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Function and command-line program to strip Python type hints.

Project description

This package provides a command-line command and a corresponding importable function that strips type hints from Python code files. The stripping process leaves runnable code, assuming the rest of the code is runnable in the interpreter version. The program tries to make as few changes as possible to the processed code so that line and column numbers in error messages for the processed code file also correspond to those for the original code file. In most cases, with the default options, both the line and column numbers are preserved.

The stripping operation can be used as a preprocessor to allow the new type hint syntax to be used in Python 2. The main intended application is for code which is being developed in Python 3 but which needs backward compatibility to Python 2.

This project also contains a general-purpose class named TokenList which allows lists of Python tokens to be operated on using an interface similar to that of Python strings. In particular, a split method is used for much of the processing in stripping hints. This module could be useful for people doing other things with Python at the token level.

Installing the code

To install from PyPI using pip use:

pip install strip-hints

To install the most-recent development version first clone or download the project from this GitHub repository.

Running the code

After installing with pip you can run the console script strip-hints:


The code runs with Python 2 and Python 3. The processed code is written to stdout. The AST checker that is run on the processed code checks the code against whatever version of Python the script is run with.

The command-line options are as follows:

Map removed code to empty strings rather than spaces. This is easier to read, but does not preserve columns. Default is false.
Do not parse the resulting code with the Python ast module to check it. Default is false.
Do not move colons to fix line breaks that occur in the hints for the function return type. Default is false.
Only strip annotated assignments and standalone type definitions, keeping function signature annotations. Python 3.5 and earlier do not implement these; they first appeared in Python 3.6. The default is false.
Only test if any changes would be made. If any stripping would be done then it prints True and exits with code 0. Otherwise it prints False and exits with code 1.

If you are using the development repo you can just run the file in the bin directory of the repo:


Alternately, you can install the development repo with pip:

cd <pathToMainProjectDirectory>
pip install .  # use -e for development mode

Automatically running on import

A function can be called to automatically strip the type hints from all future imports that are in the same directory as the calling module. For a package the function call can be placed in, for example.

The function can be called as follows, with options set as desired (these are the default settings):

from strip_hints import strip_on_import
strip_on_import(__file__, to_empty=False, no_ast=False, no_colon_move=False,
                only_assigns_and_defs=False, py3_also=False)

By default Python 3 code is ignored unless py3_also is set. The first argument is the file path of the calling module.

Calling from a Python program

To strip the comments from a source file from within a Python program, returning a string containing the code, the functional interface is as follows. The option settings here are the default values:

from strip_hints import strip_file_to_string
code_string = strip_file_to_string(filename, to_empty=False, no_ast=False,
                                   no_colon_move=False, only_assigns_and_defs=False,

If only_test_for_changes is true then a boolean is returned which is true iff some changes would be made.


The program currently does not handle line breaks in annotated assignments when the code that is removed (the type specification) contains a line break that was formerly nested inside parens, brackets, or braces. The program detects the situation and raises an exception. As a workaround if necessary, using an explicit backslash line continuation seems to work.

The same situation in the return type specification is handled by moving the colon token up to the line with the closing paren. The situation does not occur inside parameter lists because they are always nested inside parentheses.

The program currently only handles simple annotated expressions (e.g., it handles my_class.x: int and my_list[2]: int but not (x): int).

How it works

Rather than doing a full, roundtrip parse, this module works on the tokens produced by the Python tokenizer. Locating the relevant parts to remove is a much simpler task than parsing a program in full generality. This allows an ad hoc approach based on splitting groups of tokens, taking into account the nesting level of the tokens to potentially split on. Nesting level is based on the level count inside parentheses, brackets, and curly braces.

  • The tokenizer for Python 2 also works on code with type hints, as introduced in Python 3.
  • Type hints can be removed, in most cases, simply by turning some tokens into whitespace. This preserves line and column numbers in the files. Whiting-out a section of code with a non-nested line break either raises an exception or performs a slightly more-complicated transformation.

In the most basic usage the sequence of tokens originally read from the file is never changed; some tokens just have their string values set to whitespace or to a pound sign before the untokenize operation.

The gory details of the algorithm are discussed in the docstring for The method should be fairly robust.


The code has been run on the Mypy source code and on some other examples, with the results parsed into ASTs and also visually inspected via diff. Some edge cases may well remain to cause problems. There is a Bash script in the test directory which runs the program on files and shows the diffs.

Possible enhancements

  • Formal tests.
  • Better argument-handling, help, etc. with argparse.
  • Generate stubs for Python 2. (Unless the annotated files themselves will work as stubs; I haven’t checked.)
  • Better error warnings (raising exceptions with messages rather than just failing assertions in some places).
  • More command options.

Project details

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