The Porting Process

This chapter documents the entire process of porting a conservative project to Python 3. We recommend that you read it before you embark on your first porting project.

Make Sure your Dependencies are Ported

Before you start porting, any libraries that your code imports need to run with Python 3. Check if this is the case.

Porting status information of a library is usually available in setup.py or setup.cfg files, where compatible Python versions can be mentioned in classifiers argument to setup().

Some projects took advantage of the backwards incompatible upgrade to clean up their interfaces. For any libraries that are ported already, look in their documentation for any notes specific to Python 3, and if you find any, note them for later.

If you depend on a library that is not ported, inquire of its authors about the porting status. If the library is open-source, consider helping to port it – the experience will likely help in your own project. If authors are unwilling to port to Python 3, or if the library is unmaintained, start looking for a replacement. For projects in Fedora, the portingdb project lists known alternatives for dropped packages.

Run the Tests

It’s impractical to make any changes to untested code, let alone porting the entire codebase to a new version of the programming language.

If the project has automatic tests, run them under Python 2 to make sure they pass. If not, write them – or you’ll need to resort to testing manually.

Drop Python 2.5 and Lower

Python 2.6 and 2.7 were released in lockstep with the early 3.x versions, and contain several features that make supporting both 2 and 3 possible in the same codebase.

Python 2.5 has been unmaintained for several years now, so any new code written for it does not have much of a future. Bring this up with the software’s maintainers.

If compatibility with Python 2.5 is really necessary, we recommend that you fork the codebase, i.e. work on a copy and regularly merge in any new development.

Port the Code

Actual porting can be conceptually split into two phases:

Modernization
Migrate away from deprecated features that have a Python3-compatible equivalent available in Python 2.
Porting
Add support for Python 3 while keeping compatibility with Python 2 by introducing specific workarounds and helpers.

We don’t recommend separating these phases. For larger projects, it is much better to separate the work by modules – port low-level code first, then move on to things that depend on what’s already ported.

We provide some general porting tips below:

Use The Tools

The Tools chapter describes a selection of tools that can automate or ease the porting process, and warn about potential problems or common regressions. We recommend that you get familiar with these tools before porting any substantial project.

In particular, this guide includes “fixers” where appropriate. These can automate a lot, if not most, of the porting work. But please read the notes for the python-modernize tool before running them to avoid any surprises.

Port Small Pieces First

If the codebase contains a small, self-contained module, port it first before moving on to larger pieces or the entire code.

If you want to learn porting in a more practical way before you port your own software, you can help developers with porting some open source software or your favorite library or application.

Use Separate Commits for Automated Changes

For changes that are mechanical, and easily automated, we recommend that you do only one type of change per commit/patch. For example, one patch to change the except syntax, then another for the raise syntax.

Even more importantly, do not combine large automated changes with manual fixups. It is much easier to review two patches: one done by a tool (which the reviewer can potentially re-run to verify the commit), and another that fixes up places where human care is needed.

The descriptions of individual items in this guide are written so that you can use them in commit messages to explain why each change is necessary and to link to more information.

Follow the Rest of this Guide

The next chapter, Tools, explains how to automate porting and checking.

Each of the subsequent chapters explains one area where Python 3 differs from Python 2, and how to adapt the code. The chapters are arranged roughly according to the order in which they are tackled in a typical project.

We recommend that you skim the introduction of each of the chapters, so that you know what you’re up against before you start.

Drop Python 2

The final step of the porting is dropping support for Python 2, which can happen after a long time – even several years from releasing a Python 3-compatible version. For less conservative projects, dropping Python 2 support will include removing compatibility workarounds.

Targeting Python 3 only will enable you to start using all the new features in the new major version – but those are for another guide.