How do I create a constant in Python?

0 votes
asked Apr 21, 2010 by zfranciscus

Is there a way to declare a constant in Python? In Java we can create constant values in this manner:

public static final String CONST_NAME = "Name";

What is the equivalent of the above Java constant declaration in Python?

24 Answers

0 votes
answered Jan 21, 2010 by xavier-ho

The Pythonic way of declaring "constants" is basically a module level variable:

RED = 1
GREEN = 2
BLUE = 3

And then write your classes or functions. Since constants are almost always integers, and they are also immutable in Python, you have a very little chance of altering it.

Unless, of course, if you explicitly set RED = 2.

0 votes
answered Apr 21, 2010 by felix-kling

No there is not. You cannot declare a variable or value as constant in Python. Just don't change it.

If you are in a class, the equivalent would be:

class Foo(object):
    CONST_NAME = "Name"

if not, it is just

CONST_NAME = "Name"

But you might want to have a look at the code snippet Constants in Python by Alex Martelli.

0 votes
answered Apr 21, 2010 by anurag-uniyal

In Python instead of language enforcing something, people use naming conventions e.g __method for private methods and using _method for protected methods.

So in same manner you can simply declare the constant as all caps e.g.

MY_CONSTANT = "one"

If you want that this constant never changes, you can hook into attribute access and do tricks, but a simpler approach is to declare a function

def MY_CONSTANT():
    return "one"

Only problem is everywhere you will have to do MY_CONSTANT(), but again MY_CONSTANT = "one" is the correct way in python(usually).

You can also use namedtuple to create constants:

>>> from collections import namedtuple
>>> Constants = namedtuple('Constants', ['pi', 'e'])
>>> constants = Constants(3.14, 2.718)
>>> constants.pi
3.14
>>> constants.pi = 3
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: can't set attribute
0 votes
answered Apr 22, 2010 by inv

There's no const keyword as in other languages, however it is possible to create a Property that has a "getter function" to read the data, but no "setter function" to re-write the data. This essentially protects the identifier from being changed.

Here is an alternative implementation using class property:

Note that the code is far from easy for a reader wondering about constants. See explanation below

def constant(f):
    def fset(self, value):
        raise TypeError
    def fget(self):
        return f()
    return property(fget, fset)

class _Const(object):
    @constant
    def FOO():
        return 0xBAADFACE
    @constant
    def BAR():
        return 0xDEADBEEF

CONST = _Const()

print CONST.FOO
##3131964110

CONST.FOO = 0
##Traceback (most recent call last):
##    ...
##    CONST.FOO = 0
##TypeError: None

Code Explanation:

  1. Define a function constant that takes an expression, and uses it to construct a "getter" - a function that solely returns the value of the expression.
  2. The setter function raises a TypeError so it's read-only
  3. Use the constant function we just created as a decoration to quickly define read-only properties.

And in some other more old-fashioned way:

(The code is quite tricky, more explanations below)

class _Const(object):
    @apply
    def FOO():
        def fset(self, value):
            raise TypeError
        def fget(self):
            return 0xBAADFACE
        return property(**locals())

CONST = _Const()

print CONST.FOO
##3131964110

CONST.FOO = 0
##Traceback (most recent call last):
##    ...
##    CONST.FOO = 0
##TypeError: None

Note that the @apply decorator seems to be deprecated.

  1. To define the identifier FOO, firs define two functions (fset, fget - the names are at my choice).
  2. Then use the built-in property function to construct an object that can be "set" or "get".
  3. Note hat the property function's first two parameters are named fset and fget.
  4. Use the fact that we chose these very names for our own getter & setter and create a keyword-dictionary using the ** (double asterisk) applied to all the local definitions of that scope to pass parameters to the property function
0 votes
answered Jan 17, 2011 by simonb

A python dictionary is unchangeable once declared and can serve as constants.

my_consts={"TIMEOUT":300, "RETRIES":10, "STATE":"happy"}

i=301
if i > my_consts["TIMEOUT"]:
  print "I've just timed out. Sorry folks."
  print "I tried, many times, " + str(my_consts["RETRIES"]) + " in fact."
  print "But I am still feeling quite " + my_consts["STATE"]
0 votes
answered Jan 30, 2011 by n8boyd

Python dictionaries are mutable, so they don't seem like a good way to declare constants:

>>> constants = {"foo":1, "bar":2}
>>> print constants
{'foo': 1, 'bar': 2}
>>> constants["bar"] = 3
>>> print constants
{'foo': 1, 'bar': 3}
0 votes
answered Jan 10, 2013 by raufio

I would make a class that overrides the __setattr__ method of the base object class and wrap my constants with that, note that I'm using python 2.7:

class const(object):
    def __init__(self, val):
        super(const, self).__setattr__("value", val)
    def __setattr__(self, name, val):
        raise ValueError("Trying to change a constant value", self)

To wrap a string:

>>> constObj = const("Try to change me")
>>> constObj.value
'Try to change me'
>>> constObj.value = "Changed"
Traceback (most recent call last):
   ...
ValueError: Trying to change a constant value
>>> constObj2 = const(" or not")
>>> mutableObj = constObj.value + constObj2.value
>>> mutableObj #just a string
'Try to change me or not'

It's pretty simple, but if you want to use your constants the same as you would a non-constant object (without using constObj.value), it will be a bit more intensive. It's possible that this could cause problems, so it might be best to keep the .value to show and know that you are doing operations with constants (maybe not the most 'pythonic' way though).

0 votes
answered Jan 10, 2013 by hans-meine

In addition to the two top answers (just use variables with UPPERCASE names, or use properties to make the values read-only), I want to mention that it's possible to use metaclasses in order to implement named constants. I provide a very simple solution using metaclasses at GitHub which may be helpful if you want the values to be more informative about their type/name:

>>> from named_constants import Constants
>>> class Colors(Constants):
...     black = 0
...     red = 1
...     white = 15
...
>>> c = Colors.black
>>> c == 0
True
>>> c
Colors.black
>>> c.name()
'black'
>>> Colors(0) is c
True

This is slightly more advanced Python, but still very easy to use and handy. (The module has some more features, including constants being read-only, see its README.)

There are similar solutions floating around in various repositories, but to the best of my knowledge they either lack one of the fundamental features that I would expect from constants (like being constant, or being of arbitrary type), or they have esoteric features added that make them less generally applicable. But YMMV, I would be grateful for feedback. :-)

0 votes
answered Jan 11, 2013 by toolmakersteve

Here is an implementation of a "Constants" class, which creates instances with read-only (constant) attributes. E.g. can use Nums.PI to get a value that has been initialized as 3.14159, and Nums.PI = 22 raises an exception.

# ---------- Constants.py ----------
class Constants(object):
    """
    Create objects with read-only (constant) attributes.
    Example:
        Nums = Constants(ONE=1, PI=3.14159, DefaultWidth=100.0)
        print 10 + Nums.PI
        print '----- Following line is deliberate ValueError -----'
        Nums.PI = 22
    """

    def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        self._d = dict(*args, **kwargs)

    def __iter__(self):
        return iter(self._d)

    def __len__(self):
        return len(self._d)

    # NOTE: This is only called if self lacks the attribute.
    # So it does not interfere with get of 'self._d', etc.
    def __getattr__(self, name):
        return self._d[name]

    # ASSUMES '_..' attribute is OK to set. Need this to initialize 'self._d', etc.
    #If use as keys, they won't be constant.
    def __setattr__(self, name, value):
        if (name[0] == '_'):
            super(Constants, self).__setattr__(name, value)
        else:
            raise ValueError("setattr while locked", self)

if (__name__ == "__main__"):
    # Usage example.
    Nums = Constants(ONE=1, PI=3.14159, DefaultWidth=100.0)
    print 10 + Nums.PI
    print '----- Following line is deliberate ValueError -----'
    Nums.PI = 22

Thanks to @MikeGraham 's FrozenDict, which I used as a starting point. Changed, so instead of Nums['ONE'] the usage syntax is Nums.ONE.

And thanks to @Raufio's answer, for idea to override __ setattr __.

Or for an implementation with more functionality, see @Hans_meine 's named_constants at GitHub

0 votes
answered Jan 26, 2013 by jonathan-kimball-gal

Extending Raufio's answer, add a repr to return the value.

class const(object):
    def __init__(self, val):
        super(const, self).__setattr__("value", val)
    def __setattr__(self, name, val):
        raise ValueError("Trying to change a constant value", self)
    def __repr__(self):
        return ('{0}'.format(self.value))

dt = const(float(0.01))
print dt

then the object behaves a little more like you might expect, you can access it directly rather then '.value'

Welcome to Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers from other members of the community.
Website Online Counter

...