Meaning of classmethod and staticmethod for beginner

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Could someone explain to me the meaning of @classmethod and @staticmethod in python? I need to know the difference and the meaning.

As far as I understand, @classmethod tells a class that it's a method which should be inherited into subclasses, or... something. However, what's the point of that? Why not just define the class method without adding @classmethod or @staticmethod or any @ definitions?

tl;dr: when should I use them, why should I use them, and how should I use them?

Dec 18, 2020 in Python by Rajiv
• 8,880 points
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1 answer to this question.

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Example

class Date(object):

    def __init__(self, day=0, month=0, year=0):
        self.day = day
        self.month = month
        self.year = year

    @classmethod
    def from_string(cls, date_as_string):
        day, month, year = map(int, date_as_string.split('-'))
        date1 = cls(day, month, year)
        return date1

    @staticmethod
    def is_date_valid(date_as_string):
        day, month, year = map(int, date_as_string.split('-'))
        return day <= 31 and month <= 12 and year <= 3999

date2 = Date.from_string('11-09-2012')
is_date = Date.is_date_valid('11-09-2012')

Explanation

Let's assume an example of a class, dealing with date information (this will be our boilerplate):

class Date(object):

    def __init__(self, day=0, month=0, year=0):
        self.day = day
        self.month = month
        self.year = year

This class obviously could be used to store information about certain dates (without timezone information; let's assume all dates are presented in UTC).

Here we have __init__, a typical initializer of Python class instances, which receives arguments as a typical instancemethod, having the first non-optional argument (self) that holds a reference to a newly created instance.

Class Method

We have some tasks that can be nicely done using classmethods.

Let's assume that we want to create a lot of Date class instances having date information coming from an outer source encoded as a string with format 'dd-mm-yyyy'. Suppose we have to do this in different places in the source code of our project.

So what we must do here is:

  1. Parse a string to receive day, month and year as three integer variables or a 3-item tuple consisting of that variable.
  2. Instantiate Date by passing those values to the initialization call.

This will look like:

day, month, year = map(int, string_date.split('-'))
date1 = Date(day, month, year)

For this purpose, C++ can implement such a feature with overloading, but Python lacks this overloading. Instead, we can use classmethod. Let's create another "constructor".

    @classmethod
    def from_string(cls, date_as_string):
        day, month, year = map(int, date_as_string.split('-'))
        date1 = cls(day, month, year)
        return date1

date2 = Date.from_string('11-09-2012')

Let's look more carefully at the above implementation, and review what advantages we have here:

  1. We've implemented date string parsing in one place and it's reusable now.
  2. Encapsulation works fine here (if you think that you could implement string parsing as a single function elsewhere, this solution fits the OOP paradigm far better).
  3. cls is an object that holds the class itself, not an instance of the class. It's pretty cool because if we inherit our Date class, all children will have from_string defined also.

Static method

What about staticmethod? It's pretty similar to classmethod but doesn't take any obligatory parameters (like a class method or instance method does).

Let's look at the next use case.

We have a date string that we want to validate somehow. This task is also logically bound to the Date class we've used so far, but doesn't require instantiation of it.

answered Dec 18, 2020 by Gitika
• 65,910 points

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