Python Default Values

Python executes some very interesting behaviour with regards to default values:

def a(v=[]):


Why does this happen? Default parameter values are always evaluated when, and only when, the “def” statement they belong to is executed. Also note that “def” is an executable statement in Python, and that default arguments are evaluated in the “def” statement’s environment. If you execute “def” multiple times, it’ll create a new function object (with freshly calculated default values) each time.

Python Data Structure Libraries


Heaps are provided by the heapq library in python.

import heapq

a = [1,2,3,4,5,6]
# Heapq defaults to min heap
heapq.heapify(a) # makes a into a min heap object

heapq._heapify_max(a) # Makes a into max heap

Priority Queue


The queue module provides FIFO, LIFO and Priority Queues. Among them, queue.PriorityQueue is perhaps the most commonly used in interview questions.

class queue.PriorityQueue(maxsize=0)

import queue
pq = queue.PriorityQueue()

pq.put((10, 'ten'))
pq.put((1, 'one'))
pq.put((5, 'five'))

x = []
while not pq.empty():

Python Libraries



Some important string operators and functions are:

Strings are immutable, so operations create new array of characters that are then assigned back to s.

Python Nifty Tricks

Tilde Operator

The tilde operator ~ is the bit-wise complement operator, and it essentially calculates the -x-1. This comes in useful in arrays, where \(s[~x] = s[-x-1]\). An example usage would be the \(O(n)\) time palindrome function:

def is_palindrome(s):
    return all(s[i] == s[~i] for i in range(len(s) // 2))

For loop else clause

for loop has else clause, that runs when the for loop successfully completes without break.

String translation tables

str.maketrans creates a translation table that makes string substitution quick.

Checking if character unique in string

s.index(x) == s.rindex(x) to check if character is only one in the string


rougier/from-python-to-numpy is a great reference to see how to speed up programs through vectorization.

Reference Python Applications


Google Python Style Guide

Optimizing Python

Gregory Szorc’s Digital Home | What I’ve Learned About Optimizing Python

Profiling Python

benfred/py-spy: Sampling profiler for Python programs