# Entry Points#

Entry points are a type of metadata that can be exposed by packages on installation. They are a very useful feature of the Python ecosystem, and come specially handy in two scenarios:

1. The package would like to provide commands to be run at the terminal. This functionality is known as console scripts. The command may also open up a GUI, in which case it is known as a GUI script. An example of a console script is the one provided by the pip package, which allows you to run commands like pip install in the terminal.

2. A package would like to enable customization of its functionalities via plugins. For example, the test framework pytest allows customization via the pytest11 entry point, and the syntax highlighting tool pygments allows specifying additional styles using the entry point pygments.styles.

## Console Scripts#

Let us start with console scripts. First consider an example without entry points. Imagine a package defined thus:

project_root_directory
├── pyproject.toml        # and/or setup.cfg, setup.py
└── src
└── timmins
├── __init__.py
└── ...


with __init__.py as:

def hello_world():
print("Hello world")


Now, suppose that we would like to provide some way of executing the function hello_world() from the command-line. One way to do this is to create a file src/timmins/__main__.py providing a hook as follows:

from . import hello_world

if __name__ == '__main__':
hello_world()


Then, after installing the package timmins, we may invoke the hello_world() function as follows, through the runpy module:

$python -m timmins Hello world  Instead of this approach using __main__.py, you can also create a user-friendly CLI executable that can be called directly without python -m. In the above example, to create a command hello-world that invokes timmins.hello_world, add a console script entry point to your configuration: [project.scripts] hello-world = "timmins:hello_world"  [options.entry_points] console_scripts = hello-world = timmins:hello_world  from setuptools import setup setup( # ..., entry_points={ 'console_scripts': [ 'hello-world = timmins:hello_world', ] } )  After installing the package, a user may invoke that function by simply calling hello-world on the command line: $ hello-world
Hello world


Note that any function configured as a console script, i.e. hello_world() in this example, should not accept any arguments. If your function requires any input from the user, you can use regular command-line argument parsing utilities like argparse within the body of the function to parse user input given via sys.argv.

You may have noticed that we have used a special syntax to specify the function that must be invoked by the console script, i.e. we have written timmins:hello_world with a colon : separating the package name and the function name. The full specification of this syntax is discussed in the last section of this document, and this can be used to specify a function located anywhere in your package, not just in __init__.py.

## GUI Scripts#

In addition to console_scripts, Setuptools supports gui_scripts, which will launch a GUI application without running in a terminal window.

For example, if we have a project with the same directory structure as before, with an __init__.py file containing the following:

import PySimpleGUI as sg

def hello_world():


Then, we can add a GUI script entry point:

[project.gui-scripts]
hello-world = "timmins:hello_world"

[options.entry_points]
gui_scripts =
hello-world = timmins:hello_world

from setuptools import setup

setup(
# ...,
entry_points={
'gui_scripts': [
'hello-world = timmins:hello_world',
]
}
)


Note

To be able to import PySimpleGUI, you need to add pysimplegui to your package dependencies. See Dependencies Management in Setuptools for more information.

Now, running:

\$ hello-world


will open a small application window with the title ‘Hello world’.

Note that just as with console scripts, any function configured as a GUI script should not accept any arguments, and any user input can be parsed within the body of the function. GUI scripts also use the same syntax (discussed in the last section) for specifying the function to be invoked.

Note

The difference between console_scripts and gui_scripts only affects Windows systems. [1] console_scripts are wrapped in a console executable, so they are attached to a console and can use sys.stdin, sys.stdout and sys.stderr for input and output. gui_scripts are wrapped in a GUI executable, so they can be started without a console, but cannot use standard streams unless application code redirects them. Other platforms do not have the same distinction.

Note

Console and GUI scripts work because behind the scenes, installers like pip create wrapper scripts around the function(s) being invoked. For example, the hello-world entry point in the above two examples would create a command hello-world launching a script like this: [1]

import sys
from timmins import hello_world
sys.exit(hello_world())


Console/GUI scripts are one use of the more general concept of entry points. Entry points more generally allow a packager to advertise behavior for discovery by other libraries and applications. This feature enables “plug-in”-like functionality, where one library solicits entry points and any number of other libraries provide those entry points.

A good example of this plug-in behavior can be seen in pytest plugins, where pytest is a test framework that allows other libraries to extend or modify its functionality through the pytest11 entry point.

The console/GUI scripts work similarly, where libraries advertise their commands and tools like pip create wrapper scripts that invoke those commands.

## Entry Points for Plugins#

Let us consider a simple example to understand how we can implement entry points corresponding to plugins. Say we have a package timmins with the following directory structure:

timmins
├── pyproject.toml        # and/or setup.cfg, setup.py
└── src
└── timmins
└── __init__.py


and in src/timmins/__init__.py we have the following code:

def hello_world():
print('Hello world')


Basically, we have defined a hello_world() function which will print the text ‘Hello world’. Now, let us say we want to print the text ‘Hello world’ in different ways. The current function just prints the text as it is - let us say we want another style in which the text is enclosed within exclamation marks:

!!! Hello world !!!


Let us see how this can be done using plugins. First, let us separate the style of printing the text from the text itself. In other words, we can change the code in src/timmins/__init__.py to something like this:

def display(text):
print(text)

def hello_world():
display('Hello world')


Here, the display() function controls the style of printing the text, and the hello_world() function calls the display() function to print the text ‘Hello world.

Right now the display() function just prints the text as it is. In order to be able to customize it, we can do the following. Let us introduce a new group of entry points named timmins.display, and expect plugin packages implementing this entry point to supply a display()-like function. Next, to be able to automatically discover plugin packages that implement this entry point, we can use the importlib.metadata module, as follows:

from importlib.metadata import entry_points
display_eps = entry_points(group='timmins.display')


Note

Each importlib.metadata.EntryPoint object is an object containing a name, a group, and a value. For example, after setting up the plugin package as described below, display_eps in the above code will look like this: [2]

(
EntryPoint(name='excl', value='timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display', group='timmins.display'),
...,
)


display_eps will now be a list of EntryPoint objects, each referring to display()-like functions defined by one or more installed plugin packages. Then, to import a specific display()-like function - let us choose the one corresponding to the first discovered entry point - we can use the load() method as follows:

display = display_eps[0].load()


Finally, a sensible behaviour would be that if we cannot find any plugin packages customizing the display() function, we should fall back to our default implementation which prints the text as it is. With this behaviour included, the code in src/timmins/__init__.py finally becomes:

from importlib.metadata import entry_points
display_eps = entry_points(group='timmins.display')
try:
except IndexError:
def display(text):
print(text)

def hello_world():
display('Hello world')


That finishes the setup on timmins’s side. Next, we need to implement a plugin which implements the entry point timmins.display. Let us name this plugin timmins-plugin-fancy, and set it up with the following directory structure:

timmins-plugin-fancy
├── pyproject.toml        # and/or setup.cfg, setup.py
└── src
└── timmins_plugin_fancy
└── __init__.py


And then, inside src/timmins_plugin_fancy/__init__.py, we can put a function named excl_display() that prints the given text surrounded by exclamation marks:

def excl_display(text):
print('!!!', text, '!!!')


This is the display()-like function that we are looking to supply to the timmins package. We can do that by adding the following in the configuration of timmins-plugin-fancy:

# Note the quotes around timmins.display in order to escape the dot .
[project.entry-points."timmins.display"]
excl = "timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display"

[options.entry_points]
timmins.display =
excl = timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display

from setuptools import setup

setup(
# ...,
entry_points = {
'timmins.display': [
'excl = timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display'
]
}
)


Basically, this configuration states that we are a supplying an entry point under the group timmins.display. The entry point is named excl and it refers to the function excl_display defined by the package timmins-plugin-fancy.

Now, if we install both timmins and timmins-plugin-fancy, we should get the following:

>>> from timmins import hello_world
>>> hello_world()
!!! Hello world !!!


whereas if we only install timmins and not timmins-plugin-fancy, we should get the following:

>>> from timmins import hello_world
>>> hello_world()
Hello world


Therefore, our plugin works.

Our plugin could have also defined multiple entry points under the group timmins.display. For example, in src/timmins_plugin_fancy/__init__.py we could have two display()-like functions, as follows:

def excl_display(text):
print('!!!', text, '!!!')

def lined_display(text):
print(''.join(['-' for _ in text]))
print(text)
print(''.join(['-' for _ in text]))


The configuration of timmins-plugin-fancy would then change to:

[project.entry-points."timmins.display"]
excl = "timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display"
lined = "timmins_plugin_fancy:lined_display"

[options.entry_points]
timmins.display =
excl = timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display
lined = timmins_plugin_fancy:lined_display

from setuptools import setup

setup(
# ...,
entry_points = {
'timmins.display': [
'excl = timmins_plugin_fancy:excl_display',
'lined = timmins_plugin_fancy:lined_display',
]
}
)


On the timmins side, we can also use a different strategy of loading entry points. For example, we can search for a specific display style:

display_eps = entry_points(group='timmins.display')
try:
except KeyError:
# if the 'lined' display is not available, use something else
...


Or we can also load all plugins under the given group. Though this might not be of much use in our current example, there are several scenarios in which this is useful:

display_eps = entry_points(group='timmins.display')
for ep in display_eps:
# do something with display
...


Another point is that in this particular example, we have used plugins to customize the behaviour of a function (display()). In general, we can use entry points to enable plugins to not only customize the behaviour of functions, but also of entire classes and modules. This is unlike the case of console/GUI scripts, where entry points can only refer to functions. The syntax used for specifying the entry points remains the same as for console/GUI scripts, and is discussed in the last section.

Tip

The recommended approach for loading and importing entry points is the importlib.metadata module, which is a part of the standard library since Python 3.8. For older versions of Python, its backport importlib_metadata should be used. While using the backport, the only change that has to be made is to replace importlib.metadata with importlib_metadata, i.e.

from importlib_metadata import entry_points
...


In summary, entry points allow a package to open its functionalities for customization via plugins. The package soliciting the entry points need not have any dependency or prior knowledge about the plugins implementing the entry points, and downstream users are able to compose functionality by pulling together plugins implementing the entry points.

## Entry Points Syntax#

The syntax for entry points is specified as follows:

<name> = <package_or_module>[:<object>[.<attr>[.<nested-attr>]*]]


Here, the square brackets [] denote optionality and the asterisk * denotes repetition. name is the name of the script/entry point you want to create, the left hand side of : is the package or module that contains the object you want to invoke (think about it as something you would write in an import statement), and the right hand side is the object you want to invoke (e.g. a function).

To make this syntax more clear, consider the following examples:

Package or module

If you supply:

<name> = <package_or_module>


as the entry point, where <package_or_module> can contain . in the case of sub-modules or sub-packages, then, tools in the Python ecosystem will roughly interpret this value as:

import <package_or_module>
parsed_value = <package_or_module>

Module-level object

If you supply:

<name> = <package_or_module>:<object>


where <object> does not contain any ., this will be roughly interpreted as:

from <package_or_module> import <object>
parsed_value = <object>

Nested object

If you supply:

<name> = <package_or_module>:<object>.<attr>.<nested_attr>


this will be roughly interpreted as:

from <package_or_module> import <object>
parsed_value = <object>.<attr>.<nested_attr>
`

In the case of console/GUI scripts, this syntax can be used to specify a function, while in the general case of entry points as used for plugins, it can be used to specify a function, class or module.