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Python Enhancement Proposals

PEP 726 – Module __setattr__ and __delattr__

Sergey B Kirpichev <skirpichev at>
Adam Turner <python at>
Discourse thread
Standards Track
06-Apr-2023, 31-Aug-2023
Discourse message

Table of Contents


This PEP proposes supporting user-defined __setattr__ and __delattr__ methods on modules to extend customization of module attribute access beyond PEP 562.


There are several potential uses of a module __setattr__:

  1. To prevent setting an attribute at all (i.e. make it read-only)
  2. To validate the value to be assigned
  3. To intercept setting an attribute and update some other state

Proper support for read-only attributes would also require adding the __delattr__ function to prevent their deletion.

It would be convenient to directly support such customization, by recognizing __setattr__ and __delattr__ methods defined in a module that would act like normal object.__setattr__() and object.__delattr__() methods, except that they will be defined on module instances. Together with existing __getattr__ and __dir__ methods this will streamline all variants of customizing module attribute access.

For example


prec = 53
dps = 15

def dps_to_prec(n):
    """Return the number of bits required to represent n decimals accurately."""
    return max(1, int(round((int(n)+1)*3.3219280948873626)))

def prec_to_dps(n):
    """Return the number of accurate decimals that can be represented with n bits."""
    return max(1, int(round(int(n)/3.3219280948873626)-1))

def validate(n):
    n = int(n)
    if n <= 0:
        raise ValueError('Positive integer expected')
    return n

def __setattr__(name, value):
    if name == 'CONSTANT':
        raise AttributeError('Read-only attribute!')
    if name == 'dps':
        value = validate(value)
        globals()['dps'] = value
        globals()['prec'] = dps_to_prec(value)
    if name == 'prec':
        value = validate(value)
        globals()['prec'] = value
        globals()['dps'] = prec_to_dps(value)
    globals()[name] = value

def __delattr__(name):
    if name in ('CONSTANT', 'dps', 'prec'):
        raise AttributeError('Read-only attribute!')
    del globals()[name]
>>> import mplib
>>> = 'spam'
>>> mplib.CONSTANT = 42
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: Read-only attribute!
>>> del
>>> del mplib.CONSTANT
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: Read-only attribute!
>>> mplib.prec
>>> mplib.dps
>>> mplib.dps = 5
>>> mplib.prec
>>> mplib.dps = 0
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValueError: Positive integer expected

Existing Options

The current workaround is assigning the __class__ of a module object to a custom subclass of types.ModuleType (see [1]).

For example, to prevent modification or deletion of an attribute we could use:


import sys
from types import ModuleType


class ImmutableModule(ModuleType):
    def __setattr__(name, value):
        raise AttributeError('Read-only attribute!')

    def __delattr__(name):
        raise AttributeError('Read-only attribute!')

sys.modules[__name__].__class__ = ImmutableModule

But this variant is slower (~2x) than the proposed solution. More importantly, it also brings a noticeable speed regression (~2-3x) for attribute access.


The __setattr__ function at the module level should accept two arguments, the name of an attribute and the value to be assigned, and return None or raise an AttributeError.

def __setattr__(name: str, value: typing.Any, /) -> None: ...

The __delattr__ function should accept one argument, the name of an attribute, and return None or raise an AttributeError:

def __delattr__(name: str, /) -> None: ...

The __setattr__ and __delattr__ functions are looked up in the module __dict__. If present, the appropriate function is called to customize setting the attribute or its deletion, else the normal mechanism (storing/deleting the value in the module dictionary) will work.

Defining module __setattr__ or __delattr__ only affects lookups made using the attribute access syntax — directly accessing the module globals (whether by globals() within the module, or via a reference to the module’s globals dictionary) is unaffected. For example:

>>> import mod
>>> mod.__dict__['foo'] = 'spam'  # bypasses __setattr__, defined in



def __setattr__(name, value):

foo = 'spam'  # bypasses __setattr__
globals()['bar'] = 'spam'  # here too

def f():
    global x
    x = 123

f()  # and here

To use a module global and trigger __setattr__ (or __delattr__), one can access it via sys.modules[__name__] within the module’s code:


sys.modules[__name__].foo = 'spam'  # bypasses __setattr__

def __setattr__(name, value):

sys.modules[__name__].bar = 'spam'  # triggers __setattr__

This limitation is intentional (just as for the PEP 562), because the interpreter highly optimizes access to module globals and disabling all that and going through special methods written in Python would slow down the code unacceptably.

How to Teach This

The “Customizing module attribute access” [1] section of the documentation will be expanded to include new functions.

Reference Implementation

The reference implementation for this PEP can be found in CPython PR #108261.

Backwards compatibility

This PEP may break code that uses module level (global) names __setattr__ and __delattr__, but the language reference explicitly reserves all undocumented dunder names, and allows “breakage without warning” [2].

The performance implications of this PEP are small, since additional dictionary lookup is much cheaper than storing/deleting the value in the dictionary. Also it is hard to imagine a module that expects the user to set (and/or delete) attributes enough times to be a performance concern. On another hand, proposed mechanism allows to override setting/deleting of attributes without affecting speed of attribute access, which is much more likely scenario to get a performance penalty.


As pointed out by Victor Stinner, the proposed API could be useful already in the stdlib, for example to ensure that sys.modules type is always a dict:

>>> import sys
>>> sys.modules = 123
>>> import asyncio
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
  File "<frozen importlib._bootstrap>", line 1260, in _find_and_load
AttributeError: 'int' object has no attribute 'get'

or to prevent deletion of critical sys attributes, which makes the code more complicated. For example, code using sys.stderr has to check if the attribute exists and if it’s not None. Currently, it’s possible to remove any sys attribute, including functions:

>>> import sys
>>> del sys.excepthook
>>> 1+  # notice the next line
sys.excepthook is missing
 File "<stdin>", line 1
SyntaxError: invalid syntax

See related issue for other details.

Other stdlib modules also come with attributes which can be overridden (as a feature) and some input validation here could be helpful. Examples: threading.excepthook, warnings.showwarning, io.DEFAULT_BUFFER_SIZE or os.SEEK_SET.

Also a typical use case for customizing module attribute access is managing deprecation warnings. But the PEP 562 accomplishes this scenario only partially: e.g. it’s impossible to issue a warning during an attempt to change a renamed attribute.



Last modified: 2024-02-28 23:47:57 GMT