What is %timeit in python?

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I always read the code to calculate the time like this way:

%timeit function()

Can you explain what means “%” here?

I think, the “%” is always used to replace something in a string, like %s means replace a string, %d replace a data, but I have no idea about this case.

%timeit is an ipython magic function, which can be used to time a particular piece of code (A single execution statement, or a single method).

From the docs:


Time execution of a Python statement or expression

Usage, in line mode:
    %timeit [-n<N> -r<R> [-t|-c] -q -p<P> -o] statement

To use it, for example if we want to find out whether using xrange is any faster than using range, you can simply do:

In [1]: %timeit for _ in range(1000): True
10000 loops, best of 3: 37.8 µs per loop

In [2]: %timeit for _ in xrange(1000): True
10000 loops, best of 3: 29.6 µs per loop

And you will get the timings for them.

The major advantage of %timeit are:

  • that you don’t have to import timeit.timeit from the standard library, and run the code multiple times to figure out which is the better approach.

  • %timeit will automatically calculate number of runs required for your code based on a total of 2 seconds execution window.

  • You can also make use of current console variables without passing the whole code snippet as in case of timeit.timeit to built the variable that is built in an another environment that timeit works.

This is known as a line magic in iPython. They are unique in that their arguments only extend to the end of the current line, and magics themselves are really structured for command line development. timeit is used to time the execution of code.

If you wanted to see all of the magics you can use, you could simply type:


to get a list of both line magics and cell magics.

Some further magic information from documentation here:

IPython has a system of commands we call magics that provide effectively a mini command language that is orthogonal to the syntax of Python and is extensible by the user with new commands. Magics are meant to be typed interactively, so they use command-line conventions, such as using whitespace for separating arguments, dashes for options and other conventions typical of a command-line environment.

Depending on whether you are in line or cell mode, there are two different ways to use %timeit. Your question illustrates the first way:

In [1]: %timeit range(100)


In [1]: %%timeit 
      : x = range(100)

I just wanted to add a very subtle point about %%timeit. Given it runs the “magics” on the cell, you’ll get error…

UsageError: Line magic function %%timeit not found

…if there is any code/comment lines above %%timeit. In other words, ensure that %%timeit is the first command in your cell.

I know it’s a small point all the experts will say duh to, but just wanted to add my half a cent for the young wizards starting out with magic tricks.

IPython intercepts those, they’re called built-in magic commands, here’s the list: https://ipython.org/ipython-doc/dev/interactive/magics.html

You can also create your own custom magics, https://ipython.org/ipython-doc/dev/config/custommagics.html

Your timeit is here https://ipython.org/ipython-doc/dev/interactive/magics.html#magic-timeit

I would just like to add another useful advantage of using %timeit to answer by mu ? that:

  • You can also make use of current console variables without passing the whole code snippet as in case of timeit.timeit to built the variable that is built in an another enviroment that timeit works.

PS: I know this should be a comment to answer above but I currently don’t have enough reputation for that, hope what I write will be helpful to someone and help me earn enough reputation to comment next time.

Line magics are prefixed with the % character and work much like OS command-line calls: they get as an argument the rest of the line, where arguments are passed without parentheses or quotes. Cell magics are prefixed with a double %%, and they are functions that get as an argument not only the rest of the line, but also the lines below it in a separate argument.

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