By Vasudev Ram
The topic of method chaining came up during a training program I was conducting. So I thought of writing a post about it, with a couple of examples.
Method chaining is a technique (in object-oriented languages) for making multiple method calls on the same object, without using the object reference more than once. Example:
Let's say we have a class Foo that contains two methods, bar and baz.
We create an instance of the class Foo:
foo = Foo()Without method chaining, to call both bar and baz in turn, on the object foo, we would do this:
# Fragment 1 foo.bar() # Call method bar() on object foo. foo.baz() # Call method baz() on object foo.# With method chaining, we can this:
# Fragment 2 Chain calls to methods bar() and baz() on object foo. foo.bar().baz()So you can loosely think of method chaining as the object-oriented version of nested function calls in procedural programming, where, instead of this:
# Fragment 3 temp1 = foo(args) result = bar(temp)you would do this:
# Fragment 4 result = bar(foo(args))We use nested function calls all the time in procedural programming, and even in the procedural sections of code that occur in a Python program that uses OOP. We can do the latter because Python supports both styles (procedural and object-oriented) at the same time, even in the same program; Guido be thanked for that :)
The above was my informal description of method chaining. For more details, refer to this Wikipedia article, which includes examples in various programming languages. The article also makes a distinction between method chaining and method cascading, and according to it, what I call method chaining here (involving returning the self reference) is really method cascading. Are you confused enough? :) Kidding, the difference is not really complex.
One advantage of method chaining is that it reduces the number of times you have to use the name of the object: only once in Fragment 2 above, vs. twice in Fragment 1; and this difference will increase when there are more method calls on the same object. Thereby, it also slightly reduces the amount of code one has to read, understand, test, debug and maintain, overall. Not major benefits, but can be useful.
Note: One limitation of method chaining is that it can only be used on methods which do not need to return any other meaningful value, such as a count of lines modified, words found, records deleted, etc. (which some methods need to do), because you need to return the self object. Even the fact that Python (and some other languages) support returning multiple values from a return statement, may not solve this. (There could be some workaround for this, but it might look awkward, is my guess.)
Simple method chaining can be implemented easily in Python.
Here is one way of doing it:
# foo_bar_baz.py # Demonstrates method chaining. class Foo(object): def bar(self): print "Method Foo.bar called" return self def baz(self): print "Method Foo.baz called" return self foo = Foo() # Saving return value in foo2 not needed; # doing to use with id function below. foo2 = foo.bar().baz() print # We can also do it like this, if we don't want # to save the object foo for later use: Foo().bar().baz() print # Show that the original foo's id and the returned foo2's id # are the same, i.e. they are the same object: print " id(foo):", id(foo) print "id(foo2):", id(foo2)Here is the output of running the above program:
$ python foo_bar_baz.py Method Foo.bar called Method Foo.baz called Method Foo.bar called Method Foo.baz called id(foo): 34478576 id(foo2): 34478576While writing this post, I also searched for more information, and found a couple of interesting links on method chaining:
Stack Overflow question on method chaining in Python, with some other approaches.
ActiveState Code Python recipe on method chaining
I also wrote another small program, string_processor.py, which shows a somewhat more realistic situation in which one might want to use method chaining:
''' Program: string_processor.py Demo of method chaining in Python. By: Vasudev Ram - http://jugad2.blogspot.in/p/about-vasudev-ram.html Copyright 2016 Vasudev Ram ''' import copy class StringProcessor(object): ''' A class to process strings in various ways. ''' def __init__(self, st): '''Pass a string for st''' self._st = st def lowercase(self): '''Make lowercase''' self._st = self._st.lower() return self def uppercase(self): '''Make uppercase''' self._st = self._st.upper() return self def capitalize(self): '''Make first char capital (if letter); make other letters lower''' self._st = self._st.capitalize() return self def delspace(self): '''Delete spaces''' self._st = self._st.replace(' ', '') return self def rep(self): '''Like Python's repr''' return self._st def dup(self): '''Duplicate the object''' return copy.deepcopy(self) def process_string(s): print sp = StringProcessor(s) print 'Original:', sp.rep() print 'After uppercase:', sp.dup().uppercase().rep() print 'After lowercase:', sp.dup().lowercase().rep() print 'After uppercase then capitalize:', sp.dup().uppercase().\ capitalize().rep() print 'After delspace:', sp.dup().delspace().rep() def main(): print "Demo of method chaining in Python:" # Use extra spaces between words to show effect of delspace. process_string('hOWz It GoInG?') process_string('The QUIck brOWn fOx') main()Does adding the rep() and dup() make it more methodical? :)
Here is the output of running it:
$ python string_processor.py Demo of method chaining in Python: Original: hOWz It GoInG? After uppercase: HOWZ IT GOING? After lowercase: howz it going? After uppercase then capitalize: Howz it going? After delspace: hOWzItGoInG? Original: The QUIck brOWn fOx After uppercase: THE QUICK BROWN FOX After lowercase: the quick brown fox After uppercase then capitalize: The quick brown fox After delspace: TheQUIckbrOWnfOxSo, to sum up, we can see that method chaining has its uses, though overdoing it is probably not a good idea.
Finally, and related, via the Stack Overflow article linked above, I came across this post about Collection Pipelines on Martin Fowler's site.
Reading that article made me realize that nested function calls, method chaining and Unix command pipelines are all related concepts. You may also find these other posts by me of interest:
fmap(), "inverse" of Python map() function
Generate PDF from a Python-controlled Unix pipeline
- Vasudev Ram - Online Python training and programming Signup to hear about new products and services I create. Posts about Python Posts about xtopdf My ActiveState recipes