What Is It Called When You Have To Re-Do Code Three Categories of Python Decorators

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Three Categories of Python Decorators

This article will not make sense to all Python developers.

It only makes sense if you know how to write decorators in Python. This is not a beginner skill. I wouldn’t even say it’s mediocre if you do it right.

This is why only 1% of all Python developers ever learn to write it, I estimate.

It’s a shame. The most important libraries in the Python world – Django, Flask, Pytest, SQLAlchemy, and many others – make HEAVY use of decorators. So when you’re in that top 1%, you can start developing libraries with massive performance.

If you’re not in that elite 1% yet, there’s a way to get there. First, however, I will reveal the taxonomy of interior designers.

What is a decorator? This is a way to add behavior around group of functions or methods.

Every part of this definition is important. Read the whole article 10 times if you have to until you understand.

Applies a decorator to a function (or method). Actually a group of them. The result is called a “decorated function”. (Or method. Just add “or method” every time I mention a function.)

“Behavior” means “lines of code”. Code that is executed before or after the decorated function starts or returns. Or both. By “before and/or after” I mean “around”.

The “group” is also important. In theory, you could create a decorator and apply it to a function, but that’s a waste of time. (Once you start writing, you’ll know why.) When you create a decorator, you do so with the intention of applying it to at least two functions—probably many more.

Okay, the categories are:

Category 1: One to one

Most useful decorators fall into this category.

The idea is that every time you call the decorated function, you call the bare function exactly once.

Remember, decorator gives behavior around a feature. This means it will still call the target function. Exactly once each time the decorated function is called.

In fact, it might be a little strange to think that you should NOT do this. That’s a good instinct.

One of the reasons the one-to-one pattern is so useful is that it makes sense. It results in easy-to-explain code. But sometimes you have to deviate from that.

Category 2: separated

There are two features to consider:

The bare function. The function to which you apply a decorator.

And the decorated function. This is the result you get after applying the decorator. In a sense, this creates a new function.

In the one-to-one pattern, each time you call the decorated function, the bare function is called once. But you can separate the two. You can write your code so that when you call the decorated function, it does not call the bare function at all.

Or it calls the bare function sometimes but not others.

Or maybe you call the bare function TWICE. Or more.

This is a good idea? May. This is the basis for some very powerful patterns.

It also creates code that is difficult to reason about. Because it violates the “principle of least surprise”.

So there is a compromise.

Category 3: Pure side effect

This is interesting and strange.

But one of the most popular web frameworks in the world basically relies on it.

There are no decorated functions at all in this type of decorator. Rather, the bare functionality is registered as a side effect. So when the decorated function is called in your application… you are actually calling the bare function. However, registration has other effects elsewhere in the code.

Other categories

This is just one way to classify interior designers. There are other useful methods of decomposition.

How many can you recognize in the code you write or the libraries you use every day?

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