Python Language Make custom classes orderable


Example

min, max, and sorted all need the objects to be orderable. To be properly orderable, the class needs to define all of the 6 methods __lt__, __gt__, __ge__, __le__, __ne__ and __eq__:

class IntegerContainer(object):
    def __init__(self, value):
        self.value = value
        
    def __repr__(self):
        return "{}({})".format(self.__class__.__name__, self.value)
    
    def __lt__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test less than {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value < other.value
    
    def __le__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test less than or equal to {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value <= other.value

    def __gt__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test greater than {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value > other.value

    def __ge__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test greater than or equal to {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value >= other.value

    def __eq__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test equal to {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value == other.value

    def __ne__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test not equal to {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value != other.value

Though implementing all these methods would seem unnecessary, omitting some of them will make your code prone to bugs.

Examples:

alist = [IntegerContainer(5), IntegerContainer(3),
         IntegerContainer(10), IntegerContainer(7)
        ]

res = max(alist)
# Out: IntegerContainer(3) - Test greater than IntegerContainer(5)
#      IntegerContainer(10) - Test greater than IntegerContainer(5)
#      IntegerContainer(7) - Test greater than IntegerContainer(10)
print(res)
# Out: IntegerContainer(10)

res = min(alist)   
# Out: IntegerContainer(3) - Test less than IntegerContainer(5)
#      IntegerContainer(10) - Test less than IntegerContainer(3)
#      IntegerContainer(7) - Test less than IntegerContainer(3)
print(res)
# Out: IntegerContainer(3)

res = sorted(alist)
# Out: IntegerContainer(3) - Test less than IntegerContainer(5)
#      IntegerContainer(10) - Test less than IntegerContainer(3)
#      IntegerContainer(10) - Test less than IntegerContainer(5)
#      IntegerContainer(7) - Test less than IntegerContainer(5)
#      IntegerContainer(7) - Test less than IntegerContainer(10)
print(res)
# Out: [IntegerContainer(3), IntegerContainer(5), IntegerContainer(7), IntegerContainer(10)]

sorted with reverse=True also uses __lt__:

res = sorted(alist, reverse=True)
# Out: IntegerContainer(10) - Test less than IntegerContainer(7)
#      IntegerContainer(3) - Test less than IntegerContainer(10)
#      IntegerContainer(3) - Test less than IntegerContainer(10)
#      IntegerContainer(3) - Test less than IntegerContainer(7)
#      IntegerContainer(5) - Test less than IntegerContainer(7)
#      IntegerContainer(5) - Test less than IntegerContainer(3)
print(res)
# Out: [IntegerContainer(10), IntegerContainer(7), IntegerContainer(5), IntegerContainer(3)]

But sorted can use __gt__ instead if the default is not implemented:

del IntegerContainer.__lt__   # The IntegerContainer no longer implements "less than"

res = min(alist) 
# Out: IntegerContainer(5) - Test greater than IntegerContainer(3)
#      IntegerContainer(3) - Test greater than IntegerContainer(10)
#      IntegerContainer(3) - Test greater than IntegerContainer(7)
print(res)
# Out: IntegerContainer(3)

Sorting methods will raise a TypeError if neither __lt__ nor __gt__ are implemented:

del IntegerContainer.__gt__   # The IntegerContainer no longer implements "greater then"

res = min(alist) 

TypeError: unorderable types: IntegerContainer() < IntegerContainer()


functools.total_ordering decorator can be used simplifying the effort of writing these rich comparison methods. If you decorate your class with total_ordering, you need to implement __eq__, __ne__ and only one of the __lt__, __le__, __ge__ or __gt__, and the decorator will fill in the rest:

import functools

@functools.total_ordering
class IntegerContainer(object):
    def __init__(self, value):
        self.value = value
        
    def __repr__(self):
        return "{}({})".format(self.__class__.__name__, self.value)
    
    def __lt__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test less than {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value < other.value
    
    def __eq__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test equal to {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value == other.value
    
    def __ne__(self, other):
        print('{!r} - Test not equal to {!r}'.format(self, other))
        return self.value != other.value


IntegerContainer(5) > IntegerContainer(6)
# Output: IntegerContainer(5) - Test less than IntegerContainer(6)
# Returns: False

IntegerContainer(6) > IntegerContainer(5)
# Output: IntegerContainer(6) - Test less than IntegerContainer(5)
# Output: IntegerContainer(6) - Test equal to IntegerContainer(5)
# Returns True

Notice how the > (greater than) now ends up calling the less than method, and in some cases even the __eq__ method. This also means that if speed is of great importance, you should implement each rich comparison method yourself.