Python Metaprogramming Tutorial – Complete Guide

Meta-what now? Yes, you heard it right – metaprogramming! It might sound intimidating, but it’s a powerful aspect of programming that could add a whole new level of dynamism and efficiency to your code. In this comprehensive tutorial, we’re going to demystify this seemingly complex concept and gently guide you through the world of metaprogramming using Python. Let’s dive into the world of metaprogramming and find out what’s so meta about it!

What is Metaprogramming?

At its core, metaprogramming is the creation of programs that can generate or manipulate other programs (or even manipulate themselves). In simpler terms, it’s the writing of code that can write other code.

Metaprogramming can greatly increase the efficiency and flexibility of your programs. It allows you to automize code generation, reduce boilerplate code, and write more maintainable and efficient solutions.

While metaprogramming may sound complex, mastering this concept equips you with a powerful tool in your coding arsenal. From developing more efficient code, to providing dynamic functionality, metaprogramming opens up any number of possibilities. Whether you’re a coding enthusiast looking to learn something new, or a seasoned programmer in search of more efficient ways to handle code repetition, metaprogramming is a worthwhile skill to pick up.

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Getting Started with Metaprogramming in Python

Let’s cover some practical applications of metaprogramming using Python. To start exploring, we’ll look into type(), which is Python’s own metaprogramming function for dynamically creating types.

The Basics: Type()

def foo(self): return 'foo'

Foo = type('Foo', (), {'foo': foo})

x = Foo()
print(  # Prints 'foo'

In the code above, we’re using the type() function to directly generate a new class. The parameters to type are the name of the class, a tuple of base classes, and a dictionary for class members. Then we create an instance of the class and call its method.


In Python, classes are governed by metaclasses, which are higher-level classes that determine the behaviour of lower-level classes. The default metaclass is type. Let’s define our own metaclass.

class MetaFoo(type):
    def __new__(meta, name, bases, class_dict):
        print('Creating class', name)
        return type.__new__(meta, name, bases, class_dict)

class Foo(metaclass=MetaFoo):

Here, we define MetaFoo that inherits from type. Whenever a class is defined with MetaFoo as metaclass, it prints a message (‘Creating class’).

Attributes Manipulation

Metaprogramming can also be used to manipulate class attributes dynamically. Let’s use getattr, setattr and delattr functions for this purpose:

class Foo:
    bar = 'Hello'

# getattr
print(getattr(Foo, 'bar'))  # Prints 'Hello'

# setattr
setattr(Foo, 'bar', 'World')
print(  # Prints 'World'

# delattr
delattr(Foo, 'bar')
print(hasattr(Foo, 'bar'))  # Returns False

Here, getattr is used to get the attribute of Foo, setattr to change the attribute and delattr to delete the attribute.


Decorators in Python allow us to make modifications to functions, methods or classes using a special syntax, and are a common form of Python metaprogramming.

def decorator_func(f):
    def wrapper():
        print("Before function call")
        print("After function call")
    return wrapper

def hello():
    print("Hello, World!")


This decorator will print statements before and after the function call, without modifying the function itself.

Decorators with Arguments

Decorators themselves can take arguments, leading to what we call decorator factories. Let’s see how they work:

def repeat(num_times):
    def decorator_repeat(func):
        def wrapper(*args, **kwargs):
            for _ in range(num_times):
                func(*args, **kwargs)
        return wrapper
    return decorator_repeat 

def greet(name):
    print(f'Hello {name}')

greet('World')  # Prints 'Hello World' three times

Here, the decorator factory repeat() returns an actual decorator that repeats the function call num_times times.

Class Decorators

Decorators can also be applied to classes, not just functions and methods. Let’s apply a function decorator to all methods of the class.

def debug(func):
    def wrapper(*args, **kwargs):
        print(f'Calling {func.__name__}')
        return func(*args, **kwargs)
    return wrapper

class Foo:
    def bar(self):
f = Foo()  # Prints 'Calling bar'

Here, we define a decorator debug and use it to decorate all methods in class Foo.

Property Decorators

The property decorator allows us to define methods that we can access like attributes, without calling them as a method.

class Circle:
    def __init__(self, radius):
        self._radius = radius

    def radius(self):
        return self._radius

    def radius(self, value):
        if value >= 0:
            self._radius = value
            raise ValueError("Radius must be positive")

c = Circle(5)
print(c.radius)  # Can access like an attribute
c.radius = 10  # Can set value like an attribute

This example shows how to make a method behave like an attribute outside the class. We’ve also used @radius.setter to control what happens when the value is set.

Dynamic Attribute Access

In Python, the special methods __getattr__ and __setattr__ allow us to define custom attribute access on instances, which can be rather powerful.

class Foo:
    def __getattr__(self, name):
        print(f'Accessed non-existent attribute {name}.')

    def __setattr__(self, name, value):
        print(f'Set attribute {name} to {value}.')
        super().__setattr__(name, value)

foo = Foo()  # Prints 'Accessed non-existent attribute bar.' = 'Hello'  # Prints 'Set attribute bar to Hello.'

In this example, we intercept the access and assignment of non-existent attributes to an instance of Foo with __getattr__ and __setattr__.

Where to Go Next?

Congratulations on taking your first steps into the world of Python metaprogramming. However, this is just the beginning. The world of Python is vast and exciting with numerous topics to explore and deepen your knowledge.

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Regardless of your experience level, the Python Mini-Degree offers an enriching learning journey. For beginners, it’s a perfect launchpad, and for the experienced, an opportunity to hone existing skills.

With a dynamic and flexible structure, the program permits students to learn at their own pace, under the guidance of our experienced, certified instructors. Supplement your learning journey with a host of resources, including live coding lessons, quizzes, completion certificates, and more.

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Without a doubt, Python metaprogramming is a potent skill to add to your coding expertise. Not only does it open up a realm of creative possibilities, but it also equips you with the capability to write efficient, high-performing code. The world of programming is expansive, dynamic, and perpetually evolving, but remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Ready to take your Python journey to the next level? Consider joining us at Zenva. We’re excited to be part of your programming adventure, offering high-quality courses that equip you with the skills to create, innovate, and ascend to new heights in your coding journey. Let’s start coding together!

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