I have a command line script that I run with a lot of arguments. I have now come to a point where I have too many arguments, and I want to have some arguments in dictionary form too.

So in order to simplify things I would like to run the script with a settings file instead. I don’t really know what libraries to use for the parsing of the file. What’s the best practice for doing this? I could of course hammer something out myself, but if there is some library for this, I’m all ears.

A few ‘demands’:

  • Rather than using pickle I would like it to be a straight forward text file that can easily be read and edited.
  • I want to be able to add dictionary-like data in it, i.e., some form of nesting should be supported.

A simplified pseudo example file:

    color: blue
    brand: ford
city: new york
    color: black
        cylinders: 8
        placement: mid
    doors: 2

You can have a regular Python module, say config.py, like this:

truck = dict(
    brand = 'ford',
city = 'new york'
cabriolet = dict(
    engine = dict(
        cylinders = 8,
    doors = 2,

and use it like this:

import config

The sample config you provided is actually valid YAML. In fact, YAML meets all of your demands, is implemented in a large number of languages, and is extremely human friendly. I would highly recommend you use it. The PyYAML project provides a nice python module, that implements YAML.

To use the yaml module is extremely simple:

import yaml
config = yaml.safe_load(open("path/to/config.yml"))

I Found this the most useful and easy to use

You just create a “myfile.ini” like:

Status: Single
Name: Derek
Value: Yes
Age: 30
Single: True

FamilyName: Johnson

Route: 66

And retrieve the data like:

>>> import ConfigParser
>>> Config = ConfigParser.ConfigParser()
>>> Config
<ConfigParser.ConfigParser instance at 0x00BA9B20>
>>> Config.read("myfile.ini")
>>> Config.sections()
['Others', 'SectionThree', 'SectionOne', 'SectionTwo']
>>> Config.options('SectionOne')
['Status', 'Name', 'Value', 'Age', 'Single']
>>> Config.get('SectionOne', 'Status')

Yaml and Json are the simplest and most commonly used file formats to store settings/config. PyYaml can be used to parse yaml. Json is already part of python from 2.5. Yaml is a superset of Json. Json will solve most uses cases except multi line strings where escaping is required. Yaml takes care of these cases too.

>>> import json
>>> config = {'handler' : 'adminhandler.py', 'timeoutsec' : 5 }
>>> json.dump(config, open('/tmp/config.json', 'w'))
>>> json.load(open('/tmp/config.json'))   
{u'handler': u'adminhandler.py', u'timeoutsec': 5}