Book Image

Python 3 Object-Oriented Programming - Third Edition

By : Dusty Phillips
Book Image

Python 3 Object-Oriented Programming - Third Edition

By: Dusty Phillips

Overview of this book

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a popular design paradigm in which data and behaviors are encapsulated in such a way that they can be manipulated together. This third edition of Python 3 Object-Oriented Programming fully explains classes, data encapsulation, and exceptions with an emphasis on when you can use each principle to develop well-designed software. Starting with a detailed analysis of object-oriented programming, you will use the Python programming language to clearly grasp key concepts from the object-oriented paradigm. You will learn how to create maintainable applications by studying higher level design patterns. The book will show you the complexities of string and file manipulation, and how Python distinguishes between binary and textual data. Not one, but two very powerful automated testing systems, unittest and pytest, will be introduced in this book. You'll get a comprehensive introduction to Python's concurrent programming ecosystem. By the end of the book, you will have thoroughly learned object-oriented principles using Python syntax and be able to create robust and reliable programs confidently.
Table of Contents (15 chapters)


We discussed three types of relationships between objects: association, composition, and aggregation. However, we have not fully specified our chess set, and these tools don't seem to give us all the power we need. We discussed the possibility that a player might be a human or it might be a piece of software featuring artificial intelligence. It doesn't seem right to say that a player is associated with a human, or that the artificial intelligence implementation is part of the player object. What we really need is the ability to say that Deep Blue is a player, or that Gary Kasparov is a player.

The is a relationship is formed by inheritance. Inheritance is the most famous, well-known, and over-used relationship in object-oriented programming. Inheritance is sort of like a family tree. My grandfather's last name was Phillips and my father inherited that name. I inherited it from him. In object-oriented programming, instead of inheriting features and behaviors from a person, one class can inherit attributes and methods from another class.

For example, there are 32 chess pieces in our chess set, but there are only six different types of pieces (pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, king, and queen), each of which behaves differently when it is moved. All of these classes of piece have properties, such as color and the chess set they are part of, but they also have unique shapes when drawn on the chess board, and make different moves. Let's see how the six types of pieces can inherit from a Piece class:

The hollow arrows indicate that the individual classes of pieces inherit from the Piece class. All the child classes automatically have a chess_set and color attribute inherited from the base class. Each piece provides a different shape property (to be drawn on the screen when rendering the board), and a different move method to move the piece to a new position on the board at each turn.

We actually know that all subclasses of the Piece class need to have a move method; otherwise, when the board tries to move the piece, it will get confused. It is possible that we would want to create a new version of the game of chess that has one additional piece (the wizard). Our current design will allow us to design this piece without giving it a move method. The board would then choke when it asked the piece to move itself.

We can fix this by creating a dummy move method on the Piece class. The subclasses can then override this method with a more specific implementation. The default implementation might, for example, pop up an error message that says That piece cannot be moved.

Overriding methods in subclasses allows very powerful object-oriented systems to be developed. For example, if we wanted to implement a Player class with artificial intelligence, we might provide a calculate_move method that takes a Board object and decides which piece to move where. A very basic class might randomly choose a piece and direction and move it accordingly. We could then override this method in a subclass with the Deep Blue implementation. The first class would be suitable for play against a raw beginner; the latter would challenge a grand master. The important thing is that other methods in the class, such as the ones that inform the board as to which move was chosen, need not be changed; this implementation can be shared between the two classes.

In the case of chess pieces, it doesn't really make sense to provide a default implementation of the move method. All we need to do is specify that the move method is required in any subclasses. This can be done by making Piece an abstract class with the move method declared abstract. Abstract methods basically say this:

We demand this method exist in any non-abstract subclass, but we are declining to specify an implementation in this class.

Indeed, it is possible to make a class that does not implement any methods at all. Such a class would simply tell us what the class should do, but provides absolutely no advice on how to do it. In object-oriented parlance, such classes are called interfaces.

Inheritance provides abstraction

Let's explore the longest word in object-oriented argot. Polymorphism is the ability to treat a class differently, depending on which subclass is implemented. We've already seen it in action with the pieces system we've described. If we took the design a bit further, we'd probably see that the Board object can accept a move from the player and call the move function on the piece. The board need not ever know what type of piece it is dealing with. All it has to do is call the move method, and the proper subclass will take care of moving it as a Knight or a Pawn.

Polymorphism is pretty cool, but it is a word that is rarely used in Python programming. Python goes an extra step past allowing a subclass of an object to be treated like a parent class. A board implemented in Python could take any object that has a move method, whether it is a bishop piece, a car, or a duck. When move is called, the Bishop will move diagonally on the board, the car will drive someplace, and the duck will swim or fly, depending on its mood.

This sort of polymorphism in Python is typically referred to as duck typing: if it walks like a duck or swims like a duck, it's a duck. We don't care if it really is a duck (is a being a cornerstone of inheritance), only that it swims or walks. Geese and swans might easily be able to provide the duck-like behavior we are looking for. This allows future designers to create new types of birds without actually specifying an inheritance hierarchy for aquatic birds. It also allows them to create completely different drop-in behaviors that the original designers never planned for. For example, future designers might be able to make a walking, swimming penguin that works with the same interface without ever suggesting that penguins are ducks.

Multiple inheritance

When we think of inheritance in our own family tree, we can see that we inherit features from more than just one parent. When strangers tell a proud mother that her son has his father's eyes, she will typically respond along the lines of, yes, but he got my nose.

Object-oriented design can also feature such multiple inheritance, which allows a subclass to inherit functionality from multiple parent classes. In practice, multiple inheritance can be a tricky business, and some programming languages (most famously, Java) strictly prohibit it. However, multiple inheritance can have its uses. Most often, it can be used to create objects that have two distinct sets of behaviors. For example, an object designed to connect to a scanner and send a fax of the scanned document might be created by inheriting from two separate scanner and faxer objects.

As long as two classes have distinct interfaces, it is not normally harmful for a subclass to inherit from both of them. However, it gets messy if we inherit from two classes that provide overlapping interfaces. For example, if we have a motorcycle class that has a move method, and a boat class also featuring a move method, and we want to merge them into the ultimate amphibious vehicle, how does the resulting class know what to do when we call move? At the design level, this needs to be explained, and, at the implementation level, each programming language has different ways of deciding which parent class's method is called, or in what order.

Often, the best way to deal with it is to avoid it. If you have a design showing up like this, you're probably doing it wrong. Take a step back, analyze the system again, and see if you can remove the multiple inheritance relationship in favor of some other association or composite design.

Inheritance is a very powerful tool for extending behavior. It is also one of the most marketable advancements of object-oriented design over earlier paradigms. Therefore, it is often the first tool that object-oriented programmers reach for. However, it is important to recognize that owning a hammer does not turn screws into nails. Inheritance is the perfect solution for obvious is a relationships, but it can be abused. Programmers often use inheritance to share code between two kinds of objects that are only distantly related, with no is a relationship in sight. While this is not necessarily a bad design, it is a terrific opportunity to ask just why they decided to design it that way, and whether a different relationship or design pattern would have been more suitable.