Inline::Python - Write Perl subs and classes in Python.


   print "9 + 16 = ", add(9, 16), "\n";
   print "9 - 16 = ", subtract(9, 16), "\n";

   use Inline Python => <<'END_OF_PYTHON_CODE';
   def add(x,y): 
      return x + y

   def subtract(x,y):
      return x - y



The Inline::Python module allows you to put Python source code directly "inline" in a Perl script or module. It sets up an in-process Python interpreter, runs your code, and then examines Python's symbol table for things to bind to Perl. The process of interrogating the Python interpreter for globals only occurs the first time you run your Python code. The namespace is cached, and subsequent calls use the cached version.


One of the coolest new features in this release of Inline::Python is that you can now access Perl from within your embedded Python code. This allows all sorts of interesting interaction between the languages.

This document describes Inline::Python, the Perl package which gives you access to a Python interpreter. For lack of a better place to keep it, it also gives you instructions on how to use perlmodule, the Python package which gives you access to the Perl interpreter.

Using the Inline::Python Module

Using Inline::Python will seem very similar to using another Inline language, thanks to Inline's consistent look and feel.

This section will explain the different ways to use Inline::Python. For more details on Inline, see 'perldoc Inline'.

Giving Your Source to Inline

The most basic form for using Inline::Python is this:

   use Inline Python => 'Python source code';

Of course, you can use Perl's "here document" style of quoting to make the code slightly easier to read:

   use Inline Python => <<'END';

     Python source code goes here.


The source code can also be specified as a filename, a subroutine reference (sub routine should return source code), or an array reference (array contains lines of source code). The recommended way of using Inline is this:

   use Inline Python;



   Python source code goes here.

This information is detailed in 'perldoc Inline'.

Importing Functions

Maybe you have a whole library written in Python that only needs one entry point. You'll want to import that function. It's as easy as this:

   use Inline Python;



   from mylibrary import doit

Inline::Python actually binds to every function in Python's "global" namespace (those of you in the know, know that namespace is called '__main__'). So if you had another function there, you'd get that too.

Importing Classes

If you've written a library in Python, you'll make it object-oriented. That's just something Python folks do. So you'll probably want to import a class, not a function. That's just as easy:

   use Inline Python;

   my $obj = new Myclass;


   from mylibrary import myclass as Myclass

Boundary Conditions

What if you have a class that wasn't imported? Can you deal with instances of that class properly?

Of course you can! Check this out:

   use Inline Python => <<END;

   def Foo():
       class Bar:
           def __init__(self):
               print "new Bar()"
           def tank():
               return 10
       return Bar()


   my $o = Foo();

In this example, Bar isn't imported because it isn't a global -- it's hidden inside the function Foo(). But Foo() is imported into Perl, and it returns an instance of the Bar class. What happens then?

Whenever Inline::Python needs to return an instance of a class to Perl, it generates an instance of Inline::Python::Object, the base class for all Inline::Python objects. This base class knows how to do all the things you need: calling methods, in this case.

Using Perl inside Python (inside Perl)

This section doesn't talk at all about Inline::Python. It's about how to use perl. perl is a Python module bundled with Inline::Python that gives you access to Perl from inside your Python code. In the future, it will be possible to compile Inline::Python to work the other way around -- to use Python as the main programming language, and jump into Perl when you want to.

The perl package exposes Perl packages and subs. It uses the same code as Inline::Python to automatically translate parameters and return values as needed. Packages and subs are represented as PerlPkg and PerlSub, respectively.

Using the PerlPkg Type

The perl package is actually not a package at all. As soon as you import it, it replaces itself with an instance of the PerlPkg class, wrapping the Perl package "main". Perl's 'main' package is analogous to '__main__' in Python.

Here's what you can do with the 'main' PerlPkg:


   eval(source code)

Unlike Python, Perl has no exec() -- the eval() function always returns the result of the code it evaluated. eval() takes exactly one argument, the perl source code, and returns the result of the evaluation.

require() and use()

   require(module name)
   use(module name)

Use require() instead of import. In Python, you'd say this:

   import md5

But using the perl module, you'd say this:


Of course, in Perl there's more than one way to do it (TM). require() doesn't run the package's import() function. If you want symbols exported, for instance, use use() instead of require().

Here is the functionality common to all PerlPkg instances:


Python's __getattr__() function allows the package to dynamically return something to satisfy the request. For instance, you can get at the subs in a perl package by using dir() (which is the same as getattr(perl, '__methods__').

Here's an example:

   perl.eval("sub f { 10 }")    # define main::f
   f = perl.f
   f(); f("hello")              # no argument checking
   if perl.f() != 10: 
       import sys; sys.exit(1)

Notice what happens. First we call eval() to define a sub 'f'. Then we say perl.f, which goes into the __getattr__() method. We check the Perl namespace and see a function called f, which we return, wrapped in an instance of the PerlSub type.

Using the PerlSub Type

All Perl subs are wrapped in the PerlSub type, so that they can emulate Python subroutines. You can call them. It's all good. Here's what you can do with PerlSub objects:


PerlSub catches the call action and forwards the call to the real sub in Perl.

Set the evaluation flags

Perl has this notion of calling context. A subroutine can ask Perl what it is being used for. The idea is that if no one cares about your return value, you might be able to save time by not building it. By default, PerlSub objects evaluate in 'list' context with no extra flags turned on.

   perl.eval("sub f { 10 }")
   f = perl.f
   f.flags = f.flags | f.G_SCALAR
   x = f()

Here are the most common flags you'll need. For more details about these and other possible flags, see perlcall.

  1. G_VOID

    Calls the Perl subroutine in a void context. Guarantees that no results will be returned. If any are returned, Perl deletes them.


    Calls the Perl subroutine in a scalar context. Ensures that only one element is returned from the sub. If the sub returns a list, only the last element is actually saved.

  3. G_ARRAY

    Calls the Perl subroutine in a list context. Ensures that any items returned from the subroutine are returned. This is the default for PerlSub objects.


    If you are not interested in the return values, you can optimize slightly by telling Perl, and it will discard all returned values for you.


    If you are not passing any arguments, you can optimize the call so that Perl doesn't bother setting up the stack for parameters.

  6. G_EVAL

    It is possible for the Perl sub to fail, either by calling die() explicitly or by calling a non-existent sub. By default, the process will terminate immediately. To avoid this happening, you can trap the exception using the G_EVAL flag.

Under the Hood

When Inline::Python imports a class or function, it creates subs in Perl which delegate the action to some C functions I've written, which know how to call Python functions and methods.

   use Inline Python => <<'END';

   class Foo:
      def __init__(self):
         print "new Foo object being created" = {}
      def get_data(self): return
      def set_data(self,dat):  = dat


Inline::Python actually generates this code and eval()s it:

   package main::Foo;
   @main::Foo::ISA = qw(Inline::Python::Object);

   sub new {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "__main__", "Foo";
     return &Inline::Python::py_new_object;

   sub set_data {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "set_data";
     return &Inline::Python::py_call_method;

   sub get_data {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "get_data";
     return &Inline::Python::py_call_method;

   sub __init__ {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "__init__";
     return &Inline::Python::py_call_method;

More about those py_* functions, and how to generate this snippet of code yourself, in the next section.

The Do-it-yourselfer's Guide to Inline::Python

Sometimes you don't actually want to do things the Inline Way. Maybe you just want to use a Python class as-is, without ever treating it like a normal Perl class:

   use Inline::Python qw(py_eval);


   class MyClass:
       def __init__(self): = {}
       def put(self, key, value):[key] = value
       def get(self, key):
           try: return[key]
           except KeyError: return None


   my $o = Inline::Python::Object->new('__main__', 'MyClass');
   $o->put("candy", "yummy");
   die "Ooops" unless $o->get("candy") eq 'yummy';

Inline::Python provides a full suite of exportable functions you can use to manipulate Python objects and functions "directly".


   py_eval("python source code", [context])

The new py_eval() behaves a little like Perl's eval(). It evaluates the code or croaks on failure. The optional context argument can be used to place restrictions on the type of code allowed, as well as influence what happens to the result.


Accepts only expressions. Complete statements yield a syntax error. An expression is anything that can appear to the right of an '=' sign. Returns the value of the expression.


The default. Accepts arbitrarily long input, which may be any valid Python code. Always returns undef.


Accepts exactly one statement, and prints the result to STDOUT. This is how Python works in interactive mode. Always returns undef.


   py_call_function("package", "function", args...)

This function runs a Python function and returns the result. The "package" and "function" uniquely identify a function, and the remaining args are passed to the function.

Those who know Python well enough will know you can actually "run" a class and get an instance of that class back. But in case that's just too weird for you, I've given you a slightly higher-level wrapper around that common idiom.


   py_new_object("perl package", "python package", 
                 "python class", args...)

This function creates an instance of a Python class. The "python class" is the name of the class inside the "python package". The new object is blessed into the given "perl package". The remaining args are passed directly to the constructor.


   py_call_method(object, "method name", args...)

Given an instance of a Python class, this function can call a method on it. This is useful if you have an object which is blessed into a non-existent Perl package. Attempts to use Perl's object syntax would fail, because Perl wouldn't find any methods in that package. But py_call_method() can always perform method calls correctly since it unwraps the underlying Python object.


Unlike in previous releases of Inline::Python, eval_python() can now return the result of the code. As before, eval_python() is overloaded:

  1. eval_python(code, [context])

    Evaluate the code using py_eval().

  2. eval_python(python package, function, args...)

    Run the given function and return the results using py_call_function().

  3. eval_python(object, method, args...)

    Invoke the given method on the object using py_call_method() and return the results.


   py_bind_func("symbol name", "python package", "function")

This function imports a Python function (named "function") as the symbol named by "perl symbol". After this function has been called, the Python function can be called as if it were a Perl function in the given package.

   use Inline::Python qw(py_eval py_bind_func);


   def Foo():
      return 42


   # For the purposes of this example, so I know the package, I set it:
   py_bind_func("main::Bar", "__main__", "Foo");
   print "The meaning of life is: ", Bar(), "\n";

This call to py_bind_func() will generate this code and eval() it:

   sub main::Bar {
       unshift @_, "__main__", "Foo";
       return &Inline::Python::py_call_function;


   py_bind_class("perl package", "python package", "class", methods...)

This function imports a Python class (named "class") into the Perl package named by "perl package". After this function has been called, the Perl package will look just like a regular Perl class.

The example I showed earlier in the "Under the Hood" section shows the output of py_bind_class. Here's another look at it:

   use Inline::Python qw(py_eval py_bind_class);


   class Foo:
      def __init__(self):
         print "new Foo object being created" = {}
      def get_data(self): return
      def set_data(self,dat):  = dat


   py_bind_class("main::Foo", "__main__", "Foo", "set_data", "get_data");
   my $o = new Foo;

This call to py_bind_class() will generate this code and eval() it:

   package main::Foo;
   @main::Foo::ISA = qw(Inline::Python::Object);

   sub new {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "__main__", "Foo";
     return &Inline::Python::py_new_object;

   sub set_data {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "set_data";
     return &Inline::Python::py_call_method;

   sub get_data {
     splice @_, 1, 0, "get_data";
     return &Inline::Python::py_call_method;

Note that if you want methods to be created as I've shown, you must pass them to py_bind_class() yourself. It doesn't create anything except new() and the @ISA array. It doesn't need to, since the base class knows how to deal with any method call -- but it's also slower, since it has to walk up the inheritence tree to the AUTOLOAD method. I recommend binding to the functions you know about, especially if you're the one writing the code. If it's auto-generated, use py_study_package(), described below.



This function interrogates the Python interpreter about the given package (or '__main__' if you don't specify one). It returns a list of key/value pairs, so it should be used like this:

   py_eval('import pickle');
   my %namespace = py_study_package("pickle");

On my machine, %namespace looks something like this:

   $VAR1 = {
             'classes' => { ... },
             'functions' => [

Each result can be fed to py_bind_function() and py_bind_class(), which is exactly what Inline::Python itself does.


This is an ALPHA release of Inline::Python. Further testing and expanded support for other operating systems and platforms will be a focus for future releases. It has been tested on RedHat Linux 6.2 with a variety of different Perl and Python configurations. Previous versions of Inline::Python working on Windows and Cygwin -- this version has never been tested there. I strongly suspect it will require patching. Please send me patches.


For information about using Inline, see Inline.

For information about other Inline languages, see Inline-Support.

Inline::Python's mailing list is

To subscribe, send email to


When reporting a bug, please do the following:

 - Put "use Inline REPORTBUG;" at the top of your code, or 
   use the command line option "perl -MInline=REPORTBUG ...".
 - Run your code.
 - Follow the printed instructions.

Here are some things to watch out for:

  1. Note that the namespace imported into Perl is NOT recursively traversed. Only Python globals are imported into Perl -- subclasses, subfunctions, and other modules are not imported.


       use Inline Python => <<'END';
       import mymodule
       class A: 
           class B: pass

    The namespace imported into perl is ONLY that related to A. Nothing related to mymodule or B is imported, unless some Python code explictly copies variables from the mymodule namespace into the global namespace before Perl binds to it.


Neil Watkiss <>

Brian Ingerson <> is the author of Inline, Inline::C and Inline::CPR. He was responsible for much encouragement and many suggestions throughout the development of Inline::Python.


Copyright (c) 2001, Neil Watkiss.

All Rights Reserved. This module is free software. It may be used, redistributed and/or modified under the same terms as Perl itself.


2 POD Errors

The following errors were encountered while parsing the POD:

Around line 375:

Expected text after =item, not a number

Around line 380:

Expected text after =item, not a number