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name Punditsdkoslkdosdkoskdo

How to define a __str__ method for a class?

In Python, the object class serves as the root superclass for all the (new-style) classes. By default at least, applying str and repr to the "class instance" of any subclass of object produces the same result:

>>> class spam(object): pass
>>> str(spam)
"<class '__main__.spam'>"
>>> str(spam) == repr(spam)

I would like to define a subclass of object, say fancyobject, that is identical to object in every way, except that applying str and repr to fancyobject itself produces different outputs:

>>> class ham(fancyobject): pass
>>> str(ham)
>>> repr(ham)
"<class '__main__.ham'>"

Is there a way to do this in Python?

PS: I'm aware of the __str__ special method, but it is my understanding that if class A overrides __str__, then the overriding method is called only when str is called on instances of A, not when it is called on A itself. I.e.:

>>> class A(object):
...     def __str__(self):
...         return 'from new __str__: ' + object.__str__(self)
>>> str(A())
'from new __str__: <__main__.A object at 0x7f79c62a5310>'
>>> str(A)
"<class '__main__.A'>"

Actually the same mechanism as for object instances applies for types. Types are just objects themselves, so they are converted to strings by calling the __str__() method on their type, which is called the "metaclass". So you have to overwrite the __str__() method on the metaclass:

class fancytype(type):
    def __str__(self):
        return self.__name__
class ham(object):
    __metaclass__ = fancytype
print ham


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Reply Report
      • 1
    • @JürgenA.Erhard At the time I wrote this (which was before the release of Python 3.3), the then current development version of Python had changed the result of str(some_type) to simply some_type.__name__. Apparently, this change never made it into the release, and I can't find any reference to it at the moment. I'll remove the comment from the answer.

You can also set the default metaclass for a whole module like this

class fancytype(type):
    def __str__(self):
        return self.__name__

__metaclass__ = fancytype

class ham:
print ham
  • 6
Reply Report
      • 1
    • Thanks, this is interesting, but it looks to me like it applies only to "classic" classes. I don't see how such technique could affect new-style classes (which inherit, directly or indirectly) from object.
      • 1
    • @kjo: Well, the class ham in this example will automatically become a new-style class, because fancytype derives from type, which is the type of new-style classes. Everything that derives from ham will be a fancytype as well.
      • 1
    • Thanks, that's good to know; until now I had thought that the only way to define a new-style classes was to explicitly include object, or some subclass of it, in the (...) clause of the class ham(...): statement.

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