed documentation on the python selenium library, you may want to check this document as the starting point. For this article, I will just walk through the complete code for this automation, so that you can use it as a reference in case you are tying to implement something similar.

Let’s get started!

To auto launch the browser, we need to first download the web driver for the browser. For instance, if you are using chrome browser, you may download the driver file here. Do check your browser version to make sure you download the driver for the correct version.

As the prerequisite, you will also need to run the below command to install the selenium package in your working environment.

pip install selenium

Launch the browser

Then import all the necessary modules into your script. For this article, we will need to use the below modules:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.chrome.options import Options
from selenium.common.exceptions import SessionNotCreatedException

import time
import os, sys

Let’s assume we want to display the below 3 links in your browser and make them auto switching between each other:

url_1 = "https://www.google.com/maps/@1.3085909,103.8403575,14z"
url_2 = "https://weather.com/en-SG/weather/today"
url_3 = "https://edition.cnn.com/"

Assuming you’ve already downloaded the chrome driver file and put it into the current script folder. Then let’s start to initiate the web driver to launch the browser:

options = Options()
options.add_experimental_option('useAutomationExtension', False)

try:	
	driver = webdriver.Chrome(executable_path=os.getcwd() + "\\chromedriver.exe", options=options)
except SessionNotCreatedException as e:
	print(e)
	print("please upgrade the chromedriver.exe from https://chromedriver.chromium.org/downloads")
	sys.exit(1)

You may wonder why we need a options parameter here?  It’s actually optional, but you may see the “Loading of unpacked extensions is disabled by the administrator” warning without setting useAutomationExtension to False. There are plenty of other options to control the browser behavior, check here for the documentation.

As frequently you will see there is a new version of chrome, and it may not work with old driver file anymore. So, it’s better we catch this exception and show some error message to guide users to upgrade the driver.

You can set the chrome window position by doing the below, but it does not matter if you wish to maximize the window later.

driver.set_window_position(2000, 1)

Let’s open the first link and maximize our window (This also can be done by options.addArguments("start-maximized")). And we want to execute some JavaScript to zoom out a bit so that we can see clearly.

#open window 1
driver.get(url_1)
driver.maximize_window()
driver.execute_script("document.body.style.zoom='120%'")
time.sleep(1)

To open the second tab, we need to use JavaScript to open a blank tab, and switch the active tab to the second tab. The driver.window_handles keeps a list of handlers for the opened windows, so window_handles[1] refers to the second tab.

driver.execute_script("window.open('');")
driver.switch_to.window(driver.window_handles[1])

Next, we will open the second link. And for this tab, let’s scroll down 300px to skip the ads second at the page header.

#open second link
driver.get(url_2)
driver.execute_script("document.body.style.zoom='90%'")
driver.execute_script("window.scrollBy(0,300);")
time.sleep(1)

Similarly, we can open the third tab with the below code:

#open window 3
driver.execute_script("window.open('');")
driver.switch_to.window(driver.window_handles[2])
driver.get(url_3)		
driver.execute_script("document.body.style.zoom='90%'")
driver.execute_script("window.scrollBy(0,200);")
time.sleep(1)

Auto switch between tabs

Once everything is ready, we shall write the logic to auto switch between the different tabs at certain interval. To do that, we need to know how to perform the below 3 things:

  • Identify what is the active link showing now

We can use driver.title attribute to check if the page title contains certain keyword for the particular website, so that we know which page is active now

  • Switch to a new tab

We can continue to use driver.switch_to.window to switch the tab, but we need to have logic to determine which is the next tab we want to switch to

  • Refresh the page (in case there is any updates)

We can use driver.refresh() to refresh the page, but we will lose the setting such as zooming in/out, so we need to set it again

So let’s take a look at the complete code:

nextIndex = 2

start = time.time()

while True:
	
	#stop running after 5 minutes
	if (time.time() - start >= 5*60):
		break
		
	if "Google Maps" in driver.title:
		driver.refresh()
		driver.execute_script("document.body.style.zoom='120%'")
		time.sleep(3)
		nextIndex = 0 if nextIndex + 1 > 2 else nextIndex + 1
		
	elif "CNN" in driver.title:
		driver.refresh()
		driver.execute_script("document.body.style.zoom='90%'")
		time.sleep(5)
		nextIndex = 0 if nextIndex + 1 > 2 else nextIndex + 1
		
	elif "Weather" in driver.title:
		driver.refresh()
		driver.execute_script("document.body.style.zoom='90%'")
		time.sleep(2)
		nextIndex = 0 if nextIndex + 1 > 2 else nextIndex + 1
		
	driver.switch_to.window(driver.window_handles[nextIndex])

So each of the tab will be active for a few seconds before switching to the next tab. And after 5 minutes, this loop will be stopped.

If we wish to close all tabs at the end of the script, we can perform the below:

for window in driver.window_handles:
	driver.switch_to.window(window)
	driver.close()

So that’s it and congratulations that you have completed a new automation project to auto switch browser tabs for Chrome. As per always, welcome any comments or questions.

Python tuple

Python built-in types – Tuples

Tuple is a python built-in data structure which holds a sequence of values, and the values can be in any data type. If you write a hundred lines of python code, it is almost impossible to avoid it in your code, as it comes in implicitly or explicitly from your variable assignment and iteration to return values of your method. In this article, I will be sharing with you where and how the tuples will be possibly used in your code.

Variable assignment with Tuple

You may have written the code in the below way to assign the values to variables in one line. The left side is the tuple of variables, and the right side is the tuple of values/expressions.

sort_by_name, sort_by_date = True, False
#output : sort_by_name True, sort_by_date False
key, val = "20200601" , "Mon"
#output : key '20200601', val 'Mon'

Sometimes if you want to swap the values of two variables, you do not need to create a temp variable for swapping. The below will do a perfect job to swap the value for key, val variables.

key, val = val, key
#output: key 'Mon', val '20200601'

Traverse the elements of a sequence

If you want to iterate through each of the elements in a sequence and meanwhile get the index of the element, you can do it by below code:

for idx, label in enumerate('ABCDEFG'):
    print(idx, label)

#output: 0, A
#1, B
#...

When iterating a dictionary, the iterms method returns a list of tuples, and each tuple is the key and value pair, e.g.:

company_info = {"name" : "Alibaba", "headquarter" : "Hangzhou, China", "founded" : "4 April 1999"}
for key, val in company_info.items():
    print(f"{key} : {val}")

If you have checked my another post – How to swap the key and value in a python dictionary, it is just an extension to the above.

Iterate multiple sequences at one time with zip

If you use the built-in zip function to iterate multiple sequences at one time, it actually returns an iterator of tuples. See the below example:

names = ["Alibaba", "Amazon", "Google"]
countries = ["China", "USA", "USA"]
years = ["1999", "1996", "1998"]
for rec in zip(names, countries, years):
    print(rec)

#output:
#('Alibaba', 'China', '1999')
#('Amazon', 'USA', '1996')
#('Google', 'USA', '1998')

Return multiple values from function

Normally a function can only returns 1 value, but with tuple, you can return multiple values even in different data types. (technically speaking, it is still 1 value but tuple type)

e.g. The python built-in method divmod:

quotient, remainder = divmod(10, 3)
print(quotient, remainder)
#output: 3 1

You can also define your own function to return multiple values like below:

def split_email(email):
    user_name, company_site = email.split("@")
    return user_name, company_site


split_email("contact@codeforests.com")
#output: ('contact', 'codeforests.com')

With this example, I am going to wrap up my article for this topic. If you have any questions or comments, please share in the below.