In python, how do I cast a class object to a dict

private variables | StackOverflow

Let"s say I"ve got a simple class in python

class Wharrgarbl(object):
    def __init__(self, a, b, c, sum, version="old"):
        self.a = a
        self.b = b
        self.c = c
        self.sum = 6
        self.version = version

    def __int__(self):
        return self.sum + 9000

    def __what_goes_here__(self):
        return {"a": self.a, "b": self.b, "c": self.c}

I can cast it to an integer very easily

>>> w = Wharrgarbl("one", "two", "three", 6)
>>> int(w)

Which is great! But, now I want to cast it to a dict in a similar fashion

>>> w = Wharrgarbl("one", "two", "three", 6)
>>> dict(w)
{"a": "one", "c": "three", "b": "two"}

What do I need to define for this to work? I tried substituting both __dict__ and dict for __what_goes_here__, but dict(w) resulted in a TypeError: Wharrgarbl object is not iterable in both cases. I don"t think simply making the class iterable will solve the problem. I also attempted many googles with as many different wordings of "python cast object to dict" as I could think of but couldn"t find anything relevant :{

Also! Notice how calling w.__dict__ won"t do what I want because it"s going to contain w.version and w.sum. I want to customize the cast to dict in the same way that I can customize the cast to int by using def int(self).

I know that I could just do something like this

>>> w.__what_goes_here__()
{"a": "one", "c": "three", "b": "two"}

But I am assuming there is a pythonic way to make dict(w) work since it is the same type of thing as int(w) or str(w). If there isn"t a more pythonic way, that"s fine too, just figured I"d ask. Oh! I guess since it matters, this is for python 2.7, but super bonus points for a 2.4 old and busted solution as well.

There is another question Overloading __dict__() on python class that is similar to this one but may be different enough to warrant this not being a duplicate. I believe that OP is asking how to cast all the data in his class objects as dictionaries. I"m looking for a more customized approach in that I don"t want everything in __dict__ included in the dictionary returned by dict(). Something like public vs private variables may suffice to explain what I"m looking for. The objects will be storing some values used in calculations and such that I don"t need/want to show up in the resulting dictionaries.

UPDATE: I"ve chosen to go with the asdict route suggested but it was a tough choice selecting what I wanted to be the answer to the question. Both @RickTeachey and @jpmc26 provided the answer I"m going to roll with but the former had more info and options and landed on the same result as well and was upvoted more so I went with it. Upvotes all around though and thanks for the help. I"ve lurked long and hard on stackoverflow and I"m trying to get my toes in the water more.

Answer rating: 152

There are at least five six ways. The preferred way depends on what your use case is.

Option 1:

Simply add an asdict() method.

Based on the problem description I would very much consider the asdict way of doing things suggested by other answers. This is because it does not appear that your object is really much of a collection:

class Wharrgarbl(object):


    def asdict(self):
        return {"a": self.a, "b": self.b, "c": self.c}

Using the other options below could be confusing for others unless it is very obvious exactly which object members would and would not be iterated or specified as key-value pairs.

Option 1a:

Inherit your class from "typing.NamedTuple" (or the mostly equivalent "collections.namedtuple"), and use the _asdict method provided for you.

from typing import NamedTuple

class Wharrgarbl(NamedTuple):
    a: str
    b: str
    c: str
    sum: int = 6
    version: str = "old"

Using a named tuple is a very convenient way to add lots of functionality to your class with a minimum of effort, including an _asdict method. However, a limitation is that, as shown above, the NT will include all the members in its _asdict.

If there are members you don"t want to include in your dictionary, you"ll need to modify the _asdict result:

from typing import NamedTuple

class Wharrgarbl(NamedTuple):
    a: str
    b: str
    c: str
    sum: int = 6
    version: str = "old"

    def _asdict(self):
        d = super()._asdict()
        del d["sum"]
        del d["version"]
        return d

Another limitation is that NT is read-only. This may or may not be desirable.

Option 2:

Implement __iter__.

Like this, for example:

def __iter__(self):
    yield "a", self.a
    yield "b", self.b
    yield "c", self.c

Now you can just do:


This works because the dict() constructor accepts an iterable of (key, value) pairs to construct a dictionary. Before doing this, ask yourself the question whether iterating the object as a series of key,value pairs in this manner- while convenient for creating a dict- might actually be surprising behavior in other contexts. E.g., ask yourself the question "what should the behavior of list(my_object) be...?"

Additionally, note that accessing values directly using the get item obj["a"] syntax will not work, and keyword argument unpacking won"t work. For those, you"d need to implement the mapping protocol.

Option 3:

Implement the mapping protocol. This allows access-by-key behavior, casting to a dict without using __iter__, and also provides unpacking behavior ({**my_obj}) and keyword unpacking behavior if all the keys are strings (dict(**my_obj)).

The mapping protocol requires that you provide (at minimum) two methods together: keys() and __getitem__.

class MyKwargUnpackable:
    def keys(self):
        return list("abc")
    def __getitem__(self, key):
        return dict(zip("abc", "one two three".split()))[key]

Now you can do things like:

>>> m=MyKwargUnpackable()
>>> m["a"]
>>> dict(m)  # cast to dict directly
{"a": "one", "b": "two", "c": "three"}
>>> dict(**m)  # unpack as kwargs
{"a": "one", "b": "two", "c": "three"}

As mentioned above, if you are using a new enough version of python you can also unpack your mapping-protocol object into a dictionary comprehension like so (and in this case it is not required that your keys be strings):

>>> {**m}
{"a": "one", "b": "two", "c": "three"}

Note that the mapping protocol takes precedence over the __iter__ method when casting an object to a dict directly (without using kwarg unpacking, i.e. dict(m)). So it is possible- and sometimes convenient- to cause the object to have different behavior when used as an iterable (e.g., list(m)) vs. when cast to a dict (dict(m)).

EMPHASIZED: Just because you CAN use the mapping protocol, does NOT mean that you SHOULD do so. Does it actually make sense for your object to be passed around as a set of key-value pairs, or as keyword arguments and values? Does accessing it by key- just like a dictionary- really make sense?

If the answer to these questions is yes, it"s probably a good idea to consider the next option.

Option 4:

Look into using the "" module.

Inheriting your class from " or " signals to other users that, for all intents and purposes, your class is a mapping * and can be expected to behave that way.

You can still cast your object to a dict just as you require, but there would probably be little reason to do so. Because of duck typing, bothering to cast your mapping object to a dict would just be an additional unnecessary step the majority of the time.

This answer might also be helpful.

As noted in the comments below: it"s worth mentioning that doing this the abc way essentially turns your object class into a dict-like class (assuming you use MutableMapping and not the read-only Mapping base class). Everything you would be able to do with dict, you could do with your own class object. This may be, or may not be, desirable.

Also consider looking at the numerical abcs in the numbers module:

Since you"re also casting your object to an int, it might make more sense to essentially turn your class into a full fledged int so that casting isn"t necessary.

Option 5:

Look into using the dataclasses module (Python 3.7 only), which includes a convenient asdict() utility method.

from dataclasses import dataclass, asdict, field, InitVar

class Wharrgarbl(object):
    a: int
    b: int
    c: int
    sum: InitVar[int]  # note: InitVar will exclude this from the dict
    version: InitVar[str] = "old"

    def __post_init__(self, sum, version):
        self.sum = 6  # this looks like an OP mistake?
        self.version = str(version)

Now you can do this:

    >>> asdict(Wharrgarbl(1,2,3,4,"X"))
    {"a": 1, "b": 2, "c": 3}

Option 6:

Use typing.TypedDict, which has been added in python 3.8.

NOTE: option 6 is likely NOT what the OP, or other readers based on the title of this question, are looking for. See additional comments below.

class Wharrgarbl(TypedDict):
    a: str
    b: str
    c: str

Using this option, the resulting object is a dict (emphasis: it is not a Wharrgarbl). There is no reason at all to "cast" it to a dict (unless you are making a copy).

And since the object is a dict, the initialization signature is identical to that of dict and as such it only accepts keyword arguments or another dictionary.

    >>> w = Wharrgarbl(a=1,b=2,b=3)
    >>> w
    {"a": 1, "b": 2, "c": 3}
    >>> type(w)
    <class "dict">

Emphasized: the above "class" Wharrgarbl isn"t actually a new class at all. It is simply syntactic sugar for creating typed dict objects with fields of different types for the type checker.

As such this option can be pretty convenient for signaling to readers of your code (and also to a type checker such as mypy) that such a dict object is expected to have specific keys with specific value types.

But this means you cannot, for example, add other methods, although you can try:

class MyDict(TypedDict):
    def my_fancy_method(self):
        return "world changing result"

...but it won"t work:

>>> MyDict().my_fancy_method()
Traceback (most recent call last):
 File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: "dict" object has no attribute "my_fancy_method"

* "Mapping" has become the standard "name" of the dict-like duck type

In python, how do I cast a class object to a dict: StackOverflow Questions

Answer #1

Private variables in python is more or less a hack: the interpreter intentionally renames the variable.

class A:
    def __init__(self):
        self.__var = 123
    def printVar(self):
        print self.__var

Now, if you try to access __var outside the class definition, it will fail:

>>> x = A()
>>> x.__var # this will return error: "A has no attribute __var"

>>> x.printVar() # this gives back 123

But you can easily get away with this:

>>> x.__dict__ # this will show everything that is contained in object x
               # which in this case is something like {"_A__var" : 123}

>>> x._A__var = 456 # you now know the masked name of private variables
>>> x.printVar() # this gives back 456

You probably know that methods in OOP are invoked like this: x.printVar() => A.printVar(x), if A.printVar() can access some field in x, this field can also be accessed outside A.printVar()...after all, functions are created for reusability, there is no special power given to the statements inside.

The game is different when there is a compiler involved (privacy is a compiler level concept). It know about class definition with access control modifiers so it can error out if the rules are not being followed at compile time

Answer #2

It"s cultural. In Python, you don"t write to other classes" instance or class variables. In Java, nothing prevents you from doing the same if you really want to - after all, you can always edit the source of the class itself to achieve the same effect. Python drops that pretence of security and encourages programmers to be responsible. In practice, this works very nicely.

If you want to emulate private variables for some reason, you can always use the __ prefix from PEP 8. Python mangles the names of variables like __foo so that they"re not easily visible to code outside the class that contains them (although you can get around it if you"re determined enough, just like you can get around Java"s protections if you work at it).

By the same convention, the _ prefix means stay away even if you"re not technically prevented from doing so. You don"t play around with another class"s variables that look like __foo or _bar.

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