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How to use the Python ascii() function

Python Ascii

In this article, we’ll take a look at the Python ascii() function.

The ascii() function returns a string representation of the object but only having ASCII characters as it is.

The remaining non-ASCII characters will be escaped with a backslash (\). For example, the newline character (\n) is a non-ASCII character.

We’ll now look at some examples to understand how it exactly works!


Using the Python ascii() function – Some examples

The Python ascii() function takes a single argument, which can be any object. So all kinds of objects, like lists, strings, etc, are valid. This will return a string.

If you’re using it on a List, or any collection, this function will get called for each member of the collection.

Let’s take a look at this now.


Using Python ascii() on primitive datatypes

For basic datatypes like boolean, string, int, they work as you expect.

i = 15
print(ascii(i))

b = True
print(ascii(b))

s = 'abc'
print(ascii(s))

s = 'Hello from\tAskPython\n'
print(ascii(s))

Output

'15'
'True'
"'abc'"
"'Hello from\\tAskPython\\n'"

As you can see, for the non-ASCII characters (\t, \n), the backslash itself needs to be escaped.

Using ascii() on Iterables/Collections

In case you want to use it on a list/tuple/dictionary, you still can! But, this will simply apply it to every member in the collection/iterable.

So if a list has n elements, we’ll get the function applied to all n of them, and get back a list of strings.

m = ["Hello from AskPython 22", "AskPythön", "Hi"]
print(ascii(m))

Output

['Hello from AskPython 22', 'AskPyth\xf6n', 'Hi']

Similarly, with a Dictionary {key:value}, it’ll be applied to both key and value.

d = {'â':'å', '2':2, 'ç':'ć'}
print(ascii(d))

Output

{'\xe2': '\xe5', '2': 2, '\xe7': '\u0107'}

For a tuple, it is similar to that of a list. All elements will be converted to a string representation of ASCII-like characters.

t = ("Hellö", 123, ["AskPython"])
print(ascii(t))

Output

('Hell\xf6', 123, ['AskPython'])

Comparison with the repr() function

The repr() function is also used to return a string representation of objects. But the difference is that repr() prints the non-ascii characters as such.

For custom objects, the ascii() function internally calls the __repr__() function, but makes sure to escape non-ASCII characters.

Let’s experiment with this, by creating our own object, using a class.

class MyClass:
    def __init__(self, name):
        self.name = name

Now, let’s create an object and try to invoke ascii() and repr() on it,

my_obj = MyClass("AskPythön")
print(ascii(my_obj))
print(repr(my_obj))

Output

'<__main__.MyClass object at 0x7f6adcf30940>'
'<__main__.MyClass object at 0x7f6adcf30940>'

We don’t have a repr() function for this class, so the default object definition is used. That’s why you see MyClass object in the output.

To change this, we must overload the __repr__() dunder method ourselves.

class MyClass:
    def __init__(self, name):
        self.name = name
    def __repr__(self):
        return self.name

Now, when you invoke ascii() or repr(), we can directly get the name attribute!

my_obj = MyClass("AskPythön")
print(ascii(my_obj))
print(repr(my_obj))

Output

AskPyth\xf6n
AskPythön

Now, you can clearly see the difference!


Conclusion

In this article, we learned about using the ascii() function in Python and learned to use it on different types of objects.

References


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