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Read the docs here: (although this is mostly an API reference, the best getting started docs are currently in this README)

The mkinit module helps you write __init__ files that expose all submodule attributes without from ? import *.

mkinit automatically imports all submodules in a package and their members.

It can do this dynamically, or it can statically autogenerate the __init__ for faster import times. Its kinda like using the fromimport * syntax, but its easy to replace with text that wont make other developers lose their hair.


pip install mkinit

The Pitch

Say you have a python module structured like so:

└── mkinit_demo_pkg
    └── subpkg

And you would like to make all functions inside of and available at the top-level of the package.

Imagine the contents of and are:

# --- ---

def submod_func():
    print('This is a submod func in {}'.format(__file__))

# --- ---

def nested_func():
    print('This is a nested func in {}'.format(__file__))

You could manually write:

from mkinit_demo_pkg.submod import *
from mkinit_demo_pkg.subpkg.nested import *

But that has a few problems. Using import * makes it hard for people reading the code to know what is coming from where. Furthermore, if there were many submodules you wanted to expose attributes of, writing this would become tedious and hard to maintain.

Enter the mkinit package. It has the ability to autogenerate explicit files using static analysis. Normally, the mkinit CLI only works on one file at a time, but if we specify the --recursive flag, then mkinit will recursively generate files for all subpackages in the package.

Thus running mkinit mkinit_demo_pkg --recursive will result in a root file that looks like this:

from mkinit_demo_pkg import submod
from mkinit_demo_pkg import subpkg

from mkinit_demo_pkg.submod import (submod_func,)
from mkinit_demo_pkg.subpkg import (nested, nested_func,)

__all__ = ['nested', 'nested_func', 'submod', 'submod_func', 'subpkg']

That’s pretty cool. The mkinit package was able to recursively parse our package, find all of the defined names, and then generate files such that all attributes are exposed at the top level of the package. Furthermore, this file is readable. It is perfectly clear exactly what names are exposed in this module without having to execute anything.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution. Perhaps only some submodules should be exposed, perhaps you would rather use relative import statements, maybe you only want to expose submodule but not their attributes, or vis-versa. Well good news, because mkinit has command line flags that allow for all of these modes. See mkinit --help for more details.

Lastly, while exposing all attributes can be helpful for larger projects, import time can start to become a consideration. Thankfully, PEP 0562 outlines a lazy import specification for Python >= 3.7. As of 2020-12-26 mkinit supports autogenerating these lazy init files.

Unfortunately, there is no syntax support for lazy imports, so mkinit must define a lazy_import boilerplate function in each file.

def lazy_import(module_name, submodules, submod_attrs):
    Boilerplate to define PEP 562 __getattr__ for lazy import
    import sys
    import importlib
    import importlib.util
    all_funcs = []
    for mod, funcs in submod_attrs.items():
    name_to_submod = {
        func: mod for mod, funcs in submod_attrs.items()
        for func in funcs

    def require(fullname):
        if fullname in sys.modules:
            return sys.modules[fullname]

        spec = importlib.util.find_spec(fullname)
            module = importlib.util.module_from_spec(spec)
        except Exception:
            raise ImportError(
                'Could not lazy import module {fullname}'.format(
                    fullname=fullname)) from None
        loader = importlib.util.LazyLoader(spec.loader)

        sys.modules[fullname] = module

        # Make module with proper locking and add to sys.modules

        return module

    def __getattr__(name):
        if name in submodules:
            fullname = '{module_name}.{name}'.format(
                module_name=module_name, name=name)
            attr = require(fullname)
        elif name in name_to_submod:
            modname = name_to_submod[name]
            module = importlib.import_module(
                    module_name=module_name, modname=modname)
            attr = getattr(module, name)
            raise AttributeError(
                'No {module_name} attribute {name}'.format(
                    module_name=module_name, name=name))
        # Set module-level attribute so getattr is not called again
        globals()[name] = attr
        return attr
    return __getattr__

__getattr__ = lazy_import(
        'submod': [
        'subpkg': [

def __dir__():
    return __all__

__all__ = ['nested', 'nested_func', 'submod', 'submod_func', 'subpkg']

Command Line Usage

The following command will statically autogenerate an __init__ file in the specified path or module name. If one exists, it will only replace text after the final comment. This means mkinit wont clobber your custom logic and can be used to help maintain customized files.

mkinit <your_modname_or_modpath> -w

You can also enclose the area allowed to be clobbered in the auto-generation with special xml-like comments.

Dynamic Usage

NOTE: Dynamic usage is NOT recommended.

In most cases, we recommend using mkinit command line tool to statically generate / update the file, but there is an option to to use it dynamically (although this might be considered worse practice than using import *).

import mkinit; exec(mkinit.dynamic_init(__name__))


The mkinit module is used by the ubelt`( library to explicitly auto-generate part of the ` file. This example walks through the design of this module to illustrate the usage of mkinit.

Step 1 (Optional): Write any custom __init__ code

The first section of the ubelt module consists of manually written code. It contains coding, flake8 directives, a docstring a few comments, a future import, and a custom __version__ attribute. Here is an example of this manually written code in the 0.2.0.dev0 version of ubelt.

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
# flake8: noqa
    # Partially regenerate
    mkinit ubelt
# Todo:
#     The following functions and classes are candidates to be ported from utool:
#     * reload_class
#     * inject_func_as_property
#     * accumulate
#     * rsync
from __future__ import absolute_import, division, print_function, unicode_literals

__version__ = '0.2.0'

It doesn’t particularly matter what the above code is, the point is to illustrate that mkinit does not prevent you from customizing your code. By default auto-generation will only start clobbering existing code after the final comment, in the file, which is a decent heuristic, but as we will see, there are other more explicit ways to define exactly where auto-generated code is allowed.

Step 2 (Optional): Enumerate relevant submodules

After optionally writing any custom code, you may optionally specify exactly what submodules should be considered when auto-generating imports. This is done by setting the __submodules__ attribute to a list of submodule names.

In ubelt this section looks similar to the following:

__submodules__ = [

Note that this step is optional, but recommended. If the __submodules__ package is not specified, then all paths matching the glob expressions *.py or */ are considered as part of the package.

Step 3: Autogenerate explicitly

To provide the fastest import times and most readable files, use the mkinit command line script to statically parse the submodules and populate the file with the submodules and their top-level members.

Before running this script it is good practice to paste the XML-like comment directives into the file. This restricts where mkinit is allowed to autogenerate code, and it also uses the same indentation of the comments in case you want to run the auto-generated code conditionally. Note, if the second tag is not specified, then it is assumed that mkinit can overwrite everything after the first tag.


Now that we have inserted the auto-generation tags, we can actually run mkinit. In general this is done by running mkinit <path-to-pkg-directory>.

Assuming the ubelt repo is checked out in ~/code/, the command to autogenerate its file would be: mkinit ~/code/ubelt/ubelt. Given the previously specified __submodules__, the resulting auto-generated portion of the code looks like this:

from ubelt import util_arg
from ubelt import util_cmd
from ubelt import util_dict
from ubelt import util_links
from ubelt import util_hash
from ubelt import util_import
from ubelt import orderedset
from ubelt import progiter
from ubelt.util_arg import (argflag, argval,)
from ubelt.util_cmd import (cmd,)
from ubelt.util_dict import (AutoDict, AutoOrderedDict, ddict, dict_hist,
                             dict_subset, dict_take, dict_union, dzip,
                             find_duplicates, group_items, invert_dict,
                             map_keys, map_vals, odict,)
from ubelt.util_links import (symlink,)
from ubelt.util_hash import (hash_data, hash_file,)
from ubelt.util_import import (import_module_from_name,
                               import_module_from_path, modname_to_modpath,
                               modpath_to_modname, split_modpath,)
from ubelt.orderedset import (OrderedSet, oset,)
from ubelt.progiter import (ProgIter,)
__all__ = ['util_arg', 'util_cmd', 'util_dict', 'util_links', 'util_hash',
           'util_import', 'orderedset', 'progiter', 'argflag', 'argval', 'cmd',
           'AutoDict', 'AutoOrderedDict', 'ddict', 'dict_hist', 'dict_subset',
           'dict_take', 'dict_union', 'dzip', 'find_duplicates', 'group_items',
           'invert_dict', 'map_keys', 'map_vals', 'odict', 'symlink',
           'hash_data', 'hash_file', 'import_module_from_name',
           'import_module_from_path', 'modname_to_modpath',
           'modpath_to_modname', 'split_modpath', 'OrderedSet', 'oset',

When running the command-line mkinit tool, the target module is inspected using static analysis, so no code from the target module is ever run. This avoids unintended side effects, prevents arbitrary code execution, and ensures that mkinit will do something useful even if there would otherwise be a runtime error.

Step 3 (alternate): Autogenerate dynamically

While running mkinit from the command line produces the cleanest and most readable, you have to run it every time you make a change to your library. This is not always desirable especially during rapid development of a new Python package. In this case it is possible to dynamically execute mkinit on import of your module. To use dynamic initialization simply paste the following lines into the file.

import mkinit
exec(mkinit.dynamic_init(__name__, __submodules__))

This is almost equivalent to running the static command line variant. However, instead of using static analysis, this will use the Python interpreter to execute and import all submodules and dynamically inspect the defined members. This is faster than using static analysis, and in most circumstances there will be no difference in the resulting imported attributes. To avoid all differences simply specify the __all__ attribute in each submodule.

Note that inclusion of the __submodules__ attribute is not strictly necessary. The dynamic version of this function will look in the parent stack frame for this attribute if it is not specified explicitly as an argument.

It is also possible to achieve a “best of both worlds” trade-off using conditional logic. Use a conditional block to execute dynamic initialization and place the static auto-generation tags in the block that is not executed. This lets you develop without worrying about updating the file, and lets you statically generate the code for documentation purposes when you want to. Once the rapid development phase is over, you can remove the dynamic conditional, keep the auto-generated portion, and forget you ever used mkinit in the first place!

__DYNAMIC__ = True
if __DYNAMIC__:
    from mkinit import dynamic_mkinit
    from mkinit import dynamic_mkinit
    from mkinit import static_mkinit
    from mkinit.dynamic_mkinit import (dynamic_init,)
    from mkinit.static_mkinit import (autogen_init,)

Behavior Notes

The mkinit module is a simple way to execute a complex task. At times it may seem like magic, although I assure you it is not. To minimize perception of magic and maximize understanding of its behaviors, please consider the following:

  • When discovering attributes of submodules mkinit will respect the __all__ attribute by default. In general it is good practice to specify this property; doing so will also avoid the following caveats.
  • Static analysis currently only extracts top-level module attributes. However, if will also extract attributes defined on all non-error raising paths of conditional if-else or try-except statements.
  • Static analysis currently does not look or account for the usage of the del operator. Again, these will be accounted for by dynamic analysis.
  • In the case where no file exists, the mkinit command line tool will create one.
  • By default we ignore attributes that are marked as non-public by a leading underscore


  • [ ] Give dynamic_init an options dict to maintain a compatible API with static_init.
  • [ ] If an attribute would be defined twice, then don’t define it at all. Currently, it is defined, but its value is not well-defined.

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