A BetterDict is a data structure that is backwards compatible with Python’s built in dict type. It has all of the usual dict methods and can still preform index based lookup and assignment of key values. Even an equal to comparison of a BetterDict instance invoked with the same data as a dict instance will evaluate to true.

In addition to standard dict functionality, BetterDicts also allows dot lookup and assignment of key values.

>>> from querylist import BetterDict
>>> a = BetterDict()
>>> b = dict()
>>> a.cats = 18
>>> a['dogs'] = 372
>>> a.hedgehogs = 19
>>> b['cats'] = 18
>>> b['dogs'] = 372
>>> b['hedgehogs'] = 19
>>> a == b
>>> dir(a)
['__class__', '__cmp__', '__contains__', '__delattr__', '__delitem__',
 '__doc__', '__eq__', '__format__', '__ge__', '__getattribute__',
 '__getitem__', '__gt__', '__hash__', '__init__', '__iter__', '__le__',
 '__len__', '__lt__', '__ne__', '__new__', '__reduce__', '__reduce_ex__',
 '__repr__', '__setattr__', '__setitem__', '__sizeof__', '__str__',
 '__subclasshook__', 'cats', 'clear', 'copy', 'dogs', 'fromkeys', 'get',
 'has_key', 'hedgehogs', 'items', 'iteritems', 'iterkeys', 'itervalues',
 'keys', 'pop', 'popitem', 'setdefault', 'update', 'values']

Dot lookups and assignments

Dot lookups that correspond to keys will return the key’s value

>>> foo = BetterDict()
>>> foo['yay'] = 1
>>> foo.yay

An assignment will update that key’s value:

>>> foo.yay = 0
>>> foo['yay']

Assignment of an attribute that has not yet been added as a key to the BetterDict will add the key/value pair.

>>> foo.yeah = True
>>> foo['yeah']

However, a lookup for an attribute that is neither a key nor a normal dict attribute will raise an AttributeError:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
  File "querylist/", line 6, in __getattr__
    raise AttributeError

Nested Dictionaries

A nested dictionary’s keys are also accessible via dot lookup. BetterDict achieves this by converting member dicts to BetterDicts:

Consider the following BetterDict definition:

>>> c = BetterDict({
...     'foo': 1,
...     'bar': {
...         'a': 0,
...         'b': 1,
...         'c': 2,
...         'another': {
...             'd': 0,
...             'e': 1,
...             'f': 2,
...         }
...     },
... }) will return the BetterDict at c['bar']:

{'a': 0, 'c': 2, 'b': 1, 'another': {'e': 1, 'd': 0, 'f': 2}}

Similarly, will descend down to c['bar']['another']['d'] and an assignment using the same identifier chain will update that value:

>>> = True
{'e': 1, 'd': True, 'f': 2}

Resolving key name / dict attribute conflicts (the _bd_ attribute)

When a BetterDict has a key that conflicts with the name of a standard dict attribute, the BetterDict does not overwrite the standard attribute. Doing so would break backwards compatibility for BetterDicts with specific key/value pairs.

>>> problem = BetterDict({'update': '3 days ago'})
>>> problem.update
<built-in method update of BetterDict object at 0x7fb9f047b610>
>>> problem['update']
'3 days ago'

As a work around for this issue, all BetterDicts have an attribute named _bd_, which is protected from being overwritten just like standard dict attributes. The _bd_ attribute allows dot lookup and assignment of all a BetterDict’s keys regardless of whether or not their name conflicts with a dict attribute.

>>> problem._bd_.update
'3 days ago'
>>> problem._bd_.update = '4 days ago'
>>> problem['update']
'4 days ago'

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