Python: __all__

Yao Yao on October 4, 2017

Effective Python Item 50: Use Packages to Organize Modules and Provide Stable APIs

Python can limit the “interface” exposed to API consumers who use import * by defining the __all__ special attribute of a module or package.

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Karol Kuczmarski: __all__ and wild imports in Python:

__all__ doesn’t prevent any of the module symbols (functions, classes, etc.) from being directly imported. In our the example, the seemingly omitted baz function (which is not included in __all__), is still perfectly importable by writing from module import baz.

Similarly, __all__ doesn’t influence what symbols are included in the results of dir(module) or vars(module). So in the case above, a dir call would result in a ['Foo', 'bar', 'baz'] list, even though 'baz' does not occur in __all__.

In other words, the content of __all__ is more of a convention rather than a strict limitation. Regardless of what you put there, every symbol defined in your module will still be accessible from the outside.

This is a clear reflection of the common policy in Python: assume everyone is a consenting adult, and that visibility controls are not necessary.

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Define __all__ in a module

When consuming code does from foo import *, only the attributes in foo.__all__ will be imported from foo. If __all__ isn’t present in foo, then only public attributes, those without a leading underscore, are imported.


__all__ = ['Foo']

class Foo(object):

Define __all__ for a package

To do this with package mypackage, you need to modify the file in the mypackage directory. This file actually becomes the contents of the mypackage module when it’s imported. Thus, you can specify an explicit API for mypackage by limiting what you import into

Suppose mypackage directory structure is:


and __all__ are defined in and both.

Since all of my internal modules already specify __all__, I can expose the public interface of mypackage by simply importing everything from the internal modules and updating __all__ accordingly.


__all__ = []

from .models import *
__all__ += models.__all__

from .utils import *
__all__ += utils.__all__

Note that from .xxx (no space between . and xxx) means relative import, i.e. importing from a relative path.

PEP 328 – Imports: Multi-Line and Absolute/Relative (Guido’s Decision):

Guido has Pronounced that relative imports will use leading dots. A single leading dot indicates a relative import, starting with the current package. Two or more leading dots give a relative import to the parent(s) of the current package, one level per dot after the first.

Also note that you can also from . import xxx to relatively import the whole module xxx.

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