imp – Interface to module import mechanism.

Purpose:The imp module exposes the implementation of Python’s import statement.
Available In:At least 2.2.1

The imp module includes functions that expose part of the underlying implementation of Python’s import mechanism for loading code in packages and modules. It is one access point to importing modules dynamically, and useful in some cases where you don’t know the name of the module you need to import when you write your code (e.g., for plugins or extensions to an application).

Example Package

The examples below use a package called “example” with

print 'Importing example package'

and module called submodule containing:

print 'Importing submodule'

Watch for the text from the print statements in the sample output when the package or module are imported.

Module Types

Python supports several styles of modules. Each requires its own handling when opening the module and adding it to the namespace. Some of the supported types and those parameters can be listed by the get_suffixes() function.

import imp

module_types = { imp.PY_SOURCE:   'source',
                 imp.PY_COMPILED: 'compiled',
                 imp.C_EXTENSION: 'extension',
                 imp.PY_RESOURCE: 'resource',
                 imp.PKG_DIRECTORY: 'package',

def main():
    fmt = '%10s %10s %10s'
    print fmt % ('Extension', 'Mode', 'Type')
    print '-' * 32
    for extension, mode, module_type in imp.get_suffixes():
        print fmt % (extension, mode, module_types[module_type])

if __name__ == '__main__':

get_suffixes() returns a sequence of tuples containing the file extension, mode to use for opening the file, and a type code from a constant defined in the module. This table is incomplete, because some of the importable module or package types do not correspond to single files.

$ python

 Extension       Mode       Type
       .so         rb  extension         rb  extension
       .py          U     source
      .pyc         rb   compiled

Finding Modules

The first step to loading a module is finding it. find_module() scans the import search path looking for a package or module with the given name. It returns an open file handle (if appropriate for the type), filename where the module was found, and “description” (a tuple such as those returned by get_suffixes()).

import imp
from imp_get_suffixes import module_types

print 'Package:'
f, filename, description = imp.find_module('example')
print module_types[description[2]], filename

print 'Sub-module:'
f, filename, description = imp.find_module('submodule', [filename])
print module_types[description[2]], filename
if f: f.close()

find_module() does not pay attention to dotted package names (“example.submodule”), so the caller has to take care to pass the correct path for any nested modules. That means that when importing the submodule from the package, you need to give a path that points to the package directory for find_module() to locate the module you’re looking for.

$ python

package /Users/dhellmann/Documents/PyMOTW/src/PyMOTW/imp/example

source /Users/dhellmann/Documents/PyMOTW/src/PyMOTW/imp/example/

If find_module() cannot locate the module, it raises an ImportError.

import imp

except ImportError, err:
    print 'ImportError:', err
$ python

ImportError: No module named no_such_module

Loading Modules

Once you have found the module, use load_module() to actually import it. load_module() takes the full dotted path module name and the values returned by find_module() (the open file handle, filename, and description tuple).

import imp

f, filename, description = imp.find_module('example')
example_package = imp.load_module('example', f, filename, description)
print 'Package:', example_package

f, filename, description = imp.find_module('submodule', 
    submodule = imp.load_module('example.module', f, filename, description)
    print 'Sub-module:', submodule

load_module() creates a new module object with the name given, loads the code for it, and adds it to sys.modules.

$ python
Importing example package
Package: <module 'example' from '/Users/dhellmann/Documents/PyMOTW/trunk/PyMOTW/imp/example/'>
Importing submodule
Sub-module: <module 'example.module' from '/Users/dhellmann/Documents/PyMOTW/trunk/PyMOTW/imp/example/'>

If you call load_module() for a module which has already been imported, the effect is like calling reload() on the existing module object.

import imp
import sys

for i in range(2):
    print i,
        m = sys.modules['example']
    except KeyError:
        print '(not in sys.modules)',
        print '(have in sys.modules)',
    f, filename, description = imp.find_module('example')
    example_package = imp.load_module('example', f, filename, description)

Instead of a creating a new module, the contents of the existing module are simply replaced.

$ python

0 (not in sys.modules) Importing example package
1 (have in sys.modules) Importing example package

See also

The standard library documentation for this module.
Modules and Imports
Import hooks, the module search path, and other related machinery.
Load information from a module programmatically.
PEP 302
New import hooks.
PEP 369
Post import hooks.