string – Working with text

Purpose:Contains constants and classes for working with text.
Available In:2.5

The string module dates from the earliest versions of Python. In version 2.0, many of the functions previously implemented only in the module were moved to methods of str and unicode objects. Legacy versions of those functions are still available, but their use is deprecated and they will be dropped in Python 3.0. The string module still contains several useful constants and classes for working with string and unicode objects, and this discussion will concentrate on them.


The constants in the string module can be used to specify categories of characters such as ascii_letters and digits. Some of the constants, such as lowercase, are locale-dependent so the value changes to reflect the language settings of the user. Others, such as hexdigits, do not change when the locale changes.

import string

for n in dir(string):
    if n.startswith('_'):
    v = getattr(string, n)
    if isinstance(v, basestring):
        print '%s=%s' % (n, repr(v))

Most of the names for the constants are self-explanatory.

$ python









printable='0123456789abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ!"#$%&\'()*+,-./:;<=>?@[\\]^_`{|}~ \t\n\r\x0b\x0c'



whitespace='\t\n\x0b\x0c\r '


There are two functions not moving from the string module. capwords() capitalizes all of the words in a string.

import string

s = 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.'

print s
print string.capwords(s)

The results are the same as if you called split(), capitalized the words in the resulting list, then called join() to combine the results.

$ python

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over The Lazy Dog.

The other function creates translation tables that can be used with the translate() method to change one set of characters to another.

import string

leet = string.maketrans('abegiloprstz', '463611092572')

s = 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.'

print s
print s.translate(leet)

In this example, some letters are replaced by their l33t number alternatives.

$ python

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
Th3 qu1ck 620wn f0x jum93d 0v32 7h3 142y d06.


String templates were added in Python 2.4 as part of PEP 292 and are intended as an alternative to the built-in interpolation syntax. With string.Template interpolation, variables are identified by name prefixed with $ (e.g., $var) or, if necessary to set them off from surrounding text, they can also be wrapped with curly braces (e.g., ${var}).

This example compares a simple template with a similar string interpolation setup.

import string

values = { 'var':'foo' }

t = string.Template("""

print 'TEMPLATE:', t.substitute(values)

s = """

print 'INTERPLOATION:', s % values

As you see, in both cases the trigger character ($ or %) is escaped by repeating it twice.

$ python



One key difference between templates and standard string interpolation is that the type of the arguments is not taken into account. The values are converted to strings, and the strings are inserted into the result. No formatting options are available. For example, there is no way to control the number of digits used to represent a floating point value.

A benefit, though, is that by using the safe_substitute() method, it is possible to avoid exceptions if not all of the values needed by the template are provided as arguments.

import string

values = { 'var':'foo' }

t = string.Template("$var is here but $missing is not provided")

    print 'TEMPLATE:', t.substitute(values)
except KeyError, err:
    print 'ERROR:', str(err)
print 'TEMPLATE:', t.safe_substitute(values)

Since there is no value for missing in the values dictionary, a KeyError is raised by substitute(). Instead of raising the error, safe_substitute() catches it and leaves the variable expression alone in the text.

$ python

TEMPLATE: ERROR: 'missing'
TEMPLATE: foo is here but $missing is not provided

Advanced Templates

If the default syntax for string.Template is not to your liking, you can change the behavior by adjusting the regular expression patterns it uses to find the variable names in the template body. A simple way to do that is to change the delimiter and idpattern class attributes.

import string

class MyTemplate(string.Template):
    delimiter = '%'
    idpattern = '[a-z]+_[a-z]+'

t = MyTemplate('%% %with_underscore %notunderscored')
d = { 'with_underscore':'replaced', 
      'notunderscored':'not replaced',

print t.safe_substitute(d)

In this example, variable ids must include an underscore somewhere in the middle, so %notunderscored is not replaced by anything.

$ python

% replaced %notunderscored

For more complex changes, you can override the pattern attribute and define an entirely new regular expression. The pattern provided must contain four named groups for capturing the escaped delimiter, the named variable, a braced version of the variable name, and invalid delimiter patterns.

Let’s look at the default pattern:

import string

t = string.Template('$var')
print t.pattern.pattern

Since t.pattern is a compiled regular expression, we have to access its pattern attribute to see the actual string.

$ python

      (?P<escaped>\$) |   # Escape sequence of two delimiters
      (?P<named>[_a-z][_a-z0-9]*)      |   # delimiter and a Python identifier
      {(?P<braced>[_a-z][_a-z0-9]*)}   |   # delimiter and a braced identifier
      (?P<invalid>)              # Other ill-formed delimiter exprs

If we wanted to create a new type of template using, for example, {{var}} as the variable syntax, we could use a pattern like this:

import re
import string

class MyTemplate(string.Template):
    delimiter = '{{'
    pattern = r'''
t = MyTemplate('''

print 'MATCHES:', t.pattern.findall(t.template)
print 'SUBSTITUTED:', t.safe_substitute(var='replacement')

We still have to provide both the named and braced patterns, even though they are the same. Here’s the output:

$ python

MATCHES: [('{{', '', '', ''), ('', 'var', '', '')]

Deprecated Functions

For information on the deprecated functions moved to the string and unicode classes, refer to String Methods in the manual.

See also

Standard library documentation for this module.
PEP 292
Simpler String Substitutions

Text Processing Tools