28.6. contextlib — Utilities for with-statement contexts

Source code: Lib/contextlib.py

This module provides utilities for common tasks involving the with statement. For more information see also Context Manager Types and With Statement Context Managers.

28.6.1. Utilities

Functions and classes provided:


This function is a decorator that can be used to define a factory function for with statement context managers, without needing to create a class or separate __enter__() and __exit__() methods.

A simple example (this is not recommended as a real way of generating HTML!):

from contextlib import contextmanager

def tag(name):
    print("<%s>" % name)
    print("</%s>" % name)

>>> with tag("h1"):
...    print("foo")

The function being decorated must return a generator-iterator when called. This iterator must yield exactly one value, which will be bound to the targets in the with statement’s as clause, if any.

At the point where the generator yields, the block nested in the with statement is executed. The generator is then resumed after the block is exited. If an unhandled exception occurs in the block, it is reraised inside the generator at the point where the yield occurred. Thus, you can use a try...except...finally statement to trap the error (if any), or ensure that some cleanup takes place. If an exception is trapped merely in order to log it or to perform some action (rather than to suppress it entirely), the generator must reraise that exception. Otherwise the generator context manager will indicate to the with statement that the exception has been handled, and execution will resume with the statement immediately following the with statement.

contextmanager() uses ContextDecorator so the context managers it creates can be used as decorators as well as in with statements. When used as a decorator, a new generator instance is implicitly created on each function call (this allows the otherwise “one-shot” context managers created by contextmanager() to meet the requirement that context managers support multiple invocations in order to be used as decorators).

Changed in version 3.2: Use of ContextDecorator.


Return a context manager that closes thing upon completion of the block. This is basically equivalent to:

from contextlib import contextmanager

def closing(thing):
        yield thing

And lets you write code like this:

from contextlib import closing
from urllib.request import urlopen

with closing(urlopen('http://www.python.org')) as page:
    for line in page:

without needing to explicitly close page. Even if an error occurs, page.close() will be called when the with block is exited.

class contextlib.ContextDecorator

A base class that enables a context manager to also be used as a decorator.

Context managers inheriting from ContextDecorator have to implement __enter__ and __exit__ as normal. __exit__ retains its optional exception handling even when used as a decorator.

ContextDecorator is used by contextmanager(), so you get this functionality automatically.

Example of ContextDecorator:

from contextlib import ContextDecorator

class mycontext(ContextDecorator):
    def __enter__(self):
        return self

    def __exit__(self, *exc):
        return False

>>> @mycontext()
... def function():
...     print('The bit in the middle')
>>> function()
The bit in the middle

>>> with mycontext():
...     print('The bit in the middle')
The bit in the middle

This change is just syntactic sugar for any construct of the following form:

def f():
    with cm():
        # Do stuff

ContextDecorator lets you instead write:

def f():
    # Do stuff

It makes it clear that the cm applies to the whole function, rather than just a piece of it (and saving an indentation level is nice, too).

Existing context managers that already have a base class can be extended by using ContextDecorator as a mixin class:

from contextlib import ContextDecorator

class mycontext(ContextBaseClass, ContextDecorator):
    def __enter__(self):
        return self

    def __exit__(self, *exc):
        return False


As the decorated function must be able to be called multiple times, the underlying context manager must support use in multiple with statements. If this is not the case, then the original construct with the explicit with statement inside the function should be used.

New in version 3.2.

class contextlib.ExitStack

A context manager that is designed to make it easy to programmatically combine other context managers and cleanup functions, especially those that are optional or otherwise driven by input data.

For example, a set of files may easily be handled in a single with statement as follows:

with ExitStack() as stack:
    files = [stack.enter_context(open(fname)) for fname in filenames]
    # All opened files will automatically be closed at the end of
    # the with statement, even if attempts to open files later
    # in the list raise an exception

Each instance maintains a stack of registered callbacks that are called in reverse order when the instance is closed (either explicitly or implicitly at the end of a with statement). Note that callbacks are not invoked implicitly when the context stack instance is garbage collected.

This stack model is used so that context managers that acquire their resources in their __init__ method (such as file objects) can be handled correctly.

Since registered callbacks are invoked in the reverse order of registration, this ends up behaving as if multiple nested with statements had been used with the registered set of callbacks. This even extends to exception handling - if an inner callback suppresses or replaces an exception, then outer callbacks will be passed arguments based on that updated state.

This is a relatively low level API that takes care of the details of correctly unwinding the stack of exit callbacks. It provides a suitable foundation for higher level context managers that manipulate the exit stack in application specific ways.

New in version 3.3.


Enters a new context manager and adds its __exit__() method to the callback stack. The return value is the result of the context manager’s own __enter__() method.

These context managers may suppress exceptions just as they normally would if used directly as part of a with statement.


Adds a context manager’s __exit__() method to the callback stack.

As __enter__ is not invoked, this method can be used to cover part of an __enter__() implementation with a context manager’s own __exit__() method.

If passed an object that is not a context manager, this method assumes it is a callback with the same signature as a context manager’s __exit__() method and adds it directly to the callback stack.

By returning true values, these callbacks can suppress exceptions the same way context manager __exit__() methods can.

The passed in object is returned from the function, allowing this method to be used as a function decorator.

callback(callback, *args, **kwds)

Accepts an arbitrary callback function and arguments and adds it to the callback stack.

Unlike the other methods, callbacks added this way cannot suppress exceptions (as they are never passed the exception details).

The passed in callback is returned from the function, allowing this method to be used as a function decorator.


Transfers the callback stack to a fresh ExitStack instance and returns it. No callbacks are invoked by this operation - instead, they will now be invoked when the new stack is closed (either explicitly or implicitly at the end of a with statement).

For example, a group of files can be opened as an “all or nothing” operation as follows:

with ExitStack() as stack:
    files = [stack.enter_context(open(fname)) for fname in filenames]
    # Hold onto the close method, but don't call it yet.
    close_files = stack.pop_all().close
    # If opening any file fails, all previously opened files will be
    # closed automatically. If all files are opened successfully,
    # they will remain open even after the with statement ends.
    # close_files() can then be invoked explicitly to close them all.

Immediately unwinds the callback stack, invoking callbacks in the reverse order of registration. For any context managers and exit callbacks registered, the arguments passed in will indicate that no exception occurred.

28.6.2. Examples and Recipes

This section describes some examples and recipes for making effective use of the tools provided by contextlib. Supporting a variable number of context managers

The primary use case for ExitStack is the one given in the class documentation: supporting a variable number of context managers and other cleanup operations in a single with statement. The variability may come from the number of context managers needed being driven by user input (such as opening a user specified collection of files), or from some of the context managers being optional:

with ExitStack() as stack:
    for resource in resources:
    if need_special resource:
        special = acquire_special_resource()
        stack.callback(release_special_resource, special)
    # Perform operations that use the acquired resources

As shown, ExitStack also makes it quite easy to use with statements to manage arbitrary resources that don’t natively support the context management protocol. Simplifying support for single optional context managers

In the specific case of a single optional context manager, ExitStack instances can be used as a “do nothing” context manager, allowing a context manager to easily be omitted without affecting the overall structure of the source code:

def debug_trace(details):
    if __debug__:
        return TraceContext(details)
    # Don't do anything special with the context in release mode
    return ExitStack()

with debug_trace():
    # Suite is traced in debug mode, but runs normally otherwise Catching exceptions from __enter__ methods

It is occasionally desirable to catch exceptions from an __enter__ method implementation, without inadvertently catching exceptions from the with statement body or the context manager’s __exit__ method. By using ExitStack the steps in the context management protocol can be separated slightly in order to allow this:

stack = ExitStack()
    x = stack.enter_context(cm)
except Exception:
    # handle __enter__ exception
    with stack:
        # Handle normal case

Actually needing to do this is likely to indicate that the underlying API should be providing a direct resource management interface for use with try/except/finally statements, but not all APIs are well designed in that regard. When a context manager is the only resource management API provided, then ExitStack can make it easier to handle various situations that can’t be handled directly in a with statement. Cleaning up in an __enter__ implementation

As noted in the documentation of ExitStack.push(), this method can be useful in cleaning up an already allocated resource if later steps in the __enter__() implementation fail.

Here’s an example of doing this for a context manager that accepts resource acquisition and release functions, along with an optional validation function, and maps them to the context management protocol:

from contextlib import contextmanager, ExitStack

class ResourceManager:

    def __init__(self, acquire_resource, release_resource, check_resource_ok=None):
        self.acquire_resource = acquire_resource
        self.release_resource = release_resource
        if check_resource_ok is None:
            def check_resource_ok(resource):
                return True
        self.check_resource_ok = check_resource_ok

    def _cleanup_on_error(self):
        with ExitStack() as stack:
            # The validation check passed and didn't raise an exception
            # Accordingly, we want to keep the resource, and pass it
            # back to our caller

    def __enter__(self):
        resource = self.acquire_resource()
        with self._cleanup_on_error():
            if not self.check_resource_ok(resource):
                msg = "Failed validation for {!r}"
                raise RuntimeError(msg.format(resource))
        return resource

    def __exit__(self, *exc_details):
        # We don't need to duplicate any of our resource release logic
        self.release_resource() Replacing any use of try-finally and flag variables

A pattern you will sometimes see is a try-finally statement with a flag variable to indicate whether or not the body of the finally clause should be executed. In its simplest form (that can’t already be handled just by using an except clause instead), it looks something like this:

cleanup_needed = True
    result = perform_operation()
    if result:
        cleanup_needed = False
    if cleanup_needed:

As with any try statement based code, this can cause problems for development and review, because the setup code and the cleanup code can end up being separated by arbitrarily long sections of code.

ExitStack makes it possible to instead register a callback for execution at the end of a with statement, and then later decide to skip executing that callback:

from contextlib import ExitStack

with ExitStack() as stack:
    result = perform_operation()
    if result:

This allows the intended cleanup up behaviour to be made explicit up front, rather than requiring a separate flag variable.

If a particular application uses this pattern a lot, it can be simplified even further by means of a small helper class:

from contextlib import ExitStack

class Callback(ExitStack):
    def __init__(self, callback, *args, **kwds):
        super(Callback, self).__init__()
        self.callback(callback, *args, **kwds)

    def cancel(self):

with Callback(cleanup_resources) as cb:
    result = perform_operation()
    if result:

If the resource cleanup isn’t already neatly bundled into a standalone function, then it is still possible to use the decorator form of ExitStack.callback() to declare the resource cleanup in advance:

from contextlib import ExitStack

with ExitStack() as stack:
    def cleanup_resources():
    result = perform_operation()
    if result:

Due to the way the decorator protocol works, a callback function declared this way cannot take any parameters. Instead, any resources to be released must be accessed as closure variables Using a context manager as a function decorator

ContextDecorator makes it possible to use a context manager in both an ordinary with statement and also as a function decorator.

For example, it is sometimes useful to wrap functions or groups of statements with a logger that can track the time of entry and time of exit. Rather than writing both a function decorator and a context manager for the task, inheriting from ContextDecorator provides both capabilities in a single definition:

from contextlib import ContextDecorator
import logging


class track_entry_and_exit(ContextDecorator):
    def __init__(self, name):
        self.name = name

    def __enter__(self):
        logging.info('Entering: {}'.format(name))

    def __exit__(self, exc_type, exc, exc_tb):
        logging.info('Exiting: {}'.format(name))

Instances of this class can be used as both a context manager:

with track_entry_and_exit('widget loader'):
    print('Some time consuming activity goes here')

And also as a function decorator:

@track_entry_and_exit('widget loader')
def activity():
    print('Some time consuming activity goes here')

Note that there is one additional limitation when using context managers as function decorators: there’s no way to access the return value of __enter__(). If that value is needed, then it is still necessary to use an explicit with statement.

See also

PEP 0343 - The “with” statement
The specification, background, and examples for the Python with statement.