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5.11.1 Weak Reference Objects


5.11.1 Weak Reference Objects

Weak reference objects have no attributes or methods, but do allow the referent to be obtained, if it still exists, by calling it:

>>> import weakref
>>> class Object:
...     pass
...
>>> o = Object()
>>> r = weakref.ref(o)
>>> o2 = r()
>>> o is o2
True

If the referent no longer exists, calling the reference object returns None:

>>> del o, o2
>>> print r()
None

Testing that a weak reference object is still live should be done using the expression ref() is not None. Normally, application code that needs to use a reference object should follow this pattern:

# r is a weak reference object
o = r()
if o is None:
    # referent has been garbage collected
    print "Object has been deallocated; can't frobnicate."
else:
    print "Object is still live!"
    o.do_something_useful()

Using a separate test for ``liveness'' creates race conditions in threaded applications; another thread can cause a weak reference to become invalidated before the weak reference is called; the idiom shown above is safe in threaded applications as well as single-threaded applications.

Specialized versions of ref objects can be created through subclassing. This is used in the implementation of the WeakValueDictionary to reduce the memory overhead for each entry in the mapping. This may be most useful to associate additional information with a reference, but could also be used to insert additional processing on calls to retrieve the referent.

This example shows how a subclass of ref can be used to store additional information about an object and affect the value that's returned when the referent is accessed:

import weakref

class ExtendedRef(weakref.ref):
    def __init__(self, ob, callback=None, **annotations):
        super(ExtendedRef, self).__init__(ob, callback)
        self.__counter = 0
        for k, v in annotations.iteritems():
            setattr(self, k, v)

    def __call__(self):
        """Return a pair containing the referent and the number of
        times the reference has been called.
        """
        ob = super(ExtendedRef, self).__call__()
        if ob is not None:
            self.__counter += 1
            ob = (ob, self.__counter)
        return ob

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