Built-In Function Changes

Python 3 saw some changes to built-in functions. These changes are detailed in this section.

The print() function

  • Fixer: python-modernize -wnf libmodernize.fixes.fix_print
  • Prevalence: Very Common

Before Python first introduced keyword arguments, and even functions with variable numbers of arguments, it had the print statement. It worked for simple use cases, but grew idiosyncratic syntax for advanced features like (not) ending lines and output to arbitrary files:

print 'a + b =',
print a + b
print >> sys.stderr, 'Computed the sum'

In Python 3, the statement is gone. Instead, you can use the print() function, which has clear semantics (but requires an extra pair of parentheses in the common case):

print('a + b =', end=' ')
print(a + b)
print('Computed the sum', file=sys.stderr)

The function form of print is available in Python 2.6+, but to use it, the statement form must be turned off with a future import:

from __future__ import print_function

The recommended fixer will add the future import and rewrite all uses of print.

Safe input()

  • Fixer: python-modernize -wnf libmodernize.fixes.fix_input_six
  • Prevalence: Uncommon

In Python 2, the function input() read a line from standard input, evaluated it as Python code, and returned the result. This is almost never useful – most users aren’t expected to know Python syntax. It is also a security risk, as it allows users to run arbitrary code.

Python 2 also had a sane version, raw_input(), which read a line and returned it as a string.

In Python 3, input() has the sane semantics, and raw_input was removed.

The Compatibility library: six library includes a helper, six.moves.input, that has the Python 3 semantics in both versions.

The recommended fixer will import that helper as input, replace raw_input(...) with input(...), and replace input(...) with eval(input(...)). After running it, examine the output to determine if any eval() it produces is really necessary.

Removed file()

  • Fixer: python-modernize -wnf libmodernize.fixes.fix_file (but see below)
  • Prevalence: Rare

In Python 2, file() was the type of an open file. It was used in two ways:

  • To open files, i.e. as an alias for open(). The documentation mentions that open is more appropriate for this case.
  • To check if an object is a file, as in isinstance(f, file).

The recommended fixer addresses the first use: it will rewrite all calls to file() to open(). If your code uses the name file for a different function, you will need to revert the fixer’s change.

The fixer does not address the second case. There are many kinds of file-like objects in Python; in most circumstances it is better to check for a read or write method instead of querying the type. This guide’s section on strings even recommends using the io library, whose open function produces file-like objects that aren’t of the file type.

If type-checking for files is necessary, we recommend using a tuple of types that includes io.IOBase and, under Python 2, file:

import io

    # Python 2: "file" is built-in
    file_types = file, io.IOBase
except NameError:
    # Python 3: "file" fully replaced with IOBase
    file_types = (io.IOBase,)

isinstance(f, file_types)

Removed apply()

  • Fixer: python-modernize -wnf fissix.fixes.fix_apply (but see below)
  • Prevalence: Common

In Python 2, the function apply() was built in. It was useful before Python added support for passing an argument list to a function via the * syntax.

The code:

arguments = [7, 3]
apply(complex, arguments)

can be replaced with:

arguments = [7, 3]

The recommended fixer replaces all calls to apply with the new syntax. If the variable apply names a different function in some of your modules, revert the fixer’s changes in that module.

Moved reduce()

  • Fixer: python-modernize -wnf fissix.fixes.fix_reduce
  • Prevalence: Uncommon

In Python 2, the function reduce() was built in. In Python 3, in an effort to reduce the number of builtins, it was moved to the functools module.

The new location is also available in Python 2.6+, so this removal can be fixed by importing it for all versions of Python:

from functools import reduce

The recommended fixer will add this import automatically.

The exec() function

  • Fixer: python-modernize -wnf fissix.fixes.fix_exec
  • Prevalence: Rare

In Python 2, exec() was a statement. In Python 3, it is a function.

There were three cases for the statement form of exec:

exec some_code
exec some_code in globals
exec some_code in globals, locals

Similarly, the function exec takes one to three arguments:

exec(some_code, globals)
exec(some_code, globals, locals)

In Python 2, the syntax was extended so the first expression may be a 2- or 3-tuple. This means the function-like syntax works even in Python 2.

The recommended fixer will convert all uses of exec to the function-like syntax.

Removed execfile()

  • Fixer: None recommended
  • Prevalence: Very rare

Python 2 included the function execfile(), which executed a Python file by name. The call:


was roughly equivalent to:

from io import open

def compile_file(filename):
    with open(filename, encoding='utf-8') as f:
        return compile(f.read(), filename, 'exec')


If your code uses execfile, add the above compile_file function to an appropriate place, then change all calls to execfile to exec as above.

Although Automated fixer: python-modernize has an execfile fixer, we don’t recommend using it, as it doesn’t close the file correctly.

Note that the above hard-codes the utf-8 encoding (which also works if your code uses ASCII). If your code uses a different encoding, substitute that. If you don’t know the encoding in advance, you will need to honor PEP 263 special comments: on Python 3 use the above with tokenize.open() instead of open(), and on Python 2 fall back to the old execfile().

The io.open() function is discussed in this guide’s section on strings.

Moved reload()

  • Fixer: None
  • Prevalence: Very rare

The reload() function was built-in in Python 2. In Python 3, it is moved to the importlib module.

Python 2.7 included an importlib module, but without a reload function. Python 2.6 and below didn’t have an importlib module.

If your code uses reload(), import it conditionally if it doesn’t exist (using feature detection):

    # Python 2: "reload" is built-in
except NameError:
    from importlib import reload

Moved intern()

  • Fixer: None
  • Prevalence: Very rare

The intern() function was built-in in Python 2. In Python 3, it is moved to the sys module.

If your code uses intern(), import it conditionally if it doesn’t exist (using feature detection):

    # Python 2: "intern" is built-in
except NameError:
    from sys import intern

Removed coerce()

  • Fixer: None
  • Prevalence: Rare

Python 3 removes the deprecated function coerce(), which was only useful in early versions of Python.

If your code uses it, modify the code to not require it.

If any of your classes defines the special method __coerce__, remove that as well, and test that the removal did not break semantics.