Dalle 3’s idea of an Abstract Syntax Tree in R^3 space

If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.

~ Hal Borland

First, I hope everyone is safe. Second, I am changing my usual SnakeByte [] stance process. I am pulling this from a website I ran across. I saw the library mentioned, so I decided to pull from the LazyWebTM instead of the usual snake-based tomes I have in my library.

As a Python developer, understanding and navigating your codebase efficiently is crucial, especially as it grows in size and complexity. Trust me, it will, as does Entropy. Traditional search tools like grep or IDE-based search functionalities can be helpful, but they cannot often “‘understand” the structure of Python code – sans some of the Co-Pilot developments. (I’m using understand here *very* loosely Oh Dear Reader).

This is where pyastgrep it comes into play, offering a powerful way to search and analyze your Python codebase using Abstract Syntax Trees (ASTs). While going into the theory of ASTs is tl;dr for a SnakeByte[] , and there appears to be some ambiguity on the history and definition of Who actually invented ASTs, i have placed some references at the end of the blog for your reading pleasure, Oh Dear Reader. In parlance, if you have ever worked on compilers or core embedded systems, Abstract Syntax Trees are data structures widely used in compilers and the like to represent the structure of program code. An AST is usually the result of the syntax analysis phase of a compiler. It often serves as an intermediate representation of the program through several stages that the compiler requires and has a strong impact on the final output of the compiler.

So what is the Python Library that you speak of? i’m Glad you asked.

What is pyastgrep?

pyastgrep is a command-line tool designed to search Python codebases with an understanding of Python’s syntax and structure. Unlike traditional text-based search tools, pyastgrep it leverages the AST, allowing you to search for specific syntactic constructs rather than just raw text. This makes it an invaluable tool for code refactoring, auditing, and general code analysis.

Why Use pyastgrep?

Here are a few scenarios where pyastgrep excels:

  1. Refactoring: Identify all instances of a particular pattern, such as function definitions, class instantiations, or specific argument names.
  2. Code Auditing: Find usages of deprecated functions, unsafe code patterns, or adherence to coding standards.
  3. Learning: Explore and understand unfamiliar codebases by searching for specific constructs.

I have a mantra: Reduce, Refactor, and Reuse. Please raise your hand of y’all need to refactor your code? (C’mon now no one is watching… tell the truth…). See if it is possible to reduce the code footprint, refactor the code into more optimized transforms, and then let others reuse it across the enterprise.

Getting Started with pyastgrep

Let’s explore some practical examples of using pyastgrep to enhance your code analysis workflow.

Installing pyastgrep

Before we dive into how to use pyastgrep, let’s get it installed. You can install pyastgrep via pip:

(base)tcjr% pip install pyastgrep #dont actually type the tctjr part that is my virtualenv

Example 1: Finding Function Definitions

Suppose you want to find all function definitions in your codebase. With pyastgrep, this is straightforward:

pyastgrep 'FunctionDef'

This command searches for all function definitions (FunctionDef) in your codebase, providing a list of files and line numbers where these definitions occur. Ok pretty basic string search.

Example 2: Searching for Specific Argument Names

Imagine you need to find all functions that take an argument named config. This is how you can do it:

pyastgrep 'arg(arg=config)'

This query searches for function arguments named config, helping you quickly locate where configuration arguments are being used.

Example 3: Finding Class Instantiations

To find all instances where a particular class, say MyClass, is instantiated, you can use:

pyastgrep 'Call(func=Name(id=MyClass))'

This command searches for instantiations of MyClass, making it easier to track how and where specific classes are utilized in your project.

Advanced Usage of pyastgrep

For more complex queries, you can combine multiple AST nodes. For instance, to find all print statements in your code, you might use:

pyastgrep 'Call(func=Name(id=print))'

This command finds all calls to the print function. You can also use more detailed queries to find nested structures or specific code patterns.

Integrating pyastgrep into Your Workflow

Integrating pyastgrep into your development workflow can greatly enhance your ability to analyze and maintain your code. Here are a few tips:

  1. Pre-commit Hooks: Use pyastgrep in pre-commit hooks to enforce coding standards or check for deprecated patterns.
  2. Code Reviews: Employ pyastgrep during code reviews to quickly identify and discuss specific code constructs.
  3. Documentation: Generate documentation or code summaries by extracting specific patterns or structures from your codebase.

Example Script

To get you started, here’s a simple Python script using pyastgrep to search for all function definitions in a directory:

import os
from subprocess import run

def search_function_definitions(directory):
result = run(['pyastgrep', 'FunctionDef', directory], capture_output=True, text=True)

if __name__ == "__main__":
directory = "path/to/your/codebase" #yes this is not optimal folks just an example.

Replace "path/to/your/codebase" with the actual path to your Python codebase, and run the script to see pyastgrep in action.


pyastgrep is a powerful tool that brings the capabilities of AST-based searching to your fingertips. Understanding and leveraging the syntax and structure of your Python code, pyastgrep allows for more precise and meaningful code searches. Whether you’re refactoring, auditing, or simply exploring code, pyastgrep it can significantly enhance your productivity and code quality. This is a great direct addition to your arsenal. Hope it helps and i hope you found this interesting.

Until Then,

#iwishyouwater <- The best of the best at Day1 Tahiti Pro presented by Outerknown 2024

𝕋𝕖𝕕 ℂ. 𝕋𝕒𝕟𝕟𝕖𝕣 𝕁𝕣. (@tctjr) / X

MUZAK to Blog By: SweetLeaf: A Stoner Rock Salute to Black Sabbath. While i do not really like bands that do covers, this is very well done. For other references to the Best Band In Existence ( Black Sabbath) i also refer you to Nativity in Black Volumes 1&2.


[1] Basics Of AST

[2] The person who made pyastgrep

[3] Wikipedia page on AST

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