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A more convenient interface to environment variables.

Project description

“For easy access, baby!  …That’s right.’”—Eazy-E

Have you ever thought handling environment variables in Python should be easier? It is now.


>>> import env


“BAM!” —Emeril Lagasse

The E.Z.E.nvironment module also has its own theme song:

“We want Eazy!”

Everybody come on!
Who yall came to see?
A little louder come on!
Get those hands in the air!
Come on, come on say it!
A little louder come on!
Come on make some noise!

A miracle of modern creation…
EZ E’s on the set, hyped up with the bass
And a little bit of what ya love
From a brother who’s smooth like a criminal
I mean subliminal…


It’s always been a tad clumsy to access environment variables and combine them with other strings in Python—compared to shell languages at least. For example, look how easy it is in (ba)sh:

echo "Libraries: $PWD/lib"
Libraries: /usr/local/lib

Unfortunately over in Python-land, required, escaped quotes and brackets serve mostly to complicate and add to visual clutter, reducing speed of comprehension.

>>> from os import environ
>>> from os.path import join

>>> join(environ['PWD'], 'lib')

Even the new-fangled string interpolation doesn’t help as much as might be expected:

>>> print(f'Libraries: {environ["PWD"]}/lib')
Libraries: /usr/local/lib

With that in mind, allow me to introduce the env module. With it I’ve tried to whittle complexity down, primarily through direct attribute access:

>>> import env

>>> print('Term:', env.TERM)
Term: xterm-256color

>>> print(f'Libraries: {env.PWD}/lib')
Libraries: /usr/local/lib

But wait, there’s more!


⏵ pip3 install --user ezenv  # env was taken :-/

 ☛ LGPL licensed. ☚

Environment and options

On import the module loads the environment into its namespace, thereby working like a dictionary with convenient attribute access.

So, no additional mapping instance has to be created or imported, unless you’d like to configure the interface further. The following options are available to customize:

>>> from env import Environment

>>> env = Environment(
        sensitive=True|False,  # case: platform default

Param: environ

A mapping of your own choosing may optionally be passed in as the first argument, for testing and/or other purposes. I’ve recently learned that os.environb (bytes interface) is a thing that could be passed, for example.

Param: writable

By default the Environment object/module does not allow modification since writing is rarely needed. This default helps to remind us of that fact, though the object can be easily be changed to writable if need be by enabling this option.

Param: sensitivity 😢

Variables are case-sensitive by default on Unix, insensitive under Windows.

While case sensitivity can be disabled to use variable names in mixed or lower-case, be aware that variables and dictionary methods are in the same namespace, which could potentially be problematic if they are not divided by case. For this reason, using variable names such as “keys” and “items” are not a good idea while in insensitive mode. shrug

Workaround: use “get item” / dictionary-style syntax if needed:

env['keys']  # :-/

Entry Objects

While using env at the interactive prompt, you may be surprised that a variable value is not a simple string but rather an extended string-like object called an “Entry.” This is most evident at the prompt since it prints a “representation” form by default:

>>> env.PWD                         # a.k.a. repr()
Entry('PWD', '/usr/local')

The reason behind this custom object is so that the variables can offer additional functionality, such as parsing or conversion of the value to another type, while not crashing on a non-existent attribute access.

No matter however, as we’ve seen in the previous sections, just about any operation renders the string value as normal. Attributes .name and .value are also available for belt & suspenders types:

>>> print(env.PWD)

>>>, env.PWD.value, str(env.PWD)
('PWD', '/tmp', '/tmp')

Remember the env object/module is also a standard dictionary, while entry values are also strings, so full Python functionality is available:

>>> for key, value in env.items():  # it's a dict*
        print(key, value)

# USER fred…

>>> env.USER.title()                # it's a str*

>>> env.TERM.partition('-')         # tip: a safer split
('xterm', '-', '256color')

*  Sung to the tune, “It’s a Sin,” by the Pet Shop Boys.

Parsing & Conversions

Another handy feature of Entry objects is convenient type conversion and parsing of values from strings. Additional properties for this functionality are available. For example:

>>> env.PI.float


>>> env.DATA.from_json
{'one': 1, 'two': 2, 'three': 3}

Truthy Values

Variable entries may contain boolean-like string values, such as 0, 1, yes, no, true, false, etc. To interpret them in a case-insensitive manner use the .truthy property:


>>> env.QT_ACCESSIBILITY.truthy

>>> env = Environment(writable=True)
>>> env.QT_ACCESSIBILITY = '0'          # set to '0'

>>> env.QT_ACCESSIBILITY.truthy

Standard Boolean Tests

As always, standard tests or bool() on the entry can be done to check a string. Remember, such a test checks merely if the string is empty or not, and would also return True on '0' or 'false'.


Environment vars often contain a list of filesystem paths. To split such path strings on os.pathsep🔗, with optional conversion to pathlib.Path🔗² objects, use one or more of the following:

>>> env.XDG_DATA_DIRS.list
['/usr/local/share', '/usr/share', ...]  # strings

>>> env.SSH_AUTH_SOCK.path

>>> env.XDG_DATA_DIRS.path_list
[Path('/usr/local/share'), Path('/usr/share'), ...]

To split on a different character, simply do the split/partition on the string manually. (There is a ._pathsep variable that can be set on each entry, but not particularly more convenient.)


There are generally three cases for environment variables:

Variable exists, has value:

>>> env.USER                            # exists, repr
Entry('USER', 'fred')

>>> env.USER + '_suffix'                # str ops

>>> env.USER.title()                    # str ops II

>>> print(f'term: {env.TERM}')          # via interpolation
term: xterm-256color

>>> bool(env.USER)                      # check exists & not empty

>>> key_name = 'PI'
>>> env[key_name]                       # getitem syntax

>>> env.PI.float                        # type conversion

>>> or 9000                # type conv. w/ default

>>> env.QT_ACCESSIBILITY.truthy         # 0/1/yes/no/true/false

>>> env.JSON_DATA.from_json.keys()
['one', 'three', 'two']

>>> env.XDG_DATA_DIRS.list
['/usr/local/share', '/usr/share']

Variable exists, but is blank:

>>> 'EMPTY' in env                      # check existence

>>> env.EMPTY                           # exists but empty
Entry('EMPTY', '')

>>> bool(env.EMPTY)                     # check exists & not empty

>>> env.EMPTY or 'default'              # exists, blank w/ default

Variable doesn’t exist:

>>> 'NO_EXISTO' in env                  # check existence

>>> env.NO_EXISTO or 'default'          # DNE with default

>>> env.NO_EXISTO                       # Doesn't exist repr

>>> bool(env.NO_EXISTO)                 # check exists & not empty

>>> env.XDG_DATA_DIRz.list              # DNE fallback

for data_dir in env.XDG_DATA_DIR.list:
    # Don't need to worry if this exists or not,
    # if not, it will be skipped.


“What’s the frequency Kenneth?”

This module attempts compatibility with KR’s existing env package by implementing its prefix and map functions:

>>> env.prefix('XDG_')  # from_prefix preferred
{'config_dirs': '/etc/xdg/xdg-mate:/etc/xdg', ...}

{'username': 'fred'}

The lowercase transform can be disabled by passing another false-like value as the second argument to prefix().

While the package above has the coveted env namespace on PyPI, ezenv uses the same simple module name and provides an implementation of the interface.


Can be run here:

⏵ python3 -m env -v

Though this module works under Python2, several of the tests don’t, because Py2 does Unicode differently or doesn’t have the facilities available to handle them by default (pathlib/f-string). Haven’t had the urge to work around that due to declining interest.

FYI, a reference to the original module object is kept at env._module just in case it is needed for some reason.

Testing with ezenv

When you’ve used ezenv in your project, it is easy to create a custom environment to operate under:

from env import Environment

def test_foo():
    import mymodule

    mymodule.env = Environment(environ=dict(NO_COLOR='1'))
    assert mymodule.color_is_disabled() == True


“I’d buy THAT for a dollar!” :-D

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