Delegation in python

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Delegation is an object oriented technique (also called a design pattern). Let's say you have an object x and want to change the behaviour of just one of its methods. You can create a new class that provides a new implementation of the method you're interested in changing and delegates all other methods to the corresponding method of x.

Python programmers can easily implement delegation. For example, the following class implements a class that behaves like a file but converts all written data to uppercase:

class UpperOut:

    def __init__(self, outfile):
        self._outfile = outfile

    def write(self, s):
        self._outfile.write(s.upper())

    def __getattr__(self, name):
        return getattr(self._outfile, name)


Here the UpperOut class redefines the write() method to convert the argument string to uppercase before calling the underlying self.__outfile.write() method. All other methods are delegated to the underlying self.__outfile object. The delegation is accomplished via the __getattr__ method; consult the language reference for more information about controlling attribute access.

Note that for more general cases delegation can get trickier. When attributes must be set as well as retrieved, the class must define a __setattr__() method too, and it must do so carefully. The basic implementation of __setattr__() is roughly equivalent to the following:

class X:
    ...
    def __setattr__(self, name, value):
        self.__dict__[name] = value
    ...


Most __setattr__() implementations must modify self.__dict__ to store local state for self without causing an infinite recursion.


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