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an elegant dictionary and JSON handler

Project description

Dictor - the dictionary doctor

An elegant dictionary and JSON handler

ATTENTION: Dictor version 0.1.13 and up will be dropping support for Python 2

Dictor is a Python JSON and Dictionary (Hash, Map) handler.

Dictor takes a dictionary or JSON data and returns value for a specific key.

If Dictor doesnt find a value for a key, or if JSON or Dictionary data is missing the key, the return value is either None or whatever fallback value you provide.

Dictor is polite with Exception errors commonly encountered when parsing large Dictionaries/JSONs.

Using Dictor eliminates the repeated use of try/except blocks in your code when dealing with lookups of large JSON structures, as well as providing flexibility for inserting fallback values on missing keys/values.

Why not use dict.get("value") ?

using the built-in dict.get() does not parse the full body of a dict.

This method works if parsing a simple key=value structure, for example:

data = {"name": "Joe"}

>>> print(data.get("name"))
>>> print(data.get("age"))
>>> print(data.get("age", "this key doesnt exist"))
this key doesnt exist

But this wont work if the dict is a list,

>>> data = [{"name": "Joe"}]
>>> print(data.get("age"))
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: 'list' object has no attribute 'get'

or if the dict has a complex and nested structure, for example if I want to get Joe's age, I need to create a for-loop to parse the hierarchial levels of the dict structure until I reach the "age" key:

data = {
    "employees": {
        "Joe": {
            "age": 20,
            "id": 123

>>> print(data.get("employees.Joe"))

Dictor greatly simplifies all this code by abstracting the logic.


pip install dictor



  "characters": {
    "Lonestar": {
      "id": 55923,
      "role": "renegade",
      "items": ["space winnebago", "leather jacket"]
    "Barfolomew": {
      "id": 55924,
      "role": "mawg",
      "items": ["peanut butter jar", "waggy tail"]
    "Dark Helmet": {
      "id": 99999,
      "role": "Good is dumb",
      "items": ["Shwartz", "helmet"]
    "Skroob": {
      "id": 12345,
      "role": "Spaceballs CEO",
      "items": ["luggage"]

now lets get info on all Characters

from dictor import dictor

with open('sample.json') as data:
    data = json.load(data)

print(dictor(data, 'characters'))

{u'Lonestar': {u'items': [u'space winnebago', u'leather jacket'], u'role': u'renegade', u'id': 55923}, u'Dark Helmet': {u'items': [u'Shwartz', u'helmet'], u'role': u'Good is dumb', u'id': 99999}, u'Barfolomew': {u'items': [u'peanut butter jar', u'waggy tail'], u'role': u'mawg', u'id': 55924}, u'Skroob': {u'items': [u'luggage'], u'role': u'Spaceballs CEO', u'id': 12345}}

get details for Dark Helmet

print(dictor(data, 'characters.Dark Helmet.items'))

>> [u'Shwartz', u'helmet']

you can also pass a flag to ignore letter Upper/Lower casing,

print(dictor(data, 'characters.dark helmet.items', ignorecase=True))

get only the 1st Item of a character

print(dictor(data, 'characters.Dark Helmet.items.0'))

>> Shwartz

Fallback Value & Error Handling

by default, dictor will return a None if a dictionary does not contain your search path,

print(dictor(data, 'characters.Princess Leia'))

>> None

you can provide a default fallback value either by passing default="fallback value" or just placing a fallback string,

print(dictor(data, 'characters.Princess Leia', default='Not in Spaceballs'))

>> Not in spaceballs

or just add a fallback string,

print(dictor(data, 'characters.Princess Leia', 'fallback to this'))

>> fallback to this

if you want to error out on a None value, simply provide a CheckNone flag, a ValueError will be raised.

print(dictor(data, 'characters.Princess Leia', checknone=True))

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 14, in <module>
    print(dictor(data, 'characters.Princess Leia', checknone=True))
File "/", line 77, in dictor
    raise ValueError('missing value for %s' % path)
ValueError: value not found for search path: "characters.Princess Leia"

Passing a variable into search path

if you need to pass a variable into search path

who = "Barfolomew"
print(dictor(data, "characters.{}.id".format(who)))

>> 55924

if using Python 3, you can also use F-strings

who = "Barfolomew"
print(dictor(data, f"characters.{who}.id"))

List of Dicts

if the entire JSON structure is a list

    "color": "red",
    "value": "#f00"
    "color": "green",
    "value": "#0f0"
    "color": "blue",
    "value": "#00f"

just provide the list index into search path

print(dictor(data, '2.color'))

>> blue

Nested List of lists

to parse a complex nested list of lists and dicts, just provide the list index in the search path

    "type": "json",
    "message": [
          "english": "apple",
          "spanish": "manzana"
          "english": "banana",
          "spanish": "platano"
          "english": "cherry",
          "spanish": "cereza"
          "english": "durian",
          "spanish": "durian",
          "color": ["black", "brown", "orange"]

dictor will parse each lookup element hierarchicly, starting with top and will work down to the last element, reading in each dot-separated list index.

print(dictor(data, '0.message.1.1.color.2'))

>> orange

Handling Key lookups with dots or other characters

if you need to look up a key value that has a dot or some other character in the key name, for example

  "dirty.harry": {
    "year": 1977,
    "genre": "romance"

searching for dictor(data, 'dirty.harry') will return a None since Dictor sees the dot-separated entry as 2 separate keys.

To search for a key with a dot in the name, simply use a Path Separator flag, this allows you to control the separator of keys by using a custom character. (by default, pathsep is set to '.')

print(dictor(data, 'dirty.harry/genre', pathsep='/'))

>> {'romance'}

you can also use an escape character "\" to escape a dot,

print(dictor(data, "dirty\.harry.genre"))

>>> {'romance'}

Searching specific keys

Dictor has the ability to search for specific keys and output a list of values. For example, to search for all values that match "name" key

data = {
    "planets": [
            "name": "Mars",
            "type": "rock",
            "attributes": {
                "name": "named after Roman god of war",
                "color": "red",
                "size" : "28,230 km"
            "name": "Neptune",
            "type": "gas",
            "attributes": {
                "name": "named after Roman god of ocean",
                "color": "blue",
                "size" : "338,382 km"

simply pass the search="key_name" flag

print(dictor(data, 'planets', search='name'))
>> ['Mars', 'Neptune']

If search key is non existent, dictor will pass a None. In this case you can pass a default fallback value,

print(dictor(data, 'planets', search='fake_key', default='couldnt find value'))
>> couldnt find value

if the entire dict structure is a list, ie:

    "name": "spaceballs",
    "genre": "romance"
    "name": "gone with the wind",
    "genre": "chick flick"
    "name": "titanic",
    "genre": "comedy"

you can search for all keys directly, ie

print(dictor(data, search='genre'))

>> ['romance', 'chick flick', 'comedy']
  • if a key value in the JSON is false, dictor will convert it to pythonic False
  • if a key value in the JSON is true, dictor will convert it to pythonic True
  • if a key value in the JSON is null, dictor will convert it to pythonic None (unless you provide a default value)
  • if a key value in the JSON is blank or "", dictor will convert it to pythonic None (unless you provide a default value)

so this JSON will be translated by dictor like this,

    "status": true
    "status": false
    "status": null
    "status": ""

will be returned as

print(dictor(data, search="status"))
>> [True, False, None, '']

print(dictor(data, search="status", default="fallback"))
>> [True, False, 'fallback', '']

Pretty Print

you can pretty print (human readable JSON output) your result,

print(dictor(data, pretty=True))
    "genre": "comedy",
    "name": "spaceballs"
    "genre": "tragedy",
    "name": "gone with the wind"
    "genre": "comedy",
    "name": "titanic"

Return specific type

if you want to return lookup value in a specific character type (int or str), use the return type (rtype) flag

Convert an integer return value into a string

data = { "age": 25 }

print(dictor(data, "age", rtype="str"))
>>> "25"

Convert a string return value into an integer

data = { "some string value": "1234" }

print(dictor(data, "some string value", rtype="int"))
>>> 1234

This will only return the desired output type if return value is string or int. If the return value is a dictionary, list or tuple, the original return value will be returned.


testing is done using Pytest. Tests are located in 'tests' directory.

pip3 install pytest

shell> cd tests
shell> pytest -sv

Release Notes


  • removed Nose as testing lib as its unmaintained, added pytest
  • added fixes by to return empty strings instead of None
  • added searching for key in a nested json/dict structure


  • fixed bug with searching non existent path
  • fixed bug with _findval ValueError


  • fixed lookup bug on empty string path, ie dictor(data, "") now returns None
  • formatted syntax with Black formatter


  • added escape option for pathsep (can either use pathsep flag or use "\" escape in path)


  • broke down main dictor function into several sub-functions
  • added 'rtype' flag to return type-specific output (int or str)


  • README win10 compatibility fix
  • docstring fixes


  • added ability to search keys, will return a list of key names via Search flag
  • added Pretty flag to pretty print JSON output


  • checknone updated to only error out on None values, 0 values are accepted


  • lookup engine update
  • ability to provide new type of path separator


  • bugfix


  • fixed lookup bug


  • removed eval() function for added security

  • entire lookup engine was rewritten for increased speed and simplicy

  • added ignorecase parameter

  • added ability to escape dot character for keys with dots in them

  • looking up lists indexes was modified,

    in previous version, looking up an element looked like this,

    dictor(data, 'characters.Dark Helmet.items[0]')

    new syntax is to place everything as a dot-separated path, this creates a single lookup standard, ie,

    dictor(data, 'characters.Dark Helmet.items.0')


  • initial project released


python sdist
sudo pip install twine
sudo twine upload dist/*

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