Using the docstring from one method to automatically overwrite that of another method

The problem: I have a class which contains a template method execute which calls another method _execute. Subclasses are supposed to overwrite _execute to implement some specific functionality. This functionality should be documented in the docstring of _execute. Advanced users can create their own subclasses to extend the library. However, another user dealing with such a subclass should only use execute, so he won't see the correct docstring if he uses help(execute).

Therefore it would be nice to modify the base class in such a way that in a subclass the docstring of execute is automatically replaced with that of _execute. Any ideas how this might be done?

I was thinking of metaclasses to do this, to make this completely transparent to the user.

Asked by: Julia303 | Posted: 01-10-2021

Answer 1

Well, if you don't mind copying the original method in the subclass, you can use the following technique.

import new

def copyfunc(func):
    return new.function(func.func_code, func.func_globals, func.func_name,
                        func.func_defaults, func.func_closure)

class Metaclass(type):
    def __new__(meta, name, bases, attrs):
        for key in attrs.keys():
            if key[0] == '_':
                skey = key[1:]
                for base in bases:
                    original = getattr(base, skey, None)
                    if original is not None:
                        copy = copyfunc(original)
                        copy.__doc__ = attrs[key].__doc__
                        attrs[skey] = copy
        return type.__new__(meta, name, bases, attrs)

class Class(object):
    __metaclass__ = Metaclass
    def execute(self):
        '''original doc-string'''
        return self._execute()

class Subclass(Class):
    def _execute(self):
        '''sub-class doc-string'''

Answered by: Cadie529 | Posted: 02-11-2021

Answer 2

Is there a reason you can't override the base class's execute function directly?

class Base(object):
    def execute(self):

class Derived(Base):
    def execute(self):
        """Docstring for derived class"""
        ...stuff specific to Derived...

If you don't want to do the above:

Method objects don't support writing to the __doc__ attribute, so you have to change __doc__ in the actual function object. Since you don't want to override the one in the base class, you'd have to give each subclass its own copy of execute:

class Derived(Base):
    def execute(self):
        return Base.execute(self)

    class _execute(self):
        """Docstring for subclass"""

    execute.__doc__= _execute.__doc__

but this is similar to a roundabout way of redefining execute...

Answered by: Lydia826 | Posted: 02-11-2021

Answer 3

Look at the functools.wraps() decorator; it does all of this, but I don't know offhand if you can get it to run in the right context

Answered by: Carina204 | Posted: 02-11-2021

Answer 4

Well the doc-string is stored in __doc__ so it wouldn't be too hard to re-assign it based on the doc-string of _execute after the fact.


class MyClass(object):
    def execute(self):
        '''original doc-string'''

class SubClass(MyClass):
    def _execute(self):
        '''sub-class doc-string'''

    # re-assign doc-string of execute
    def execute(self,*args,**kw):
        return MyClass.execute(*args,**kw)

Execute has to be re-declared to that the doc string gets attached to the version of execute for the SubClass and not for MyClass (which would otherwise interfere with other sub-classes).

That's not a very tidy way of doing it, but from the POV of the user of a library it should give the desired result. You could then wrap this up in a meta-class to make it easier for people who are sub-classing.

Answered by: Adrian666 | Posted: 02-11-2021

Answer 5

I agree that the simplest, most Pythonic way of approaching this is to simply redefine execute in your subclasses and have it call the execute method of the base class:

class Sub(Base):
    def execute(self):
        """New docstring goes here"""
        return Base.execute(self)

This is very little code to accomplish what you want; the only downside is that you must repeat this code in every subclass that extends Base. However, this is a small price to pay for the behavior you want.

If you want a sloppy and verbose way of making sure that the docstring for execute is dynamically generated, you can use the descriptor protocol, which would be significantly less code than the other proposals here. This is annoying because you can't just set a descriptor on an existing function, which means that execute must be written as a separate class with a __call__ method.

Here's the code to do this, but keep in mind that my above example is much simpler and more Pythonic:

class Executor(object):
    __doc__ = property(lambda self: self.inst._execute.__doc__)

    def __call__(self):
        return self.inst._execute()

class Base(object):
    execute = Executor()

class Sub(Base):
    def __init__(self):
        self.execute.inst = self

    def _execute(self):
        """Actually does something!"""
        return "Hello World!"

spam = Sub()
print spam.execute.__doc__  # prints "Actually does something!"
help(spam)                  # the execute method says "Actually does something!"

Answered by: Michelle372 | Posted: 02-11-2021

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