Skip to main content

Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Python Trick: Save anything in config files

The Python con­fig ob­jects are con­ve­nient and sim­ple, but they have a prob­lem: you can on­ly save strings. That means you need to store num­bers as strings and re­mem­ber to use the get­int()/get­float() meth­ods (or co­erce by hand!), which is er­ror prone and an­ti-python­ic. Stor­ing a list is even ugli­er.

You could store ascii pick­les, but those are pret­ty un­pleas­ant to read in some cas­es.

Here's my so­lu­tion: En­code it us­ing a JSON en­coder first! (I am us­ing demj­son)

Sil­ly ob­vi­ous code frag­men­t:

def getValue(section,key,default=None):
        return JSON().decode(conf.get (section,key))
        return default

def setValue(section,key,value):
    except ConfigParser.NoSectionError:
    return r

With just a lit­tle ef­fort you can have a read­able ascii typed python con­fig file.

Paul Giannaros / 2007-05-11 18:33:

I tend to make my configuration files Python code so they can just be imported. You need to write a little code to write out the file when config changes, but it is the height of pythonic :P. It can handle arbitary Python data types too which is very cool

Ralesk / 2007-05-11 18:37:

Why not Pickle it?

Oh, and another problem with ConfigParser I found is that it wouldn’t keep the order of items (uses disctionaries inside, so no wonder), and for a while I wanted to write my own INI file parser, but I just gave in to Pickle for now.

Roberto Alsina / 2007-05-11 19:09:


I didn't pickle because I wanted it to be hand-editable.

And a pickle of [1,2,3] looks like this:


The same as JSON looks like this:


Or you mean you just pickle a dictionary as config file? Same problem, only larger.

Daniel "Suslik" D. / 2007-05-11 21:06:

I changed 2 or 3 INI-style config parsers while coding on A-Foto ( As you will see later, the built-in ConfigParser has numerous problems:

- it tunrs ALL capital letter in section (and key?) names into lower case, thus destroying all KDE .rc files.
- it rearranges the contents of the ini/rc file.
- does not support nesting (or lists, ints etc)

This was discussed a lot, and there is a very very good wiki page somewhere on the about replacements.

I tried 3, and the best one in my opinion is this one:

- the whole content of the config file becomes available as a dictionary (Yey!!!)
- it supports round-tripping (read-change-save - no rearrangement of original file layout.)
- Respects the capitalization of the sections and keys.
- BSD license.
- Allows nested sections, lists.
- The resulting INI file is perfectly readable, and completely resembles the original INI style.

I wrote a small wrapper for it, to ensure that I talk to the new parser, whenever i change it in the same language as I would talk to the original ConfigParser.

see and files here:

Roberto Alsina / 2007-05-11 22:01:

Daniel: this is not supposed to be compatible with KDE's config files.

Further, I would consider trying to access the same config file using two different implementations crazy-risky but that's just me :-)

Using JSON you can save most structures, and resorting of the file doesn't really worry me (why is it important at all?)