Python memoising/deferred lookup property decorator

Python Programming

Question or problem about Python programming:

Recently I’ve gone through an existing code base containing many classes where instance attributes reflect values stored in a database. I’ve refactored a lot of these attributes to have their database lookups be deferred, ie. not be initialised in the constructor but only upon first read. These attributes do not change over the lifetime of the instance, but they’re a real bottleneck to calculate that first time and only really accessed for special cases. Hence they can also be cached after they’ve been retrieved from the database (this therefore fits the definition of memoisation where the input is simply “no input”).

I find myself typing the following snippet of code over and over again for various attributes across various classes:

class testA(object):

  def __init__(self):
    self._a = None
    self._b = None

  def a(self):
    if self._a is None:
      # Calculate the attribute now
      self._a = 7
    return self._a

  def b(self):

Is there an existing decorator to do this already in Python that I’m simply unaware of? Or, is there a reasonably simple way to define a decorator that does this?

I’m working under Python 2.5, but 2.6 answers might still be interesting if they are significantly different.

This question was asked before Python included a lot of ready-made decorators for this. I have updated it only to correct terminology.

How to solve the problem:

Solution 1:

For all sorts of great utilities I’m using boltons.

As part of that library you have cachedproperty:

from boltons.cacheutils import cachedproperty

class Foo(object):
    def __init__(self):
        self.value = 4

    def cached_prop(self):
        self.value += 1
        return self.value

f = Foo()
print(f.value)  # initial value
print(f.cached_prop)  # cached property is calculated
f.value = 1
print(f.cached_prop)  # same value for the cached property - it isn't calculated again
print(f.value)  # the backing value is different (it's essentially unrelated value)

Solution 2:

Here is an example implementation of a lazy property decorator:

import functools

def lazyprop(fn):
    attr_name = '_lazy_' + fn.__name__

    def _lazyprop(self):
        if not hasattr(self, attr_name):
            setattr(self, attr_name, fn(self))
        return getattr(self, attr_name)

    return _lazyprop

class Test(object):

    def a(self):
        print 'generating "a"'
        return range(5)

Interactive session:

>>> t = Test()
>>> t.__dict__
>>> t.a
generating "a"
[0, 1, 2, 3, 4]
>>> t.__dict__
{'_lazy_a': [0, 1, 2, 3, 4]}
>>> t.a
[0, 1, 2, 3, 4]

Solution 3:

I wrote this one for myself… To be used for true one-time calculated lazy properties. I like it because it avoids sticking extra attributes on objects, and once activated does not waste time checking for attribute presence, etc.:

import functools

class lazy_property(object):
    meant to be used for lazy evaluation of an object attribute.
    property should represent non-mutable data, as it replaces itself.

    def __init__(self, fget):
        self.fget = fget

        # copy the getter function's docstring and other attributes
        functools.update_wrapper(self, fget)

    def __get__(self, obj, cls):
        if obj is None:
            return self

        value = self.fget(obj)
        setattr(obj, self.fget.__name__, value)
        return value

class Test(object):

    def results(self):
        calcs = 1  # Do a lot of calculation here
        return calcs

Note: The lazy_property class is a non-data descriptor, which means it is read-only. Adding a __set__ method would prevent it from working correctly.

Solution 4:

Here’s a callable that takes an optional timeout argument, in the __call__ you could also copy over the __name__, __doc__, __module__ from func’s namespace:

import time

class Lazyproperty(object):

    def __init__(self, timeout=None):
        self.timeout = timeout
        self._cache = {}

    def __call__(self, func):
        self.func = func
        return self

    def __get__(self, obj, objcls):
        if obj not in self._cache or \
          (self.timeout and time.time() - self._cache[key][1] > self.timeout):
            self._cache[obj] = (self.func(obj), time.time())
        return self._cache[obj]


class Foo(object):

    def bar(self):
        return 'bar'

>>> x = Foo()
>>> print(
>>> print(
...(waiting 10 seconds)...
>>> print(

Solution 5:

property is a class. A descriptor to be exact. Simply derive from it and implement the desired behavior.

class lazyproperty(property):

class testA(object):
  a = lazyproperty('_a')
  b = lazyproperty('_b')

Hope this helps!