The Object Space


The object space creates all objects in PyPy, and knows how to perform operations on them. It may be helpful to think of an object space as being a library offering a fixed API: a set of operations, along with implementations that correspond to the known semantics of Python objects.

For example, add() is an operation, with implementations in the object space that perform numeric addition (when add() is operating on numbers), concatenation (when add() is operating on sequences), and so on.

We have some working object spaces which can be plugged into the bytecode interpreter:

  • The Standard Object Space is a complete implementation of the various built-in types and objects of Python. The Standard Object Space, together with the bytecode interpreter, is the foundation of our Python implementation. Internally, it is a set of interpreter-level classes implementing the various application-level objects – integers, strings, lists, types, etc. To draw a comparison with CPython, the Standard Object Space provides the equivalent of the C structures PyIntObject, PyListObject, etc.
  • various Object Space proxies wrap another object space (e.g. the standard one) and adds new capabilities, like lazily computed objects (computed only when an operation is performed on them), security-checking objects, distributed objects living on several machines, etc.

The various object spaces documented here can be found in pypy/objspace.

Note that most object-space operations take and return application-level objects, which are treated as opaque “black boxes” by the interpreter. Only a very few operations allow the bytecode interpreter to gain some knowledge about the value of an application-level object.

Object Space Interface

This is the public API that all Object Spaces implement:

Administrative Functions


Return the currently active execution context. (pypy/interpreter/


Return a Module object for the built-in module given by name. (pypy/interpreter/

Operations on Objects in the Object Space

These functions both take and return “wrapped” (i.e. application-level) objects.

The following functions implement operations with straightforward semantics that directly correspond to language-level constructs:

id, type, issubtype, iter, next, repr, str, len, hash,

getattr, setattr, delattr, getitem, setitem, delitem,

pos, neg, abs, invert, add, sub, mul, truediv, floordiv, div, mod, divmod, pow, lshift, rshift, and_, or_, xor,

nonzero, hex, oct, int, float, long, ord,

lt, le, eq, ne, gt, ge, cmp, coerce, contains,

inplace_add, inplace_sub, inplace_mul, inplace_truediv, inplace_floordiv, inplace_div, inplace_mod, inplace_pow, inplace_lshift, inplace_rshift, inplace_and, inplace_or, inplace_xor,

get, set, delete, userdel

call(w_callable, w_args, w_kwds)

Calls a function with the given positional (w_args) and keyword (w_kwds) arguments.


Implements index lookup (as introduced in CPython 2.5) using w_obj. Will return a wrapped integer or long, or raise a TypeError if the object doesn’t have an __index__() special method.

is_(w_x, w_y)

Implements w_x is w_y.

isinstance(w_obj, w_type)

Implements issubtype() with type(w_obj) and w_type as arguments.

Convenience Functions

The following functions are used so often that it was worthwhile to introduce them as shortcuts – however, they are not strictly necessary since they can be expressed using several other object space methods.

eq_w(w_obj1, w_obj2)

Returns True when w_obj1 and w_obj2 are equal. Shortcut for space.is_true(space.eq(w_obj1, w_obj2)).

is_w(w_obj1, w_obj2)

Shortcut for space.is_true(space.is_(w_obj1, w_obj2)).


Shortcut for space.int_w(space.hash(w_obj)).


Shortcut for space.int_w(space.len(w_obj)).

NOTE that the above four functions return interpreter-level objects, not application-level ones!


Shortcut for space.newbool(not space.is_true(w_obj)).

finditem(w_obj, w_key)

Equivalent to getitem(w_obj, w_key) but returns an interpreter-level None instead of raising a KeyError if the key is not found.

call_function(w_callable, *args_w, **kw_w)

Collects the arguments in a wrapped tuple and dict and invokes, ...).

call_method(w_object, 'method', ...)

Uses space.getattr() to get the method object, and then space.call_function() to invoke it.

unpackiterable(w_iterable[, expected_length=-1])

Iterates over w_x (using space.iter() and and collects the resulting wrapped objects in a list. If expected_length is given and the length does not match, raises an exception.

Of course, in cases where iterating directly is better than collecting the elements in a list first, you should use space.iter() and directly.

unpacktuple(w_tuple[, expected_length=None])

Equivalent to unpackiterable(), but only for tuples.


Implements the built-in callable().

Creation of Application Level objects


Deprecated! Eventually this method should disappear. Returns a wrapped object that is a reference to the interpreter-level object x. This can be used either on simple immutable objects (integers, strings, etc) to create a new wrapped object, or on instances of W_Root to obtain an application-level-visible reference to them. For example, most classes of the bytecode interpreter subclass W_Root and can be directly exposed to application-level code in this way - functions, frames, code objects, etc.


Creates a wrapped object holding an integral value. newint creates an object of type W_IntObject.


Creates a wrapped object holding an integral value. The main difference to newint is the type of the argument (which is rpython.rlib.rbigint.rbigint). On PyPy3 this method will return an int (PyPy2 it returns a long).


The given argument is a rpython bytestring. Creates a wrapped object of type bytes (both on PyPy2 and PyPy3).


The given argument is a rpython bytestring. Creates a wrapped object of type str. On PyPy3 this will return a wrapped unicode object. The object will hold a utf-8-nosg decoded value of t. The “utf-8-nosg” codec used here is slightly different from the “utf-8” implemented in Python 2 or Python 3: it is defined as utf-8 without any special handling of surrogate characters. They are encoded using the same three-bytes sequence that encodes any char in the range from '\u0800' to '\uffff'.

PyPy2 will return a bytestring object. No encoding/decoding steps will be applied.


Creates a wrapped bool object from an interpreter-level object.

newtuple([w_x, w_y, w_z, ...])

Creates a new wrapped tuple out of an interpreter-level list of wrapped objects.


Creates a wrapped list from an interpreter-level list of wrapped objects.


Returns a new empty dictionary.

newslice(w_start, w_end, w_step)

Creates a new slice object.


Creates a Unicode string from an rpython unicode string. This method may disappear soon and be replaced by :py:function:`newutf8()`.


Creates a Unicode string from an rpython byte string, decoded as “utf-8-nosg”. On PyPy3 it is the same as :py:function:`newtext()`.

Many more space operations can be found in pypy/interpeter/ and pypy/objspace/std/

Conversions from Application Level to Interpreter Level


Returns the interpreter-level equivalent of w_x – use this ONLY for testing, because this method is not RPython and thus cannot be translated! In most circumstances you should use the functions described below instead.


Returns a interpreter-level boolean (True or False) that gives the truth value of the wrapped object w_x.

This is a particularly important operation because it is necessary to implement, for example, if-statements in the language (or rather, to be pedantic, to implement the conditional-branching bytecodes into which if-statements are compiled).


If w_x is an application-level integer or long which can be converted without overflow to an integer, return an interpreter-level integer. Otherwise raise TypeError or OverflowError.


If w_x is an application-level integer or long, return an interpreter-level rbigint. Otherwise raise TypeError.


Takes an application level str and converts it to a rpython byte string. PyPy3 this method will return an utf-8-nosg encoded result.


Takes an application level bytes (PyPy2 this equals str) and returns a rpython byte string.


Deprecated. use text_w or bytes_w instead If w_x is an application-level string, return an interpreter-level string. Otherwise raise TypeError.


Takes an application level unicode and return an interpreter-level unicode string. This method may disappear soon and be replaced by :py:function:`text_w()`.


If w_x is an application-level float, integer or long, return an interpreter-level float. Otherwise raise TypeError (or:py:exc:OverflowError in the case of very large longs).

getindex_w(w_obj[, w_exception=None])

Call index(w_obj). If the resulting integer or long object can be converted to an interpreter-level int, return that. If not, return a clamped result if w_exception is None, otherwise raise the exception at the application level.

(If w_obj can’t be converted to an index, index() will raise an application-level TypeError.)

interp_w(RequiredClass, w_x[, can_be_None=False])

If w_x is a wrapped instance of the given bytecode interpreter class, unwrap it and return it. If can_be_None is True, a wrapped None is also accepted and returns an interpreter-level None. Otherwise, raises an OperationError encapsulating a TypeError with a nice error message.


If w_x is a wrapped instance of an bytecode interpreter class – for example Function, Frame, Cell, etc. – return it unwrapped. Otherwise return None.

Data Members


The Module containing the builtins.


The sys Module.


The ObjSpace’s instance of None.


The ObjSpace’s instance of True.


The ObjSpace’s instance of False.


The ObjSpace’s instance of Ellipsis.


The ObjSpace’s instance of NotImplemented.


Python’s most common basic type objects.


Python’s built-in exception classes (KeyError, IndexError, etc).


List of tuples containing (method_name, symbol, number_of_arguments, list_of_special_names) for the regular part of the interface.

NOTE that tuples are interpreter-level.


List of names of built-in modules.


List of names of the constants that the object space should define.


List of names of exception classes.


List of names of methods that have an irregular API (take and/or return non-wrapped objects).

The Standard Object Space


The Standard Object Space (pypy/objspace/std/) is the direct equivalent of CPython’s object library (the Objects/ subdirectory in the distribution). It is an implementation of the common Python types in a lower-level language.

The Standard Object Space defines an abstract parent class, W_Object as well as subclasses like W_IntObject, W_ListObject, and so on. A wrapped object (a “black box” for the bytecode interpreter’s main loop) is an instance of one of these classes. When the main loop invokes an operation (such as addition), between two wrapped objects w1 and w2, the Standard Object Space does some internal dispatching (similar to Object/abstract.c in CPython) and invokes a method of the proper W_XYZObject class that can perform the operation.

The operation itself is done with the primitives allowed by RPython, and the result is constructed as a wrapped object. For example, compare the following implementation of integer addition with the function int_add() in Object/intobject.c:

def add__Int_Int(space, w_int1, w_int2):
    x = w_int1.intval
    y = w_int2.intval
        z = ovfcheck(x + y)
    except OverflowError:
        raise FailedToImplementArgs(space.w_OverflowError,
                                space.wrap("integer addition"))
    return W_IntObject(space, z)

This may seem like a lot of work just for integer objects (why wrap them into W_IntObject instances instead of using plain integers?), but the code is kept simple and readable by wrapping all objects (from simple integers to more complex types) in the same way.

(Interestingly, the obvious optimization above has actually been made in PyPy, but isn’t hard-coded at this level – see Standard Interpreter Optimizations.)

Object types

The larger part of the pypy/objspace/std/ package defines and implements the library of Python’s standard built-in object types. Each type xxx (int, float, list, tuple, str, type, etc.) is typically implemented in the module

The W_AbstractXxxObject class, when present, is the abstract base class, which mainly defines what appears on the Python-level type object. There are then actual implementations as subclasses, which are called W_XxxObject or some variant for the cases where we have several different implementations. For example, pypy/objspace/std/ defines W_AbstractBytesObject, which contains everything needed to build the str app-level type; and there are subclasses W_BytesObject (the usual string) and W_StringBufferObject (a special implementation tweaked for repeated additions, in pypy/objspace/std/ For mutable data types like lists and dictionaries, we have a single class W_ListObject or W_DictMultiObject which has an indirection to the real data and a strategy; the strategy can change as the content of the object changes.

From the user’s point of view, even when there are several W_AbstractXxxObject subclasses, this is not visible: at the app-level, they are still all instances of exactly the same Python type. PyPy knows that (e.g.) the application-level type of its interpreter-level W_BytesObject instances is str because there is a typedef class attribute in W_BytesObject which points back to the string type specification from pypy/objspace/std/; all other implementations of strings use the same typedef from pypy/objspace/std/

For other examples of multiple implementations of the same Python type, see Standard Interpreter Optimizations.

Object Space proxies

We have implemented several proxy object spaces, which wrap another object space (typically the standard one) and add some capabilities to all objects. To find out more, see What PyPy can do for your objects.