An expression template library for building "quick lambdas", like 5 + _1
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An expression template library for building "quick lambdas", like 5 + _1.

Any expression involving a placeholder (_1, _2, or _3), or a value wrapped by the _ function, becomes a function. For example, all of the function calls below print out 3:

from quicklambda import *
add1 = _1 + 1
add1 = 1 + _1
add1 = _2 + 1
print(add1(None, 2))
add = _1 + _2
print(add(1, 2))
add = _(1) + 2
add1 = _(add)(_1, 1)



_1, _2, and _3 are placeholders that take on the value of the first, second, and third arguments when the lambda expression function is eventually called. (Extending this beyond 3 would be trivial, but how often will you need it?)

There is currently no syntax for keyword placeholders, mostly because I haven't thought of anything good.

_ is a function that turns any value into a placeholder for itself--that is, _(foo) takes on the value of foo when the lambda expression is eventually called. This is primarily useful to handle cases where placeholder operator overloading doesn't work, as described below, or where you have no placeholders (e.g., because you're building a lambda expression with no arguments).

It should also be possible to wrap an expression with _ to turn it into a placeholder (which you would mainly do to build complex call expressions), but this generally does not work in the current version.

Because the name _ is useless in the interactive prompt (each time you execute an expression statement, _ is rebound to the value), it's also available as _v. Which is hideous, but I haven't thought of anything better yet.

Note that _(foo) stores the value of foo, not the variable. This should be fixable by either passing the name as a string, or by using a different function (named what?) that uses frame hacks to find the name of its argument, but both of those have major flaws, so I haven't implemented either yet. If you want a function with a mutable closure, you'll have to use def+nonlocal (or lambda with the default value hack), not a lambda expression.

Attribute access

Works with a placeholder on the left. Does not work with a placeholder on the right (even if there's also a placeholder on the left). So, is a function, but foo._1 is not, and the _(foo)._1 trick used elsewhere will not help, and neither is _1._2. (This might be fixable; I haven't thought it through.)

Note that this includes methods as well as data attributes, but the function returns the method, it doesn't call it. So, _1.meth(obj) is often not what you want, but it's what you get. (There may be some syntax that makes sense here, but I'm not sure what it is.)

Unary operators

-, +, ~: Work. -_1 is a function.

not: Does not work (because it effectively calls bool; see Special methods below).

Binary operators

+, -, *, /, //, %, **, &, |, ^: Work, in both directions, except that a few types do not work on the left side. _1 + 1, 1 + _1, and _1 + _2 are all functions. Note that +=, -=, etc. cannot be used, because they are not expressions.

<, <=, ==, !=, >=, >: Work, in both directions, with slightly different types that don't work on the left side. Also, note that 1 < _1 becomes _1 > 1, and so on.

<<, >>: Work with the placeholder on the left. So _1 << 1 is a function, but 1 << _1 is not. (Use _(1) << _1.) Note that <<= and >>= cannot be used, because they are not expressions.

[]: Works with the placeholder on the left. So _1[1] is a function, but arr[_1] is not. (Use _(arr)[_1].) Slicing works, but a placeholder used as the start or step of a slice does not (so _1[:_2] is fine, but _1[_2:] is not). (This may be a peculiarity of CPython, and it might change in a later version.) Note that the set and del versions _1[1] = 2 and del _1[1] do not work because they are not expressions.

(): Works with the placeholder on the left. So _1(1) is a function, but foo(_1) is not. (Use _(foo)(_1).) Certain special functions work differently; see Special Functions below. Note that call expressions can be confusing, because calling a placeholder creates a function, but calling an expression made with a placeholder calls the function. (To make a call expression function out of an expression function, you have to wrap it in _, which can easily become unreadable very quickly.) Also, remember that if you wanted foo(_1) you can usually just use foo directly (but of course foo(1, _1) would be a nice way to create quick partials).

in: Does not work, because the return value is forcibly converted to bool.

is: Does not work, because it's not overridable.

Special functions

abs, next: Work. abs(_1) is a function.

bool, int, float, bytes, len, iter: Do not work, because they require a return value of a specific type. (Note that bool and len not working means that any lambda expression is considered True in a boolean context.)

str, repr: Do not work, because that would cause infinite recursion trying to print a lambda expression.

__index__: Works, but there's no function to call it with.

Any special functions defined by other stdlib modules (like pickle's __reduce__) or third-party modules have not been implemented.

In most cases, lack of support for a special function is not a problem, as you can _-wrap them--or, of course, just use the function directly.

Complex expressions

Any expression that works with a placeholder should usually also work with an expression function, except the special case of call expressions. And you can always handle the cases that don't with the _ function.

However, this generally does not work in the current version.


  • If there are any missing operators, finding and adding them is an obvious goal.

  • Making complex expressions work, automatically and in the _ function, is on the queue.

  • Keyword placeholders and a better name for _v are just waiting for me to come up with something that looks nice.

  • Wrapping names/closures instead of only values needs both a nice-looking syntax and an implementation that's not as horrible as the one I wrote when I last attempted this a few years ago.

  • The first version of this module auto-generated all of the ugly stuff in the wrapper-maker functions. I'd like to factor out the repetition if possible, or go back to the auto-generated code if not.

  • I think the three classes can be collapsed into two.