python – Understanding __getitem__ method

python – Understanding __getitem__ method

Cong Ma does a good job of explaining what __getitem__ is used for – but I want to give you an example which might be useful.
Imagine a class which models a building. Within the data for the building it includes a number of attributes, including descriptions of the companies that occupy each floor :

Without using __getitem__ we would have a class like this :

class Building(object):
     def __init__(self, floors):
         self._floors = [None]*floors
     def occupy(self, floor_number, data):
          self._floors[floor_number] = data
     def get_floor_data(self, floor_number):
          return self._floors[floor_number]

building1 = Building(4) # Construct a building with 4 floors
building1.occupy(0, Reception)
building1.occupy(1, ABC Corp)
building1.occupy(2, DEF Inc)
print( building1.get_floor_data(2) )

We could however use __getitem__ (and its counterpart __setitem__) to make the usage of the Building class nicer.

class Building(object):
     def __init__(self, floors):
         self._floors = [None]*floors
     def __setitem__(self, floor_number, data):
          self._floors[floor_number] = data
     def __getitem__(self, floor_number):
          return self._floors[floor_number]

building1 = Building(4) # Construct a building with 4 floors
building1[0] = Reception
building1[1] = ABC Corp
building1[2] = DEF Inc
print( building1[2] )

Whether you use __setitem__ like this really depends on how you plan to abstract your data – in this case we have decided to treat a building as a container of floors (and you could also implement an iterator for the Building, and maybe even the ability to slice – i.e. get more than one floors data at a time – it depends on what you need.

The [] syntax for getting item by key or index is just syntax sugar.

When you evaluate a[i] Python calls a.__getitem__(i) (or type(a).__getitem__(a, i), but this distinction is about inheritance models and is not important here). Even if the class of a may not explicitly define this method, it is usually inherited from an ancestor class.

All the (Python 2.7) special method names and their semantics are listed here: https://docs.python.org/2.7/reference/datamodel.html#special-method-names

python – Understanding __getitem__ method

The magic method __getitem__ is basically used for accessing list items, dictionary entries, array elements etc. It is very useful for a quick lookup of instance attributes.

Here I am showing this with an example class Person that can be instantiated by name, age, and dob (date of birth). The __getitem__ method is written in a way that one can access the indexed instance attributes, such as first or last name, day, month or year of the dob, etc.

import copy

# Constants that can be used to index date of births Date-Month-Year
D = 0; M = 1; Y = -1

class Person(object):
    def __init__(self, name, age, dob):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age
        self.dob = dob

    def __getitem__(self, indx):
        print (Calling __getitem__)
        p = copy.copy(self)

        p.name = p.name.split( )[indx]
        p.dob = p.dob[indx] # or, p.dob = p.dob.__getitem__(indx)
        return p

Suppose one user input is as follows:

p = Person(name = Jonab Gutu, age = 20, dob=(1, 1, 1999))

With the help of __getitem__ method, the user can access the indexed attributes. e.g.,

print p[0].name # print first (or last) name
print p[Y].dob  # print (Date or Month or ) Year of the date of birth

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