Data Representation

“PALO ALTO, Calif. — Intel says its Pentium Pro and new Pentium II chips have a flaw that can cause computers to sometimes make mistakes but said the problems could be fixed easily with rewritten software”

from a Reuters telegram


This chapter describes a number of modules that can be used to convert between Python objects and other data representations. They are often used to read and write foreign file formats, and to store or transfer Python variables.

Binary data

Python provides several support modules that help you decode and encode binary data formats. The struct module can convert between binary data structures (like C structs) and Python tuples. The array module wraps binary arrays of data (C arrays) into a Python sequence object.

Self-describing formats

To pass data between different Python programs, you can marshal or pickle your data.

The marshal module uses a simple self-describing format which supports most built-in data types, including code objects. Python uses this format itself, to store compiled code on disk (in PYC files).

The pickle module provides a more sophisticated format, which supports user-defined classes, self-referencing data structures, and more. This module is available in two versions; the basic pickle module is written in Python, and is relatively slow, while cPickle is written in C, and is usually as fast as marshal.

Output formatting

This group of modules supplement built-in formatting functions like repr, and the % string formatting operator.

The pprint module can print almost any Python data structure in a nice, readable way (well, as readable as it can make things, that is).

The repr module provides a replacement for the built-in function with the same name. The version in this module applies tight limits on most things; it doesn’t print more than 30 characters from each string, it doesn’t print more than a few levels of deeply nested data structures, etc.

Encoded binary data

Python supports most common binary encodings, such as base64, binhex (a macintosh format), quoted printable, and uu encoding.


The array module

The struct module

The xdrlib module

The marshal module

The pickle module

The cPickle module

The copy_reg module

The pprint module

The repr module

The base64 module

The binhex module

The quopri module

The uu module

The binascii module


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