Possibility and Probability

A Python programmer with a personality thinking about space exploration

29 May 2007

A shortfall of Python: no function overloading

by Nick

I’m a big fan of Python. It has little quirks that can be annoying (like having to specify self.method() instead of using scoping rules to look at the class first), but overall I really like the language. But today I ran into a shortfall that I really stubbed my toe on: Python (as of 2.5) doesn’t support function overloading. For example, this snippet of code won’t run:

def a(): print “This is a” def a(x): print “This is a(x)” a()

Instead it will just tell you that TypeError: a() takes exactly 1 argument (0 given) presumably because the second function (a(x)) seems to overwrite the reference to the first one. Further reading on the topic shows that a fix for this might be coming in the future (see Guido’s blog entry for details). The strange thing for me is I never noticed this until recently. The only reason I ran into it was because I wanted to do some refactoring where it made sense to have an overloaded method. Or at least that’s what I would have done in Java. Not having this option available is having an interesting side effect in that it made me step back a little bit and evaluate the “big picture” a little bit more than I normally do. Which in this case isn’t a bad thing, hopefully it will cause some me to stretch in new directions and discover my inner OO-Architect…