Python Decorators

Primer on Python Decorators

by Geir Arne Hjelle Feb 12, 2024 intermediate python

Watch Now This tutorial has a related video course created by the Real Python team. Watch it together with the written tutorial to deepen your understanding: Python Decorators 101

In this tutorial on Python decorators, you’ll learn what they are and how to create and use them. Decorators provide a simple syntax for calling higher-order functions.

By definition, a decorator is a function that takes another function and extends the behavior of the latter function without explicitly modifying it. This sounds confusing, but it’ll make more sense after you’ve seen a few examples of how decorators work.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn:

  • What it means for functions to be first-class objects
  • How to define functions so they can be used as decorators
  • Which practical use cases can be tackled with decorators
  • How to create decorators so that they follow best practices

You can find all the examples from this tutorial by downloading the accompanying materials below:

Python Functions

In order to understand decorators, you must first understand some finer points of how functions work. There are many aspects to functions, but in the context of decorators, a function returns a value based on the given arguments. Here’s a basic example:

Python
>>> def add_one(number):
...     return number + 1
...

>>> add_one(2)
3

In general, functions in Python may also have side effects rather than just turning an input into an output. The print() function is an example of this: it returns None while having the side effect of outputting something to the console. However, to understand decorators, it’s enough to think about functions as tools that turn given arguments into values.

First-Class Objects

In functional programming, you work almost entirely with pure functions that don’t have side effects. While not a purely functional language, Python supports many functional programming concepts, including treating functions as first-class objects.

This means that functions can be passed around and used as arguments, just like any other object like str, int, float, list, and so on. Consider the following three functions:

Python greeters.py
def say_hello(name):
    return f"Hello {name}"

def be_awesome(name):
    return f"Yo {name}, together we're the awesomest!"

def greet_bob(greeter_func):
    return greeter_func("Bob")

Here, say_hello() and be_awesome() are regular functions that expect a name given as a string. The greet_bob() function, however, expects a function as its argument. You can, for example, pass it the say_hello() or the be_awesome() function.

To test your functions, you can run your code in interactive mode. You do this with the -i flag. For example, if your code is in a file named greeters.py, then you run python -i greeters.py:

Python
>>> greet_bob(say_hello)
'Hello Bob'

>>> greet_bob(be_awesome)
'Yo Bob, together we're the awesomest!'

Note that greet_bob(say_hello) refers to two functions, but in different ways: greet_bob() and say_hello. The say_hello function is named without parentheses. This means that only a reference to the function is passed. The function isn’t executed. The greet_bob() function, on the other hand, is written with parentheses, so it will be called as usual.

This is an important distinction that’s crucial for how functions work as first-class objects. A function name without parentheses is a reference to a function, while a function name with trailing parentheses calls the function and refers to its return value.

Inner Functions

It’s possible to define functions inside other functions. Such functions are called inner functions. Here’s an example of a function with two inner functions:

Python inner_functions.py
def parent():
    print("Printing from parent()")

    def first_child():
        print("Printing from first_child()")

    def second_child():
        print("Printing from second_child()")

    second_child()
    first_child()

What happens when you call the parent() function? Think about this for a minute. Then run inner_functions.py in interactive mode to try it out. The output will be as follows:

Python
>>> parent()
Printing from parent()
Printing from second_child()
Printing from first_child()

Note that the order in which the inner functions are defined does not matter. Like with any other functions, the printing only happens when the inner functions are executed.

Furthermore, the inner functions aren’t defined until the parent function is called. They’re locally scoped to parent(), meaning they only exist inside the parent() function as local variables. Try calling first_child(). You’ll get an error:

Python
>>> first_child()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  ...
NameError: name 'first_child' is not defined

Whenever you call parent(), the inner functions first_child() and second_child() are also called. But because of their local scope, they aren’t available outside of the parent() function.

Functions as Return Values

Python also allows you to return functions from functions. In the following example, you rewrite parent() to return one of the inner functions:

Python inner_functions.py
def parent(num):
    def first_child():
        return "Hi, I'm Elias"

    def second_child():
        return "Call me Ester"

    if num == 1:
        return first_child
    else:
        return second_child

Note that you’re returning first_child without the parentheses. Recall that this means that you’re returning a reference to the function first_child. In contrast, first_child() with parentheses refers to the result of evaluating the function. You can see this in the following example:

Python
>>> first = parent(1)
>>> second = parent(2)

>>> first
<function parent.<locals>.first_child at 0x7f599f1e2e18>

>>> second
<function parent.<locals>.second_child at 0x7f599dad5268>

The somewhat cryptic output means that the first variable refers to the local first_child() function inside of parent(), while second points to second_child().

You can now use first and second as if they’re regular functions, even though you can’t directly access the functions they point to:

Python
>>> first()
'Hi, I'm Elias'

>>> second()
'Call me Ester'

You recognize the return values of the inner functions that you defined inside of parent().

Finally, note that in the earlier example, you executed the inner functions within the parent function—for example, first_child(). However, in this last example, you didn’t add parentheses to the inner functions, such as first_child, upon returning. That way, you got a reference to each function that you could call in the future.

Simple Decorators in Python

Now that you’ve seen that functions are just like any other object in Python, you’re ready to move on and see the magical beast that is the Python decorator. You’ll start with an example:

Python hello_decorator.py
def decorator(func):
    def wrapper():
        print("Something is happening before the function is called.")
        func()
        print("Something is happening after the function is called.")
    return wrapper

def say_whee():
    print("Whee!")

say_whee = decorator(say_whee)

Here, you’ve defined two regular functions, decorator() and say_whee(), and one inner wrapper() function. Then you redefined say_whee() to apply decorator() to the original say_whee().

Can you guess what happens when you call say_whee()? Try it in a REPL. Instead of running the file with the -i flag, you can also import the function manually:

Python
>>> from hello_decorator import say_whee

>>> say_whee()
Something is happening before the function is called.
Whee!
Something is happening after the function is called.

To understand what’s going on here, look back at the earlier examples. You’re applying everything that you’ve learned so far.

The so-called decoration happens at the following line:

Python
say_whee = decorator(say_whee)

In effect, the name say_whee now points to the wrapper() inner function. Remember that you return wrapper as a function when you call decorator(say_whee):

Python
>>> say_whee
<function decorator.<locals>.wrapper at 0x7f3c5dfd42f0>

However, wrapper() has a reference to the original say_whee() as func, and it calls that function between the two calls to print().

Put simply, a decorator wraps a function, modifying its behavior.

Before moving on, have a look at a second example. Because wrapper() is a regular Python function, the way a decorator modifies a function can change dynamically. So as not to disturb your neighbors, the following example will only run the decorated code during the day:

Python quiet_night.py
from datetime import datetime

def not_during_the_night(func):
    def wrapper():
        if 7 <= datetime.now().hour < 22:
            func()
        else:
            pass  # Hush, the neighbors are asleep
    return wrapper

def say_whee():
    print("Whee!")

say_whee = not_during_the_night(say_whee)

If you try to call say_whee() after bedtime, nothing will happen:

Python
>>> from quiet_night import say_whee

>>> say_whee()

Here, say_whee() doesn’t print any output. That’s because the if test failed, so the wrapper didn’t call func(), the original say_whee().

Adding Syntactic Sugar

Look back at the code that you wrote in hello_decorator.py. The way you decorated say_whee() is a little clunky. First of all, you end up typing the name say_whee three times. Additionally, the decoration gets hidden away below the definition of the function.

Instead, Python allows you to use decorators in a simpler way with the @ symbol, sometimes called the pie syntax. The following example does the exact same thing as the first decorator example:

Python hello_decorator.py
def decorator(func):
    def wrapper():
        print("Something is happening before the function is called.")
        func()
        print("Something is happening after the function is called.")
    return wrapper

@decorator
def say_whee():
    print("Whee!")

So, @decorator is just a shorter way of saying say_whee = decorator(say_whee). It’s how you apply a decorator to a function.

Reusing Decorators

Recall that a decorator is just a regular Python function. All the usual tools for reusability are available. Now, you’ll create a module where you store your decorators and that you can use in many other functions.

Create a file called decorators.py with the following content:

Python decorators.py
def do_twice(func):
    def wrapper_do_twice():
        func()
        func()
    return wrapper_do_twice

The do_twice() decorator calls the decorated function twice. You’ll soon see the effect of this in several examples.

You can now use this new decorator in other files by doing a regular import:

Python
>>> from decorators import do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... def say_whee():
...     print("Whee!")
...

When you run this example, you should see that the original say_whee() is executed twice:

Python
>>> say_whee()
Whee!
Whee!

There are two Whee! exclamations printed, confirming that @do_twice does what it says on the tin.

Decorating Functions With Arguments

Say that you have a function that accepts some arguments. Can you still decorate it? Give it a try:

Python
>>> from decorators import do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

You now apply @do_twice to greet(), which expects a name. Unfortunately, calling this function raises an error:

Python
>>> greet(name="World")
Traceback (most recent call last):
  ...
TypeError: wrapper_do_twice() takes 0 positional arguments but 1 was given

The problem is that the inner function wrapper_do_twice() doesn’t take any arguments, but you passed name="World" to it. You could fix this by letting wrapper_do_twice() accept one argument, but then it wouldn’t work for the say_whee() function that you created earlier.

The solution is to use *args and **kwargs in the inner wrapper function. Then it’ll accept an arbitrary number of positional and keyword arguments. Rewrite decorators.py as follows:

Python decorators.py
def do_twice(func):
    def wrapper_do_twice(*args, **kwargs):
        func(*args, **kwargs)
        func(*args, **kwargs)
    return wrapper_do_twice

The wrapper_do_twice() inner function now accepts any number of arguments and passes them on to the function that it decorates. Now both your say_whee() and greet() examples work. Start a fresh REPL:

Python
>>> from decorators import do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... def say_whee():
...     print("Whee!")
...

>>> say_whee()
Whee!
Whee!

>>> @do_twice
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

>>> greet("World")
Hello World
Hello World

You use the same decorator, @do_twice, to decorate two different functions. This hints at one of the powers of decorators. They add behavior that can apply to many different functions.

Returning Values From Decorated Functions

What happens to the return value of decorated functions? Well, that’s up to the decorator to decide. Say you decorate a simple function as follows:

Python
>>> from decorators import do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... def return_greeting(name):
...     print("Creating greeting")
...     return f"Hi {name}"
...

Try to use it:

Python
>>> hi_adam = return_greeting("Adam")
Creating greeting
Creating greeting

>>> print(hi_adam)
None

Oops, your decorator ate the return value from the function.

Because the do_twice_wrapper() doesn’t explicitly return a value, the call return_greeting("Adam") ends up returning None.

To fix this, you need to make sure the wrapper function returns the return value of the decorated function. Change your decorators.py file:

Python decorators.py
def do_twice(func):
    def wrapper_do_twice(*args, **kwargs):
        func(*args, **kwargs)
        return func(*args, **kwargs)
    return wrapper_do_twice

Now you return the return value of the last call of the decorated function. Check out the example again:

Python
>>> from decorators import do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... def return_greeting(name):
...     print("Creating greeting")
...     return f"Hi {name}"
...

>>> return_greeting("Adam")
Creating greeting
Creating greeting
'Hi Adam'

This time, return_greeting() returns the greeting 'Hi Adam'.

Finding Yourself

A great convenience when working with Python, especially in the interactive shell, is its powerful introspection ability. Introspection is the ability of an object to know about its own attributes at runtime. For instance, a function knows its own name and documentation:

Python
>>> print
<built-in function print>

>>> print.__name__
'print'

>>> help(print)
Help on built-in function print in module builtins:

print(...)
    <full help message>

When you inspect print(), you can see its name and documentation. The introspection works for functions that you define yourself as well:

Python
>>> say_whee
<function do_twice.<locals>.wrapper_do_twice at 0x7f43700e52f0>

>>> say_whee.__name__
'wrapper_do_twice'

>>> help(say_whee)
Help on function wrapper_do_twice in module decorators:

wrapper_do_twice()

However, after being decorated, say_whee() has gotten very confused about its identity. It now reports being the wrapper_do_twice() inner function inside the do_twice() decorator. Although technically true, this isn’t very useful information.

To fix this, decorators should use the @functools.wraps decorator, which will preserve information about the original function. Update decorators.py again:

Python decorators.py
import functools

def do_twice(func):
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_do_twice(*args, **kwargs):
        func(*args, **kwargs)
        return func(*args, **kwargs)
    return wrapper_do_twice

You don’t need to change anything about the decorated say_whee() function, but you need to restart your REPL to see the effect:

Python
>>> from decorators import do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... def say_whee():
...     print("Whee!")
...

>>> say_whee
<function say_whee at 0x7ff79a60f2f0>

>>> say_whee.__name__
'say_whee'

>>> help(say_whee)
Help on function say_whee in module whee:

say_whee()

Much better! Now say_whee() is still itself after decoration.

You’ve now learned the basics of how to create a decorator. However, @do_twice isn’t a very exciting decorator, and there aren’t a lot of use cases for it. In the next section, you’ll implement several decorators that illustrate what you know so far and that you can use in your own code.

A Few Real World Examples

You’ll now look at a few more useful examples of decorators. You’ll notice that they’ll mainly follow the same pattern that you’ve learned so far:

Python
import functools

def decorator(func):
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_decorator(*args, **kwargs):
        # Do something before
        value = func(*args, **kwargs)
        # Do something after
        return value
    return wrapper_decorator

This formula is a good boilerplate template for building more complex decorators.

You’ll continue to store your decorators in decorators.py. Recall that you can download all the examples in this tutorial:

Timing Functions

You’ll start by creating a @timer decorator. It’ll measure the time a function takes to execute and then print the duration to the console. Here’s the code:

Python decorators.py
 1import functools
 2import time
 3
 4# ...
 5
 6def timer(func):
 7    """Print the runtime of the decorated function"""
 8    @functools.wraps(func)
 9    def wrapper_timer(*args, **kwargs):
10        start_time = time.perf_counter()
11        value = func(*args, **kwargs)
12        end_time = time.perf_counter()
13        run_time = end_time - start_time
14        print(f"Finished {func.__name__}() in {run_time:.4f} secs")
15        return value
16    return wrapper_timer

This decorator works by storing the time just before the function starts running in line 10 and just after the function finishes in line 12. The runtime of the function is then the difference between the two, calculated in line 13. You use time.perf_counter(), which does a good job of measuring time intervals.

Now, add waste_some_time() as an example of a function that spends some time, so that you can test @timer. Here are some examples of timings:

Python
>>> from decorators import timer

>>> @timer
... def waste_some_time(num_times):
...     for _ in range(num_times):
...         sum([number**2 for number in range(10_000)])
...

>>> waste_some_time(1)
Finished waste_some_time() in 0.0010 secs

>>> waste_some_time(999)
Finished waste_some_time() in 0.3260 secs

Run it yourself. Work through the definition of @timer line by line. Make sure you understand how it works. Don’t worry if you don’t get everything, though. Decorators are advanced beings. Try to sleep on it or make a drawing of the program flow.

If you’re interested in learning more about timing functions, then have a look at Python Timer Functions: Three Ways to Monitor Your Code.

Debugging Code

The following @debug decorator will print a function’s arguments and its return value every time you call the function:

Python decorators.py
 1import functools
 2
 3# ...
 4
 5def debug(func):
 6    """Print the function signature and return value"""
 7    @functools.wraps(func)
 8    def wrapper_debug(*args, **kwargs):
 9        args_repr = [repr(a) for a in args]
10        kwargs_repr = [f"{k}={repr(v)}" for k, v in kwargs.items()]
11        signature = ", ".join(args_repr + kwargs_repr)
12        print(f"Calling {func.__name__}({signature})")
13        value = func(*args, **kwargs)
14        print(f"{func.__name__}() returned {repr(value)}")
15        return value
16    return wrapper_debug

The signature is created by joining the string representations of all the argument:

  • Line 9: You create a list of the positional arguments. Use repr() to get a nice string representing each argument.
  • Line 10: You create a list of the keyword arguments. The f-string formats each argument as key=value, and again, you use repr() to represent the value.
  • Line 11: You join together the lists of positional and keyword arguments to one signature string with each argument separated by a comma.
  • Line 14: You print the return value after the function is executed.

It’s time to see how the decorator works in practice by applying it to a simple function with one positional and one keyword argument:

Python
>>> from decorators import debug

>>> @debug
... def make_greeting(name, age=None):
...     if age is None:
...         return f"Howdy {name}!"
...     else:
...         return f"Whoa {name}! {age} already, you're growing up!"
...

Note how the @debug decorator prints the signature and return value of the make_greeting() function:

Python
>>> make_greeting("Benjamin")
Calling make_greeting('Benjamin')
make_greeting() returned 'Howdy Benjamin!'
'Howdy Benjamin!'

>>> make_greeting("Juan", age=114)
Calling make_greeting('Juan', age=114)
make_greeting() returned 'Whoa Juan! 114 already, you're growing up!'
'Whoa Juan! 114 already, you're growing up!'

>>> make_greeting(name="Maria", age=116)
Calling make_greeting(name='Maria', age=116)
make_greeting() returned 'Whoa Maria! 116 already, you're growing up!'
'Whoa Maria! 116 already, you're growing up!'

This example might not seem immediately useful since the @debug decorator just repeats what you wrote. It’s more powerful when applied to small convenience functions that you don’t call directly yourself.

The following example calculates an approximation of the mathematical constant e:

Python calculate_e.py
 1import math
 2from decorators import debug
 3
 4math.factorial = debug(math.factorial)
 5
 6def approximate_e(terms=18):
 7    return sum(1 / math.factorial(n) for n in range(terms))

Here, you also apply a decorator to a function that has already been defined. In line 4, you decorate factorial() from the math standard library. You can’t use the pie syntax, but you can still manually apply the decorator. The approximation of e is based on the following series expansion:

Series for calculating mathematical constant e

When calling the approximate_e() function, you can see the @debug decorator at work:

Python
>>> from calculate_e import approximate_e

>>> approximate_e(terms=5)
Calling factorial(0)
factorial() returned 1
Calling factorial(1)
factorial() returned 1
Calling factorial(2)
factorial() returned 2
Calling factorial(3)
factorial() returned 6
Calling factorial(4)
factorial() returned 24
2.708333333333333

In this example, you get a decent approximation of the true value e ≈ 2.718281828, adding only five terms.

Slowing Down Code

In this section, you’ll create a decorator that slows down your code. This might not seem very useful. Why would you want to slow down your Python code?

Probably the most common use case is that you want to rate-limit a function that continuously checks whether a resource—like a web page—has changed. The @slow_down decorator will sleep one second before it calls the decorated function:

Python decorators.py
import functools
import time

# ...

def slow_down(func):
    """Sleep 1 second before calling the function"""
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_slow_down(*args, **kwargs):
        time.sleep(1)
        return func(*args, **kwargs)
    return wrapper_slow_down

In @slow_down, you call time.sleep() to have your code take a pause before calling the decorated function. To see how the @slow_down decorator works, you create a countdown() function. To see the effect of slowing down the code, you should run the example yourself:

Python
>>> from decorators import slow_down

>>> @slow_down
... def countdown(from_number):
...     if from_number < 1:
...         print("Liftoff!")
...     else:
...         print(from_number)
...         countdown(from_number - 1)
...

>>> countdown(3)
3
2
1
Liftoff!

In countdown(), you check if from_number is smaller than one. In that case, you print Liftoff!. If not, then you print the number and keep counting.

The @slow_down decorator always sleeps for one second. Later, you’ll see how to control the rate by passing an argument to the decorator.

Registering Plugins

Decorators don’t have to wrap the function that they’re decorating. They can also simply register that a function exists and return it unwrapped. You can use this, for example, to create a lightweight plugin architecture:

Python decorators.py
# ...

PLUGINS = dict()

def register(func):
    """Register a function as a plug-in"""
    PLUGINS[func.__name__] = func
    return func

The @register decorator only stores a reference to the decorated function in the global PLUGINS dictionary. Note that you don’t have to write an inner function or use @functools.wraps in this example because you’re returning the original function unmodified.

You can now register functions as follows:

Python
>>> from decorators import register, PLUGINS

>>> @register
... def say_hello(name):
...     return f"Hello {name}"
...

>>> @register
... def be_awesome(name):
...     return f"Yo {name}, together we're the awesomest!"
...

Note that the PLUGINS dictionary already contains references to each function object that’s registered as a plugin:

Python
>>> PLUGINS
{'say_hello': <function say_hello at 0x7f768eae6730>,
 'be_awesome': <function be_awesome at 0x7f768eae67b8>}

Python applies decorators when you define a function, so say_hello() and be_awesome() are immediately registered. You can then use PLUGINS to call these functions:

Python
>>> import random

>>> def randomly_greet(name):
...     greeter, greeter_func = random.choice(list(PLUGINS.items()))
...     print(f"Using {greeter!r}")
...     return greeter_func(name)
...

>>> randomly_greet("Alice")
Using 'say_hello'
'Hello Alice'

The randomly_greet() function randomly chooses one of the registered functions to use. In the f-string, you use the !r flag. This has the same effect as calling repr(greeter).

The main benefit of this simple plugin architecture is that you don’t need to maintain a list of which plugins exist. That list is created when the plugins register themselves. This makes it trivial to add a new plugin: just define the function and decorate it with @register.

If you’re familiar with globals() in Python, then you might see some similarities to how the plugin architecture works. With globals(), you get access to all global variables in the current scope, including your plugins:

Python
>>> globals()
{..., # Many variables that aren't not shown here.
 'say_hello': <function say_hello at 0x7f768eae6730>,
 'be_awesome': <function be_awesome at 0x7f768eae67b8>,
 'randomly_greet': <function randomly_greet at 0x7f768eae6840>}

Using the @register decorator, you can create your own curated list of interesting names, effectively hand-picking some functions from globals().

Authenticating Users

The final example before moving on to some fancier decorators is commonly used when working with a web framework. In this example, you’ll use Flask to set up a /secret web page that should only be visible to users that are logged in or otherwise authenticated:

Python secret_app.py
import functools
from flask import Flask, g, request, redirect, url_for

app = Flask(__name__)

def login_required(func):
    """Make sure user is logged in before proceeding"""
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_login_required(*args, **kwargs):
        if g.user is None:
            return redirect(url_for("login", next=request.url))
        return func(*args, **kwargs)
    return wrapper_login_required

@app.route("/secret")
@login_required
def secret():
    ...

While this gives an idea about how to add authentication to your web framework, you should usually not write these types of decorators yourself. For Flask, you can use the Flask-Login extension instead, which adds more security and functionality.

Fancy Decorators

So far, you’ve seen how to create simple decorators. You already have a pretty good understanding of what decorators are and how they work. Feel free to take a break from this tutorial to practice everything that you’ve learned.

In the second part of this tutorial, you’ll explore more advanced features, including how to do the following:

  • Add decorators to classes
  • Add several decorators to one function
  • Create decorators with arguments
  • Create decorators that can optionally take arguments
  • Define stateful decorators
  • Define classes that act as decorators

Ready to dive in? Here you go!

Decorating Classes

There are two different ways that you can use decorators on classes. The first one is very close to what you’ve already done with functions: you can decorate the methods of a class. This was one of the motivations for introducing decorators back in the day.

Some commonly used decorators are even built-ins in Python, including @classmethod, @staticmethod, and @property. The @classmethod and @staticmethod decorators are used to define methods inside a class namespace that aren’t connected to a particular instance of that class. The @property decorator is used to customize getters and setters for class attributes. Expand the box below for an example using these decorators:

The following definition of a Circle class uses the @classmethod, @staticmethod, and @property decorators:

Python circle.py
class Circle:
    def __init__(self, radius):
        self.radius = radius

    @property
    def radius(self):
        """Get value of radius"""
        return self._radius

    @radius.setter
    def radius(self, value):
        """Set radius, raise error if negative"""
        if value >= 0:
            self._radius = value
        else:
            raise ValueError("radius must be non-negative")

    @property
    def area(self):
        """Calculate area inside circle"""
        return self.pi() * self.radius**2

    def cylinder_volume(self, height):
        """Calculate volume of cylinder with circle as base"""
        return self.area * height

    @classmethod
    def unit_circle(cls):
        """Factory method creating a circle with radius 1"""
        return cls(1)

    @staticmethod
    def pi():
        """Value of π, could use math.pi instead though"""
        return 3.1415926535

Inside Circle you can see several different kinds of methods. Decorators are used to distinguish them:

  • .cylinder_volume() is a regular method.
  • .radius is a mutable property. It can be set to a different value. However, by defining a setter method, you do some error testing to make sure .radius isn’t set to a nonsensical negative number. Properties are accessed as attributes without parentheses.
  • .area is an immutable property. Properties without .setter() methods can’t be changed. Even though it’s defined as a method, it can be retrieved as an attribute without parentheses.
  • .unit_circle() is a class method. It’s not bound to one particular instance of Circle. Class methods are often used as factory methods that can create specific instances of the class.
  • .pi() is a static method. It’s not really dependent on the Circle class, except that it’s part of its namespace. You can call static methods on either an instance or the class.

You can use Circle as follows:

Python
>>> from circle import Circle

>>> c = Circle(5)
>>> c.radius
5

>>> c.area
78.5398163375

>>> c.radius = 2
>>> c.area
12.566370614

>>> c.area = 100
Traceback (most recent call last):
    ...
AttributeError: can't set attribute

>>> c.cylinder_volume(height=4)
50.265482456

>>> c.radius = -1
Traceback (most recent call last):
    ...
ValueError: radius must be non-negative

>>> c = Circle.unit_circle()
>>> c.radius
1

>>> c.pi()
3.1415926535

>>> Circle.pi()
3.1415926535

In these examples, you explore the different methods, attributes, and properties of Circle.

Next, define a class where you decorate some of its methods using the @debug and @timer decorators from earlier:

Python class_decorators.py
from decorators import debug, timer

class TimeWaster:
    @debug
    def __init__(self, max_num):
        self.max_num = max_num

    @timer
    def waste_time(self, num_times):
        for _ in range(num_times):
            sum([number**2 for number in range(self.max_num)])

Using this class, you can see the effect of the decorators:

Python
>>> from class_decorators import TimeWaster

>>> tw = TimeWaster(1000)
Calling __init__(<time_waster.TimeWaster object at 0x7efccce03908>, 1000)
__init__() returned None

>>> tw.waste_time(999)
Finished waste_time() in 0.3376 secs

When you create a new instance of TimeWaster, Python calls .__init__() under the hood, as your use of @debug reveals. The @timer decorator helps you monitor how much time is spent on .waste_time().

The other way to use decorators on classes is to decorate the whole class. This is, for example, done in the dataclasses module:

Python
>>> from dataclasses import dataclass

>>> @dataclass
... class PlayingCard:
...     rank: str
...     suit: str
...

The meaning of the syntax is similar to the function decorators. In the example above, you could’ve decorated the class by writing PlayingCard = dataclass(PlayingCard).

A common use of class decorators is to be a simpler alternative to some use cases of metaclasses. In both cases, you’re changing the definition of a class dynamically.

Writing a class decorator is very similar to writing a function decorator. The only difference is that the decorator will receive a class and not a function as an argument. In fact, all the decorators that you saw above will work as class decorators. When you’re using them on a class instead of a function, their effect might not be what you want. In the following example, the @timer decorator is applied to a class:

Python class_decorators.py
from decorators import timer

@timer
class TimeWaster:
    def __init__(self, max_num):
        self.max_num = max_num

    def waste_time(self, num_times):
        for _ in range(num_times):
            sum([i**2 for i in range(self.max_num)])

Decorating a class doesn’t decorate its methods. Recall that @timer is just shorthand for TimeWaster = timer(TimeWaster). Here, @timer only measures the time that it takes to instantiate the class:

Python
>>> from class_decorators import TimeWaster

>>> tw = TimeWaster(1000)
Finished TimeWaster() in 0.0000 secs

>>> tw.waste_time(999)

The output from @timer is only shown as tw is created. The call to .waste_time() isn’t timed.

Later, you’ll see an example defining a proper class decorator, namely @singleton, which ensures that there’s only one instance of a class.

Nesting Decorators

You can apply several decorators to a function at once by stacking them on top of each other:

Python
>>> from decorators import debug, do_twice

>>> @debug
... @do_twice
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

Think about this as the decorators being executed in the order they’re listed. In other words, @debug calls @do_twice, which calls greet(), or debug(do_twice(greet())):

Python
>>> greet("Yadi")
Calling greet('Yadi')
Hello Yadi
Hello Yadi
greet() returned None

The greeting is printed twice because of @do_twice. However, the output from @debug is only shown once, since it’s called before the @do_twice decorator. Observe the difference if you change the order of @debug and @do_twice:

Python
>>> from decorators import debug, do_twice

>>> @do_twice
... @debug
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

>>> greet("Yadi")
Calling greet('Yadi')
Hello Yadi
greet() returned None
Calling greet('Yadi')
Hello Yadi
greet() returned None

Here, @do_twice is applied to @debug as well. You can see that both calls to greet() are annotated with debugging information.

Defining Decorators With Arguments

Sometimes, it’s useful to pass arguments to your decorators. For instance, @do_twice could be extended to a @repeat(num_times) decorator. The number of times to execute the decorated function could then be given as an argument.

If you define @repeat, you could do something like this:

Python
>>> from decorators import repeat

>>> @repeat(num_times=4)
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

>>> greet("World")
Hello World
Hello World
Hello World
Hello World

Think about how you’d implement @repeat.

So far, the name written after the @ has referred to a function object that can be called with another function. To be consistent, you then need repeat(num_times=4) to return a function object that can act as a decorator. Luckily, you already know how to return functions! In general, you want something like the following:

Python
def repeat(num_times):
    def decorator_repeat(func):
        ...  # Create and return a wrapper function
    return decorator_repeat

Typically, the decorator creates and returns an inner wrapper function, so writing the example out in full will give you an inner function within an inner function. While this might sound like the programming equivalent of the Inception, you’ll untangle it all in a moment:

Python decorators.py
import functools

# ...

def repeat(num_times):
    def decorator_repeat(func):
        @functools.wraps(func)
        def wrapper_repeat(*args, **kwargs):
            for _ in range(num_times):
                value = func(*args, **kwargs)
            return value
        return wrapper_repeat
    return decorator_repeat

It looks a little messy, but you’ve only put the same decorator pattern that you’ve seen many times by now inside one additional def that handles the arguments to the decorator. First, consider the innermost function:

Python
def wrapper_repeat(*args, **kwargs):
    for _ in range(num_times):
        value = func(*args, **kwargs)
    return value

This wrapper_repeat() function takes arbitrary arguments and returns the value of the decorated function, func(). This wrapper function also contains the loop that calls the decorated function num_times times. This is no different from the earlier wrapper functions that you’ve seen, except that it’s using the num_times parameter that must be supplied from the outside.

One step out, you’ll find the decorator function:

Python
def decorator_repeat(func):
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_repeat(*args, **kwargs):
        ...
    return wrapper_repeat

Again, decorator_repeat() looks exactly like the decorator functions that you’ve written earlier, except that it’s named differently. That’s because you reserve the base name—repeat()—for the outermost function, which is the one the user will call.

As you’ve already seen, the outermost function returns a reference to the decorator function:

Python
def repeat(num_times):
    def decorator_repeat(func):
        ...
    return decorator_repeat

There are a few subtle things happening in the repeat() function:

  • Defining decorator_repeat() as an inner function means that repeat() will refer to a function object, decorator_repeat. Earlier, you used decorators like @do_twice without parentheses. Now, you need to add parentheses when setting up the decorator, as in @repeat(). This is necessary in order to add arguments.
  • The num_times argument is seemingly not used in repeat() itself. But by passing num_times, a closure is created where the value of num_times is stored until wrapper_repeat() uses it later.

With everything set up, test your code to see if the results are as expected:

Python
>>> from decorators import repeat

>>> @repeat(num_times=4)
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

>>> greet("World")
Hello World
Hello World
Hello World
Hello World

That’s just the result that you were aiming for.

Creating Decorators With Optional Arguments

With a little bit of care, you can also define decorators that can be used both with and without arguments. Most likely, you don’t need this, but it is nice to have the flexibility. Like Winnie-the-Pooh says:

Both—but don’t bother about the bread, please. (Source)

As you saw in the previous section, when a decorator uses arguments, you need to add an extra outer function. The challenge now is for your code to figure out if you’ve called the decorator with or without arguments.

Since the function to decorate is only passed in directly if the decorator is called without arguments, the function must be an optional argument. This means that the decorator arguments must all be specified by keyword. You can enforce this with the special asterisk (*) syntax, which means that all the following parameters are keyword-only:

Python
 1def name(_func=None, *, key1=value1, key2=value2, ...):
 2    def decorator_name(func):
 3        ...  # Create and return a wrapper function.
 4
 5    if _func is None:
 6        return decorator_name
 7    else:
 8        return decorator_name(_func)

Here, the _func argument acts as a marker, noting whether the decorator has been called with arguments or not:

  • Line 1: If you’ve called @name without arguments, then the decorated function will be passed in as _func. If you’ve called it with arguments, then _func will be None, and some of the keyword arguments may have been changed from their default values. The asterisk in the argument list means that you can’t call the remaining arguments as positional arguments.
  • Line 6: In this case, you called the decorator with arguments. Return a decorator function that takes a function as an argument and returns a wrapper function.
  • Line 8: In this case, you called the decorator without arguments. Apply the decorator to the function immediately.

Using this boilerplate on the @repeat decorator in the previous section, you can write the following:

Python decorators.py
import functools

# ...

def repeat(_func=None, *, num_times=2):
    def decorator_repeat(func):
        @functools.wraps(func)
        def wrapper_repeat(*args, **kwargs):
            for _ in range(num_times):
                value = func(*args, **kwargs)
            return value
        return wrapper_repeat

    if _func is None:
        return decorator_repeat
    else:
        return decorator_repeat(_func)

Compare this with the original @repeat. The only changes are the added _func parameter and the ifelse block at the end.

Recipe 9.6 of the excellent Python Cookbook shows an alternative solution using functools.partial().

You can now apply @repeat to different functions to test that you can now use it with or without arguments:

Python
>>> from decorators import repeat

>>> @repeat
... def say_whee():
...     print("Whee!")
...

>>> @repeat(num_times=3)
... def greet(name):
...     print(f"Hello {name}")
...

Recall that the default value of num_times is 2, so using @repeat without any arguments is equivalent to using @do_twice:

Python
>>> say_whee()
Whee!
Whee!

>>> greet("Penny")
Hello Penny
Hello Penny
Hello Penny

Here, Whee! is repeated twice since that’s the default behavior of @repeat. As specified by the argument, the greeting is repeated three times.

Tracking State in Decorators

Sometimes, it’s useful to have a decorator that can keep track of state. As an example, you’ll create a decorator that counts the number of times a function is called.

In the next section, you’ll see how to use classes to keep state. But in simple cases, you can also get away with using function attributes:

Python decorators.py
import functools

# ...

def count_calls(func):
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_count_calls(*args, **kwargs):
        wrapper_count_calls.num_calls += 1
        print(f"Call {wrapper_count_calls.num_calls} of {func.__name__}()")
        return func(*args, **kwargs)
    wrapper_count_calls.num_calls = 0
    return wrapper_count_calls

The state—the number of calls to the function—is stored in the function attribute .num_calls on the wrapper function. Here’s the effect of using it:

Python
>>> from decorators import count_calls

>>> @count_calls
... def say_whee():
...     print("Whee!")
...

>>> say_whee()
Call 1 of say_whee()
Whee!

>>> say_whee()
Call 2 of say_whee()
Whee!

>>> say_whee.num_calls
2

You apply @count_calls to your old friend, say_whee(). Each time you call the function, you see that the call count increases. You can also manually query the .num_calls attribute.

Using Classes as Decorators

The typical way to maintain state in Python is by using classes. In this section, you’ll see how to rewrite the @count_calls example from the previous section to use a class as a decorator.

Recall that the decorator syntax @decorator is just a quicker way of saying func = decorator(func). Therefore, if decorator is a class, it needs to take func as an argument in its .__init__() initializer. Furthermore, the class instance needs to be callable so that it can stand in for the decorated function.

For a class instance to be callable, you implement the special .__call__() method:

Python
>>> class Counter:
...     def __init__(self, start=0):
...         self.count = start
...     def __call__(self):
...         self.count += 1
...         print(f"Current count is {self.count}")
...

The .__call__() method is executed each time you try to call an instance of the class:

Python
>>> counter = Counter()
>>> counter()
Current count is 1

>>> counter()
Current count is 2

>>> counter.count
2

Each time you call counter(), the state changes as the count increases. Therefore, a typical implementation of a decorator class should implement .__init__() and .__call__():

Python decorators.py
import functools

# ...

class CountCalls:
    def __init__(self, func):
        functools.update_wrapper(self, func)
        self.func = func
        self.num_calls = 0

    def __call__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        self.num_calls += 1
        print(f"Call {self.num_calls} of {self.func.__name__}()")
        return self.func(*args, **kwargs)

The .__init__() method must store a reference to the function, and it can do any other necessary initialization. The .__call__() method will be called instead of the decorated function. It does essentially the same thing as the wrapper() function in your earlier examples. Note that you need to use the functools.update_wrapper() function instead of @functools.wraps.

This @CountCalls decorator works the same as the one in the previous section:

Python
>>> from decorators import CountCalls

>>> @CountCalls
... def say_whee():
...     print("Whee!")
...

>>> say_whee()
Call 1 of say_whee()
Whee!

>>> say_whee()
Call 2 of say_whee()
Whee!

>>> say_whee.num_calls
2

Each call to say_whee() is counted and noted. In the next section, you’ll look at more examples of decorators.

More Real-World Examples

You’ve come a long way now, having figured out how to create all kinds of decorators. You’ll wrap it up, putting your newfound knowledge to use by creating a few more examples that might be useful in the real world.

Slowing Down Code, Revisited

As noted earlier, your previous implementation of @slow_down always sleeps for one second. Now you know how to add parameters to decorators, so you can rewrite @slow_down using an optional rate argument that controls how long it sleeps:

Python decorators.py
import functools
import time

# ...

def slow_down(_func=None, *, rate=1):
    """Sleep given amount of seconds before calling the function"""
    def decorator_slow_down(func):
        @functools.wraps(func)
        def wrapper_slow_down(*args, **kwargs):
            time.sleep(rate)
            return func(*args, **kwargs)
        return wrapper_slow_down

    if _func is None:
        return decorator_slow_down
    else:
        return decorator_slow_down(_func)

You’re using the boilerplate introduced in the Creating Decorators With Optional Arguments section to make @slow_down callable both with and without arguments. The same recursive countdown() function as earlier now sleeps two seconds between each count:

Python
>>> from decorators import slow_down

>>> @slow_down(rate=2)
... def countdown(from_number):
...     if from_number < 1:
...         print("Liftoff!")
...     else:
...         print(from_number)
...         countdown(from_number - 1)
...

As before, you must run the example yourself to see the effect of the decorator:

Python
>>> countdown(3)
3
2
1
Liftoff!

There’ll be a two second pause between each number in the countdown.

Creating Singletons

A singleton is a class with only one instance. There are several singletons in Python that you use frequently, including None, True, and False. The fact that None is a singleton allows you to compare for None using the is keyword, like you did when creating decorators with optional arguments:

Python
if _func is None:
    return decorator_name
else:
    return decorator_name(_func)

Using is returns True only for objects that are the exact same instance. The following @singleton decorator turns a class into a singleton by storing the first instance of the class as an attribute. Later attempts at creating an instance simply return the stored instance:

Python decorators.py
import functools

# ...

def singleton(cls):
    """Make a class a Singleton class (only one instance)"""
    @functools.wraps(cls)
    def wrapper_singleton(*args, **kwargs):
        if wrapper_singleton.instance is None:
            wrapper_singleton.instance = cls(*args, **kwargs)
        return wrapper_singleton.instance
    wrapper_singleton.instance = None
    return wrapper_singleton

As you see, this class decorator follows the same template as your function decorators. The only difference is that you’re using cls instead of func as the parameter name to indicate that it’s meant to be a class decorator.

Check it out in practice:

Python
>>> from decorators import singleton

>>> @singleton
... class TheOne:
...     pass
...

>>> first_one = TheOne()
>>> another_one = TheOne()

>>> id(first_one)
140094218762310

>>> id(another_one)
140094218762310

>>> first_one is another_one
True

By comparing object IDs and checking with the is keyword, you confirm that first_one is indeed the exact same instance as another_one.

Class decorators are less common than function decorators. You should document these well, so that your users know how to apply them.

Caching Return Values

Decorators can provide a nice mechanism for caching and memoization. As an example, look at a recursive definition of the Fibonacci sequence:

Python
>>> from decorators import count_calls

>>> @count_calls
... def fibonacci(num):
...     if num < 2:
...         return num
...     return fibonacci(num - 1) + fibonacci(num - 2)
...

While this implementation is straightforward, its runtime performance is terrible:

Python
>>> fibonacci(10)
<Lots of output from count_calls>
55

>>> fibonacci.num_calls
177

To calculate the tenth Fibonacci number, you should only need to calculate the preceding Fibonacci numbers, but this implementation somehow needs a whopping 177 calculations. It gets worse quickly: 21,891 calculations are needed for fibonacci(20) and almost 2.7 million calculations for the thirtieth number. This is because the code keeps recalculating Fibonacci numbers that are already known.

The usual solution is to implement Fibonacci numbers using a for loop and a lookup table. However, caching the calculations will also do the trick. First add a @cache decorator to your module:

Python decorators.py
import functools

# ...

def cache(func):
    """Keep a cache of previous function calls"""
    @functools.wraps(func)
    def wrapper_cache(*args, **kwargs):
        cache_key = args + tuple(kwargs.items())
        if cache_key not in wrapper_cache.cache:
            wrapper_cache.cache[cache_key] = func(*args, **kwargs)
        return wrapper_cache.cache[cache_key]
    wrapper_cache.cache = {}
    return wrapper_cache

The cache works as a lookup table, as it stores calculations in a dictionary. You can add it to fibonacci():

Python
>>> from decorators import cache, count_calls

>>> @cache
... @count_calls
... def fibonacci(num):
...     if num < 2:
...         return num
...     return fibonacci(num - 1) + fibonacci(num - 2)
...

You still use @count_calls to monitor the performance of your calculations. With the cache, fibonacci() only does the necessary calculations once:

Python
>>> fibonacci(10)
Call 1 of fibonacci()
...
Call 11 of fibonacci()
55

>>> fibonacci(8)
21

Note that in the call to fibonacci(8), no new calculations were needed since the eighth Fibonacci number had already been calculated for fibonacci(10).

In the standard library, a Least Recently Used (LRU) cache is available as @functools.lru_cache. Additionally, you can use a regular cache with @functools.cache.

These decorators have more features than the one you saw above. You should use @functools.lru_cache or @functools.cache instead of writing your own cache decorator.

In the next example, you don’t return the result immediately. Instead, you add a call to print() to see when a result is calculated and not just retrieved from the cache:

Python
>>> import functools

>>> @functools.lru_cache(maxsize=4)
... def fibonacci(num):
...     if num < 2:
...         value = num
...     else:
...         value = fibonacci(num - 1) + fibonacci(num - 2)
...     print(f"Calculated fibonacci({num}) = {value}")
...     return value
...

The maxsize parameter specifies how many recent calls are cached. The default value is 128, but you can specify maxsize=None to cache all function calls. Using @functools.cache has the same effect as maxsize=None. However, be aware that this can cause memory problems if you’re caching many large objects.

You can use the .cache_info() method to see how the cache performs, and you can tune it if needed. In your example, you used an artificially small maxsize to see the effect of elements being removed from the cache:

Python
>>> fibonacci(10)
Calculated fibonacci(1) = 1
Calculated fibonacci(0) = 0
Calculated fibonacci(2) = 1
Calculated fibonacci(3) = 2
Calculated fibonacci(4) = 3
Calculated fibonacci(5) = 5
Calculated fibonacci(6) = 8
Calculated fibonacci(7) = 13
Calculated fibonacci(8) = 21
Calculated fibonacci(9) = 34
Calculated fibonacci(10) = 55
55

>>> fibonacci(8)
21

>>> fibonacci(5)
Calculated fibonacci(1) = 1
Calculated fibonacci(0) = 0
Calculated fibonacci(2) = 1
Calculated fibonacci(3) = 2
Calculated fibonacci(4) = 3
Calculated fibonacci(5) = 5
5

>>> fibonacci(8)
Calculated fibonacci(6) = 8
Calculated fibonacci(7) = 13
Calculated fibonacci(8) = 21
21

>>> fibonacci(5)
5

>>> fibonacci.cache_info()
CacheInfo(hits=17, misses=20, maxsize=4, currsize=4)

In these examples, you calculate a few Fibonacci numbers. Your cache only holds four calculations at a time. For example, after calculating fibonacci(10), it holds the seventh, eight, ninth, and tenth number.

Therefore, you’re able to find fibonacci(8) without doing any recalculations. Then you ask for fibonacci(5), but that fifth number has been deleted from the cache. It therefore needs to be calculated from scratch.

In most applications, you don’t need to constrain your cache and can use @functools.cache directly.

Adding Information About Units

The following example is somewhat similar to the registering plugins example from earlier, in that it doesn’t really change the behavior of the decorated function. Instead, it simply adds unit as a function attribute:

Python decorators.py
# ...

def set_unit(unit):
    """Register a unit on a function"""
    def decorator_set_unit(func):
        func.unit = unit
        return func
    return decorator_set_unit

The following example calculates the volume of a cylinder based on its radius and height in centimeters:

Python
>>> import math
>>> from decorators import set_unit

>>> @set_unit("cm^3")
... def volume(radius, height):
...     return math.pi * radius**2 * height
...

You’ve added information to volume() that the result should be interpreted as cubic centimeters. You can later access the .unit function attribute when needed:

Python
>>> volume(3, 5)
141.3716694115407

>>> volume.unit
'cm^3'

Note that you could’ve achieved something similar using function annotations:

Python
>>> import math

>>> def volume(radius, height) -> "cm^3":
...     return math.pi * radius**2 * height
...

However, since annotations are used for type hints, it’s a bit clunky to combine such units as annotations with static type checking.

Units become even more powerful and fun when connected with a library that can convert between units. One such library is pint. With pint installed (python -m pip install Pint), you can convert the volume to cubic inches or gallons, for example:

Python
>>> import pint
>>> ureg = pint.UnitRegistry()
>>> vol = volume(3, 5) * ureg(volume.unit)

>>> vol
<Quantity(141.3716694115407, 'centimeter ** 3')>

>>> vol.to("cubic inches")
<Quantity(8.627028576414954, 'inch ** 3')>

>>> vol.to("gallons").m  # Magnitude
0.0373464440537444

You use pint to create a quantity that has both a magnitude and a unit. By calling .to(), you convert to other units. For example, the example cylinder is about 141 cubic centimeters, which translates to approximately 8.63 cubic inches and 0.0373 gallons.

You could also modify the decorator to return a pint Quantity directly. Such a Quantity is made by multiplying a value with the unit. In pint, units must be looked up in a UnitRegistry. You can store the registry as a function attribute on the decorator to avoid cluttering the namespace:

Python decorators.py
import functools
import pint

# ...

def use_unit(unit):
    """Have a function return a Quantity with given unit"""
    use_unit.ureg = pint.UnitRegistry()
    def decorator_use_unit(func):
        @functools.wraps(func)
        def wrapper_use_unit(*args, **kwargs):
            value = func(*args, **kwargs)
            return value * use_unit.ureg(unit)
        return wrapper_use_unit
    return decorator_use_unit

With the @use_unit decorator, converting units is practically effortless:

Python
>>> from decorators import use_unit

>>> @use_unit("meters per second")
... def average_speed(distance, duration):
...     return distance / duration
...

>>> bolt = average_speed(100, 9.58)
>>> bolt
<Quantity(10.438413361169102, 'meter / second')>

>>> bolt.to("km per hour")
<Quantity(37.578288100208766, 'kilometer / hour')>

>>> bolt.to("mph").m  # Magnitude
23.350065679064745

When Usain Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds at the 2009 world championships, he had an average speed of 10.4 meters per second. This translates to about 37.6 kilometers per hour and 23.4 miles per hour.

Validating JSON

You’ll now look at one last use case. Take a quick look at the following Flask route handler:

Python
@app.route("/grade", methods=["POST"])
def update_grade():
    json_data = request.get_json()
    if "student_id" not in json_data:
        abort(400)
    # Update database
    return "success!"

Here you ensure that the key student_id is part of the request. Although this validation works, it doesn’t really belong in the function itself. Additionally, there may be other routes that use the same validation. So, to keep it DRY, you can abstract out any unnecessary logic with a decorator. The following @validate_json decorator will do the job:

Python decorator_flask.py
 1import functools
 2from flask import abort
 3
 4def validate_json(*expected_args):
 5    def decorator_validate_json(func):
 6        @functools.wraps(func)
 7        def wrapper_validate_json(*args, **kwargs):
 8            json_object = request.get_json()
 9            for expected_arg in expected_args:
10                if expected_arg not in json_object:
11                    abort(400)
12            return func(*args, **kwargs)
13        return wrapper_validate_json
14    return decorator_validate_json

In the above code, the decorator takes a variable-length list as an argument so that you can pass in as many string arguments as necessary, each representing a key used to validate the JSON data:

  • Line 4: The list of keys that must be present in the JSON is given as arguments to the decorator.
  • Line 9: The wrapper function validates that each expected key is present in the JSON data.

The route handler can then focus on its real job—updating grades—as it can safely assume that the JSON data are valid:

Python decorator_flask.py
import functools
from flask import Flask, request, abort

app = Flask(__name__)

# ...

@app.route("/grade", methods=["POST"])
@validate_json("student_id")
def update_grade():
    json_data = request.get_json()
    # Update database.
    return "success!"

You apply @validate_json, which simplifies the logic inside update_grade().

Conclusion

This has been quite a journey! You started this tutorial by looking closer at functions, and particularly how you can define them inside other functions and pass them around just like any other Python object. Then you learned about decorators and how to write them such that:

  • They can be reused.
  • They can decorate functions with arguments and return values.
  • They can use @functools.wraps to look more like the decorated function.

In the second part of the tutorial, you saw more advanced decorators and learned how to:

  • Decorate classes
  • Nest decorators
  • Add arguments to decorators
  • Keep state within decorators
  • Use classes as decorators

You saw that, to define a decorator, you typically define a function returning a wrapper function. The wrapper function uses *args and **kwargs to pass on arguments to the decorated function. If you want your decorator to also take arguments, then you need to nest the wrapper function inside another function. In this case, you usually end up with three return statements.

You can download the code from this tutorial by clicking below:

Further Reading

If you’re still looking for more, the book Python Tricks has a section on decorators, as does the Python Cookbook by David Beazley and Brian K. Jones.

For a deep dive into the historical discussion on how decorators should be implemented in Python, see PEP 318 as well as the Python Decorator Wiki. You can find more examples of decorators in the Python Decorator Library. The decorator module can simplify creating your own decorators, and its documentation contains further decorator examples.

Watch Now This tutorial has a related video course created by the Real Python team. Watch it together with the written tutorial to deepen your understanding: Python Decorators 101

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About Geir Arne Hjelle

Geir Arne Hjelle Geir Arne Hjelle

Geir Arne is an avid Pythonista and a member of the Real Python tutorial team.

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