RFC for PEP 663: Improving and Standardizing Enum str(), repr(), and format() behaviors

PEP: 663
Title: Improving and Standardizing Enum str(), repr(), and format() behaviors
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: Ethan Furman ethan@stoneleaf.us
Discussions-To: python-dev@python.org
Status: Draft
Type: Informational
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Created: 23-Feb-2013
Python-Version: 3.11
Post-History: 20-Jul-2021
Resolution:

Abstract

Now that we have a few years experience with Enum usage it is time to update
the repr(), str(), and format() of the various enumerations by their
intended purpose.

Motivation

The addition of StrEnum with its requirement to have its str() be its
value is inconsistent with other provided Enum’s str.

Having the str() of IntEnum and IntFlag not be the value causes
bugs and extra work when replacing existing constants.

Having the str() and format() of an enum member be different can be
confusing.

The iteration of Flag members, which directly affects their repr(), is
inelegant at best, and buggy at worst.

Rationale

Enums are becoming more common in the standard library; being able to recognize
enum members by their repr(), and having that repr() be easy to parse, is
useful and can save time and effort in understanding and debugging code.

However, the enums with mixed-in data types (IntEnum, IntFlag, and the new
StrEnum) need to be more backwards compatible with the constants they are
replacing – specifically, str(replacement_enum_member) == str(original_constant)
should be true (and the same for format()).

IntEnum, IntFlag, and StrEnum should be as close to a drop-in replacement of
existing integer and string constants as is possible. Towards that goal, the
str() output of each should be its inherent value; e.g. if Color is an
IntEnum::

>>> Color.RED
<Color.RED: 1>
>>> str(Color.RED)
'1'
>>> format(Color.RED)
'1'

Note that format() already produces the correct output in 3.10, only str() needs
updating.

As much as possible, the str()`, repr(), and format()`` of enum members
should be standardized across the stardard library.

The repr() of Flag currently includes aliases, which it should not; fixing that
will, of course, already change its repr() in certain cases.

Specification

There a three broad categories of enum usage:

  • standard: Enum or Flag
    a new enum class is created, and the members are used as class.member_name

  • drop-in replacement: IntEnum, IntFlag, StrEnum
    a new enum class is created which also subclasses int or str and uses
    int.__str__ or str.__str__; the repr can be changed by using the
    global_enum decorator

  • user-mixed enums and flags
    the user creates their own integer-, float-, str-, whatever-enums instead of
    using enum.IntEnum, etc.

Some sample enums::

# module: tools.py

class Hue(Enum):  # or IntEnum
    LIGHT = -1
    NORMAL = 0
    DARK = +1

class Color(Flag):  # or IntFlag
    RED = 1
    GREEN = 2
    BLUE = 4

class Grey(int, Enum):  # or (int, Flag)
   BLACK = 0
   WHITE = 1

Using the above enumerations, the following table shows the old and new
behavior, while the last shows the final result:

+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| type                   | enum repr()     | enum str() | enum format()         | flag repr()           | flag str()             | flag format()         |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| standard    | 3.10     |                 |            |                       | <Color.RED|GREEN: 3>  | Color.RED|GREEN        | Color.RED|GREEN       |
|             +----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
|             | new      |                 |            |                       | <Color(3): RED|GREEN> | Color.RED|Color.GREEN  | Color.RED|Color.GREEN |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| user mixed  | 3.10     |                 |            | 1                     | <Grey.WHITE: 1>       |                        | 1                     |
|             +----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
|             | new      |                 |            | Grey.WHITE            | <Grey(1): WHITE>      |                        | Grey.WHITE            |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| int drop-in | 3.10     |                 | Hue.LIGHT  |                       | <Color.RED|GREEN: 3>  | Color.RED|GREEN        |                       |
|             +----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
|             | new      |                 | -1         |                       | <Color(3): RED|GREEN> | 3                      |                       |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| global      | 3.10     | <Hue.LIGHT: -1> | Hue.LIGHT  | Hue.LIGHT             | <Color.RED|GREEN: 3>  | Color.RED|GREEN        | Color.RED|GREEN       |
|             +----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
|             | new      | tools.LIGHT     | LIGHT      | LIGHT                 | tools.RED|tools.GREEN | RED|GREEN              | RED|GREEN             |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| user mixed  | 3.10     | <Grey.WHITE: 1  | Grey.WHITE | Grey.WHITE            | <Grey.WHITE: 1>       | Grey.WHITE             | 1                     |
|             +----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
|             | new      | tools.WHITE     | WHITE      | WHITE                 | tools.WHITE           | WHITE                  | WHITE                 |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| int drop-in | 3.10     | <Hue.LIGHT: -1> | Hue.LIGHT  |                       | <Color.RED|GREEN: 3>  | Color.RED|GREEN        |                       |
|             +----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
|             | new      | tools.LIGHT     | -1         |                       | tools.RED|tools.GREEN | 3                      |                       |
+-------------+----------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+

Which will result in:

+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| type        | enum repr()     | enum str() | enum format()         | flag repr()           | flag str()             | flag format()         |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| standard    | <Hue.LIGHT: -1> | Hue.LIGHT  | Hue.LIGHT             | <Color(3): RED|GREEN> | Color.RED|Color.GREEN  | Color.RED|Color.GREEN |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| user mixed  | <Grey.WHITE: 1> | Grey.WHITE | Grey.WHITE            | <Grey(1): WHITE>      | Grey.WHITE             | Grey.WHITE            |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| int drop-in | <Hue.LIGHT: -1> | -1         | -1                    | <Color(3): RED|GREEN> | 3                      | 3                     |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| global      | tools.LIGHT     | LIGHT      | LIGHT                 | tools.RED|tools.GREEN | RED|GREEN              | RED|GREEN             |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| user mixed  | tools.WHITE     | WHITE      | WHITE                 | tools.WHITE           | WHITE                  | WHITE                 |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+
| int drop-in | tools.LIGHT     | -1         | -1                    | tools.RED|tools.GREEN | 3                      | 3                     |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+------------------------+-----------------------+

As can be seen, repr() is primarily affected by whether the members are
global, while str() is affected by being global or by being a drop-in
replacement, with the drop-in replacement status having a higher priority.
Also, the basic repr() and str() have changed for flags as the old
style was very clunky.

The repr() for Enum vs Flag are different, primarily because the Enum
repr() does not work well for flags. I like being able to tell whether
an enum member is a Flag or an Enum based on the repr() alone, but am open
to arguments for changing Enum’s repr() to match Flag’s.

Backwards Compatibility

My understanding is that str() and repr() output has much lower
backwards compatibility requirements. Even so, I expect the majority of
breakage to be in doc and unit tests. I’m less clear on the policy for
format().

Note that by changing the str() of the drop-in category, we will actually
prevent future breakage when IntEnum, et al, are used to replace existing
constants.

Mitigation

Normal usage of enum members will not change: re.ASCII can still be used
as re.ASCII and will still compare equal to 256. If one wants their
own enums in their own code to remain the same they will need to write their
own base Enum class and then write the appropriate repr, str(), and
format() methods (or copy them from the 3.10 enum module).

Copyright

This document is placed in the public domain or under the
CC0-1.0-Universal license, whichever is more permissive.