Tony S Yu edited this page Jun 29, 2013 · 7 revisions
.. author:: Todd Jennings


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Wrap all of the matplotlib getter and setter methods with python properties, allowing them to be read and written like class attributes.

Detailed description

Currently matplotlib uses getter and setter functions (usually prefixed with get_ and set_, respectively) for reading and writing data related to classes. However, since 2.6 python supports properties, which allow such setter and getter functions to be accessed as though they were attributes. This proposal would implement all existing setter and getter methods as properties.


  1. All existing getter and setter methods will need to have two aliases, one with the get_ or set_ prefix and one without. Getter methods that currently lack prefixes should be recording in a text file.
  2. Classes should be reorganized so setter and getter methods are sequential in the code, with getter methods first.
  3. Getter and setter methods the provide additional optional optional arguments should have those arguments accessible in another manner, either as additional getter or setter methods or attributes of other classes. If those classes are not accessible, getters for them should be added.
  4. Property decorators will be added to the setter and getter methods without the prefix. Those with the prefix will be marked as deprecated.
  5. Docstrings will need to be rewritten so the getter with the prefix has the current docstring and the getter without the prefix has a generic docstring appropriate for an attribute.
  6. Automatic alias generation will need to be modified so it will also create aliases for the properties.
  7. All instances of getter and setter method calls will need to be changed to attribute access.
  8. All setter and getter aliases with prefixes will be removed

The following steps can be done simultaneously: 1, 2, and 3; 4 and 5; 6 and 7.

Only the following steps must be done in the same release: 4, 5, and 6. All other changes can be done in separate releases. 8 should be done several major releases after everything else.

Backward compatibility

All existing getter methods that do not have a prefix (such as get_) will need to be changed from function calls to attribute access. In most cases this will only require removing the parenthesis.

setter and getter methods that have additional optional arguments will need to have those arguments implemented in another way, either as a separate property in the same class or as attributes or properties of another class.

Cases where the setter returns a value will need to be changed to using the setter followed by the getter.

Cases where there are set_ATTR_on() and set_ATTR_off() methods will be changed to ATTR_on properties.



Current implementation:


New implementation:

True = axes.Axes.axis_on
False = axes.Axes.axis_on
axes.Axes.axis_on = True
axes.Axes.axis_on = False

axes.Axes.get_xlim/set_xlim and get_autoscalex_on/set_autoscalex_on

Current implementation:

[left, right] = axes.Axes.get_xlim()
auto = axes.Axes.get_autoscalex_on()

[left, right] = axes.Axes.set_xlim(left=left, right=right, emit=emit, auto=auto)
[left, right] = axes.Axes.set_xlim(left=left, right=None, emit=emit, auto=auto)
[left, right] = axes.Axes.set_xlim(left=None, right=right, emit=emit, auto=auto)
[left, right] = axes.Axes.set_xlim(left=left, emit=emit, auto=auto)
[left, right] = axes.Axes.set_xlim(right=right, emit=emit, auto=auto)


New implementation:

[left, right] = axes.Axes.axes_xlim
auto = axes.Axes.autoscalex_on

axes.Axes.axes_xlim = [left, right]
axes.Axes.axes_xlim = [left, None]
axes.Axes.axes_xlim = [None, right]
axes.Axes.axes_xlim[0] = left
axes.Axes.axes_xlim[1] = right

axes.Axes.autoscalex_on = auto

axes.Axes.emit_xlim = emit


Current implementation:

string = axes.Axes.get_title()
axes.Axes.set_title(string, fontdict=fontdict, **kwargs)

New implementation:

string = axes.Axes.title
string = axes.Axes.title_text.text

text.Text = axes.Axes.title_text
text.Text.<attribute> = attribute
text.Text.fontdict = fontdict

axes.Axes.title = string
axes.Axes.title = text.Text
axes.Axes.title_text = string
axes.Axes.title_text = text.Text


Current implementation:

[text.Text] = axes.Axes.get_xticklabels()
[text.Text] = axes.Axes.get_xticklabels(minor=False)
[text.Text] = axes.Axes.get_xticklabels(minor=True)
[text.Text] = axes.Axes.([string], fontdict=None, **kwargs)
[text.Text] = axes.Axes.([string], fontdict=None, minor=False, **kwargs)
[text.Text] = axes.Axes.([string], fontdict=None, minor=True, **kwargs)

New implementation:

[text.Text] = axes.Axes.xticklabels
[text.Text] = axes.Axes.xminorticklabels
axes.Axes.xticklabels = [string]
axes.Axes.xminorticklabels = [string]
axes.Axes.xticklabels = [text.Text]
axes.Axes.xminorticklabels = [text.Text]


Instead of using decorators, it is also possible to use the property function. This would change the procedure so that all getter methods that lack a prefix will need to be renamed or removed. This makes handling docstrings more difficult and harder to read.

It is not necessary to deprecate the setter and getter methods, but leaving them in will complicate the code.

This could also serve as an opportunity to rewrite or even remove automatic alias generation.

Another alternate proposal:

Convert set_xlim, set_xlabel, set_title, etc. to xlim, xlabel, title,... to make the transition from plt functions to axes methods significantly simpler. These would still be methods, not properties, but it's still a great usability enhancement while retaining the interface.