PyScript introduction

The pyscript module provides functionality for transpiling Python code to JavaScript.

Quick intro

This is a brief intro for using PyScript. For more details see the sections below.

PyScript is a tool to write JavaScript using (a subset) of the Python language. All relevant buildins, and the methods of list, dict and str are supported. Not supported are set, slicing with steps, **kwargs, with, yield. Imports are not supported. Other than that, most Python code should work as expected, though if you try hard enough the JavaScript may shine through. As a rule of thumb, the code should behave as expected when correct, but error reporting may not be very Pythonic.

The most important functions you need to know about are py2js and evalpy. In principal you do not need knowledge of JavaScript to write PyScript code.

Goals

There is an increase in Python projects that target web technology to handle visualization and user interaction. PyScript grew out of a desire to allow writing JavaScript callbacks in Python, to allow user-defined interaction to be flexible, fast, and stand-alone.

This resulted in the following two main goals:

  • To make writing JavaScript easier and less frustrating, by letting people write it with the Python syntax and buildins, and fixing some of JavaScripts quirks.
  • To allow JavaScript snippets to be defined naturally inside a Python program.

Code produced by PyScript works standalone. Any (PyScript-compatible) Python snippet can be converted to JS; you don’t need another JS library to run it.

PyScript can also be used to develop standalone JavaScript (AMD) modules.

PyScript is just JavaScript

The purpose of projects like Skulpt or PyJS is to enable full Python support in the browser. This approach will always be plagued by a fundamental limitation: libraries that are not pure Python (like numpy) will not work.

PyScript takes a more modest approach; it is a tool that allows one to write JavaScript with a Python syntax. PyScript is just JavaScript.

This means that depending on what you want to achieve, you may still need to know a thing or two about how JavaScript works. Further, not all Python code can be converted (e.g. **kwargs are not supported), and lists and dicts are really just JavaScript arrays and objects, respectively.

Pythonic

PyScript makes writing JS more “Pythonic”. Apart from allowing Python syntax for loops, classes, etc, all relevant Python buildins are supported, as well as the methods of list, dict and str. E.g. you can use print(), range(), L.append(), D.update(), etc.

The empty list and dict evaluate to false (whereas in JS it’s true), and isinstance() just works (whereas JS’ typeof is broken).

Deep comparisons are supported (e.g. for == and in), so you can actually compare two lists or dicts, or even a structure of nested lists/dicts. Lists can be combined with the plus operator, and lists and strings can be repeated with the multiply (star) operator. Class methods are bound functions.

Caveats

PyScript fixes some of JS’s quirks, but it’s still just JavaScript. Here’s a list of things to keep an eye out for. This list is likely incomplete. We recommend familiarizing yourself with JavaScript if you plan to make heavy use of PyScript.

  • JavasScript has a concept of null (i.e. None), as well as undefined. Sometimes you may want to use if x is None or x is undefined: ....
  • Accessing an attribute that does not exist will not raise an AttributeError but yield undefined.
  • Magic functions on classes (e.g. for operator overloading) do not work.
  • Calling an object that starts with a capital letter is assumed to be a class instantiation (using new): PyScript classes must start with a capital letter, and any other callables must not.

PyScript is valid Python

Other than e.g. RapydScript, PyScript is valid Python. This allows creating modules that are a mix of real Python and PyScript. You can easily write code that runs correctly both as Python and PyScript. Raw JS can be included by defining a function with only a docstring.

PyScript itself (the compiler) is written in Python. Perhaps PyScript can at some point compile itself, so that it becomes possible to define PyScript inside HTML documents.

Performance

Because PyScript produces relatively bare JavaScript, it is pretty fast. Faster than CPython, and significantly faster than Brython and friends. Check out examples/app/benchmark.py.

Nevertheless, the overhead to realize the more Pythonic behavior can have a negative impact on performance in tight loops (in comparison to writing the JS by hand). The recommended approach is to write performance critical code in pure JavaScript if necessary. This can be done by defining a function with only a docstring (containing the JS code).

Support

This is an overview of the language features that PyScript supports/lacks.

Not currently supported:

  • import (maybe we should translate an import to require()?)
  • the set class (JS has no set, but we could create one?)
  • slicing with steps (JS does not support this)
  • support for **kwargs (maps badly to JS call mechanism)
  • The with statement (no equivalent in JS)
  • Generators, i.e. yield (not widely supported in JS)

Supported basics:

  • numbers, strings, lists, dicts (the latter become JS arrays and objects)
  • operations: binary, unary, boolean, power, integer division, in operator
  • comparisons (== -> ==, is -> ===)
  • tuple packing and unpacking
  • basic string formatting
  • slicing with start end end (though not with step)
  • if-statements and single-line if-expressions
  • while-loops and for-loops supporting continue, break, and else-clauses
  • for-loops using range()
  • for-loop over arrays
  • for-loop over dict/object using .keys(), .values() and .items()
  • function calls can have *args
  • function defs can have default arguments and *args
  • lambda expressions
  • list comprehensions
  • classes, with (single) inheritance, and the use of super()
  • raising and catching exceptions, assertions
  • creation of “modules”
  • globals / nonlocal

Supported Python conveniences:

  • use of self is translated to this
  • print() becomes console.log() (also supports sep and end)
  • isinstance() Just Works (for primitive types as well as user-defined classes)
  • an empty list or dict evaluates to False as in Python.
  • all Python buildin functions that make sense in JS are supported: isinstance, issubclass, callable, hasattr, getattr, setattr, delattr, print, len, max, min, chr, ord, dict, list, tuple, range, pow, sum, round, int, float, str, bool, abs, divmod, all, any, enumerate, zip, reversed, sorted, filter, map.
  • all methods of list, dict and str are supported (except a few string methods: encode format format_map isdecimal isdigit isprintable maketrans)
  • the default return value of a function is None/null instead of undefined.
  • list concatenation using the plus operator, and list/str repeating using the star operator.
  • deep comparisons.
  • class methods are bound functions (i.e. this is fixed to the instance).
  • functions that are defined in another function (a.k.a closures) that do not have self/this as a first argument, are bound the the same instance as the function in which it is defined.

Other functionality

The PyScript package provides a few other “utilities” to deal with JS code, such as renaming function/class definitions, and creating JS modules (AMD, UMD, etc.).