In this article, you will learn to create and import custom modules in Python. Also, you will find different techniques to import and use custom and built-in modules in Python.
What are modules in Python?
Modules refer to a file containing Python statements and definitions.
A file containing Python code, for example:
example.py, is called a module, and its module name would be
We use modules to break down large programs into small manageable and organized files. Furthermore, modules provide reusability of code.
We can define our most used functions in a module and import it, instead of copying their definitions into different programs.
Let us create a module. Type the following and save it as
# Python Module example def add(a, b): """This program adds two numbers and return the result""" result = a + b return result
Here, we have defined a function
add() inside a module named
example. The function takes in two numbers and returns their sum.
How to import modules in Python?
We can import the definitions inside a module to another module or the interactive interpreter in Python.
We use the
import keyword to do this. To import our previously defined module
example, we type the following in the Python prompt.
>>> import example
This does not import the names of the functions defined in
example directly in the current symbol table. It only imports the module name
Using the module name we can access the function using the dot
. operator. For example:
>>> example.add(4,5.5) 9.5
Python has tons of standard modules. You can check out the full list of Python standard modules and their use cases. These files are in the Lib directory inside the location where you installed Python.
Standard modules can be imported the same way as we import our user-defined modules.
There are various ways to import modules. They are listed below..
Python import statement
We can import a module using the
import statement and access the definitions inside it using the dot operator as described above. Here is an example.
# import statement example # to import standard module math import math print("The value of pi is", math.pi)
When you run the program, the output will be:
The value of pi is 3.141592653589793
Import with renaming
We can import a module by renaming it as follows:
# import module by renaming it import math as m print("The value of pi is", m.pi)
We have renamed the
math module as
m. This can save us typing time in some cases.
Note that the name
math is not recognized in our scope. Hence,
math.pi is invalid, and
m.pi is the correct implementation.
Python from…import statement
We can import specific names from a module without importing the module as a whole. Here is an example.
# import only pi from math module from math import pi print("The value of pi is", pi)
Here, we imported only the
pi attribute from the
In such cases, we don’t use the dot operator. We can also import multiple attributes as follows:
>>> from math import pi, e >>> pi 3.141592653589793 >>> e 2.718281828459045
Import all names
We can import all names(definitions) from a module using the following construct:
# import all names from the standard module math from math import * print("The value of pi is", pi)
Here, we have imported all the definitions from the math module. This includes all names visible in our scope except those beginning with an underscore(private definitions).
Importing everything with the asterisk (*) symbol is not a good programming practice. This can lead to duplicate definitions for an identifier. It also hampers the readability of our code.
Python Module Search Path
While importing a module, Python looks at several places. Interpreter first looks for a built-in module. Then(if built-in module not found), Python looks into a list of directories defined in
sys.path. The search is in this order.
- The current directory.
PYTHONPATH(an environment variable with a list of directories).
- The installation-dependent default directory.
>>> import sys >>> sys.path ['', 'C:\\Python33\\Lib\\idlelib', 'C:\\Windows\\system32\\python33.zip', 'C:\\Python33\\DLLs', 'C:\\Python33\\lib', 'C:\\Python33', 'C:\\Python33\\lib\\site-packages']
We can add and modify this list to add our own path.
Reloading a module
The Python interpreter imports a module only once during a session. This makes things more efficient. Here is an example to show how this works.
Suppose we have the following code in a module named
# This module shows the effect of # multiple imports and reload print("This code got executed")
Now we see the effect of multiple imports.
>>> import my_module This code got executed >>> import my_module >>> import my_module
We can see that our code got executed only once. This goes to say that our module was imported only once.
Now if our module changed during the course of the program, we would have to reload it.One way to do this is to restart the interpreter. But this does not help much.
Python provides a more efficient way of doing this. We can use the
reload() function inside the
imp module to reload a module. We can do it in the following ways:
>>> import imp >>> import my_module This code got executed >>> import my_module >>> imp.reload(my_module) This code got executed <module 'my_module' from '.\\my_module.py'>
The dir() built-in function
We can use the
dir() function to find out names that are defined inside a module.
For example, we have defined a function
add() in the module
example that we had in the beginning.
We can use
example module in the following way:
>>> dir(example) ['__builtins__', '__cached__', '__doc__', '__file__', '__initializing__', '__loader__', '__name__', '__package__', 'add']
Here, we can see a sorted list of names (along with
add). All other names that begin with an underscore are default Python attributes associated with the module (not user-defined).
For example, the
__name__ attribute contains the name of the module.
>>> import example >>> example.__name__ 'example'
All the names defined in our current namespace can be found out using the
dir() function without any arguments.
>>> a = 1 >>> b = "hello" >>> import math >>> dir() ['__builtins__', '__doc__', '__name__', 'a', 'b', 'math', 'pyscripter']