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The Parcel Developer's Guide to the Chandler Schema API

Table of Contents


This document is a guide to the Chandler Schema API, found in the application.schema module of Chandler. It explains how to define Chandler parcels and their schemas, how to create persistent items as part of installing a parcel, and how to create and use persistent items defined by your schema.

We assume in this document that you:

You should also be aware that making changes to Chandler's schema may invalidate data that's already contained in your repository, and that while experimenting with the APIs presented here you may sometimes need to recreate your repository. You should therefore not experiment with repositories whose data you wish to keep!

Throughout this document, you'll find Python code examples like this:

>>> if 1+1 == 2:
...     print "this is sample output from a working example"
this is sample output from a working example

These are laid out to look like the code was typed at the Python interpreter prompt (">>>" on the first line, "..." on subsequent lines, followed by any output). If you actually type these examples in (skipping the prompts and sample output), you should receive the same results. In fact, this document is actually a Python "doctest", which means the examples can be validated by a program that runs the examples and verifies that they produce the same output as shown here.

For the sake of clarity, and to make the tests repeatable, we'll sometimes omit part of an example's output, using ... to mark the omitted portions. The doctest tool will treat these as wildcards for matching purposes, and we also won't have to include a lot of detail that's not relevant to the example. For example:

>>> for i in range(1000):   # produce a lot of output
...     print "This is line",i+1
This is line 1
This is line 2
This is line 1000

The Python doctest tool will still verify the parts of the output that we include, of course, which will help to ensure that the examples in this document will always accurately reflect the current schema API.

Aside from the doctest blocks for examples, the only other typographical conventions used in this document will be to format references to Python code or symbols like this(), and to put the first, defining use of any new terms in bold.

Schema Basics

Chandler stores data as items in its repository: a kind of object database. In order to know how to store and validate the data, the repository needs to know how the data is structured. This "data about the data" (aka "metadata") is the schema.

Chandler schemas are defined in Python code, using the Chandler schema API. This API is found in the application.schema module, which we recommend that you import in this way:

>>> from application import schema

This allows you to conveniently refer to any schema API features by using "schema." as a prefix to their names.

Items, Kinds, and Views

The most common use of the schema API is to define the schema for new kinds of persistent items. An Item is a Python object that can be stored in the repository. A Kind is the persistent representation of the schema for one or more Python classes. Kinds are defined by subclassing schema.Item:

>>> class Sample(schema.Item):
...     """Just an example"""

Before we can create an instance of our Sample class, we need to have a place to store it. This is because any instances of Sample that we use in Python code are just reflections of the "real" object stored in the repository. The Sample instances in our program can come and go, but the persistent items they reflect will always remain in the repository, even when Chandler isn't running.

For our examples in this document, however, we don't really want to store any objects, so we'll use a "pretend" repository called a NullRepositoryView:

>>> from repository.persistence.RepositoryView import NullRepositoryView
>>> rv = NullRepositoryView(verify=True)  # report errors immediately

A repository view is a connection to a repository, much like a connection to an SQL database. Instead of using SQL, however, repository views provide various methods for retrieving objects, committing or rolling back changes, etc. For the most part, these methods are outside the scope of this document, so we won't cover many of those methods here.

A NullRepositoryView is just like an ordinary repository view, except that the objects don't actually get stored anywhere; instead, they behave like normal Python objects that go away as soon as you're not using them.

Now that we have a repository view, we can create an item:

>>> myItem = Sample("myItem", rv)
>>> myItem
<Sample (new): myItem ...>

The first two arguments to an Item class's constructor are a name and a "parent" object. An item's parent object can be either any existing item, or a repository view. Since myItem was our first item, we had to go with the repository view. But we could now create other items using myItem as a parent:

>>> child_item = Sample("child_item", myItem)
>>> child_item.itsParent is myItem

Two items with the same parent may not have the same name:

>>> another_child = Sample("child_item", myItem)
Traceback (most recent call last):
ChildNameError: //myItem already has a child named 'child_item'

But there's no need for you to come up with names for every item if you don't want to. As long as the item's parent isn't a repository view, you can use None for the name, and it won't collide with any other items, whether they have names or not:

>>> another_child = Sample(None, myItem)
>>> another_child
<Sample (new): ...>

>>> and_another = Sample(None, myItem)
>>> and_another
<Sample (new): ...>

If you don't want to have to manually create a place for such "anonymous" items to go, there is a four-argument form you can use, which will cause the item to be created under a special "userdata" root item:

>>> some_user_data = Sample(None, None, None, rv)
>>> some_user_data.itsParent
<Item (new): userdata ...>

>>> some_user_data.itsParent.itsParent is rv

When you're writing code for Chandler and need a repository view, you will usually obtain it from an existing item. Every item has an itsView attribute, that gives you the repository view that the item is stored in:

>>> myItem.itsView is rv

In addition, for uniformity's sake, repository views also have an itsView attribute:

>>> rv.itsView is rv

This allows you to take an object's itsView without worrying whether or not you are already referring to a view.

There is one other thing you will typically use repository views for, and that is to find all items of a particular kind. The iterItems() class method of item classes yields all the items of that kind within the given repository view:

>>> if (
...    set(Sample.iterItems(rv)) ==
...    set([myItem, child_item, another_child, and_another,some_user_data])
... ):
...     print "Yes, all the items we created are there."
Yes, all the items we created are there.

Note that iterItems() does not yield the items in any pre-determined order, so our example uses set() objects to do the comparison.

Most of the time, however, you will not want to use iterItems() to implement queries, as it cannot take advantage of indexes and will therefore not perform very well. It is mainly useful if you really do need to perform an operation on all (or nearly all) of the items of that kind, or if you know that there won't be very many items of that kind. For example, using iterItems() to search for items like preferences, email accounts, SSL certificates, etc. will usually be okay because there are so few of them in the repository at any given time.

Defining Attribute Descriptors

All our first Sample class does is allow us to create empty items and store them in a repository. That's really not very useful. To actually store real data, we need to have attributes. But the repository needs to know what type of data will be stored in the attributes. So, we have to include attribute descriptors in our classes, to define how the data will be stored. For example:

>>> class Knight(schema.Item):
...     who = schema.One(schema.Text, displayName="What is your name?")
...     what = schema.One(schema.Text, displayName="What is your quest?")
...     numbers = schema.Sequence(
...         schema.Integer, displayName="What are your favorite numbers?"
...     )

schema.One and schema.Sequence are attribute descriptors that tell the repository you want either a simple attribute value, or a sequence of values. The first argument to each is a type reference; it can be one of the predefined types like schema.Text or schema.Integer, or else it can be an existing item class. (The displayName argument is used by some parts of Chandler to display e.g. column names, so you should generally wrap them with calls to the translation function (_()) from Chandler's i18n package, even though we aren't doing that in this document.)

Now that we've defined a schema for the Knight class, we can create instances with data in the specified attributes:

>>> black_knight = Knight(
...     None, myItem, who="The Black Knight", what="Fight to the death!",
...     numbers = [42, 57]
... )

As you can see, the attribute names automatically define keyword arguments in the class' constructor for you. The assigned values are then available as attributes, e.g.:

>>> black_knight.who
'The Black Knight'

Bi-directional References

So far, we've only defined attributes that refer to simple values or sequences of them. But in real applications, you'll also need objects to be able to refer to each other, and often these will be bidirectional references. That is, pairs of attributes that refer to each other. For example, if you were defining a Person type, you might have attributes for the person's parents, and also their children. The combination of the "parents" and "children" attributes would be a bidirectional reference. You define a bidirectional reference by setting an attribute's inverse to be another attribute:

>>> class Person(schema.Item):
...     fullname = schema.One(schema.Text)
...     age = schema.One(schema.Integer)
...     parents = schema.Sequence()
...     children = schema.Sequence(inverse=parents)
...     def __repr__(self): return self.fullname

You'll notice that we left out the type of the parents and children attributes; that's because the Person type doesn't exist until the block is finished. Luckily, however, when you set the inverse of an attribute, its type (and the type of the inverse attribute) is automatically determined for you. This saves us from the awkward problem of how to refer to a type that doesn't yet exist:

>>> Person.parents.type
<class '...Person'>

>>> Person.children.type
<class '...Person'>

You'll also notice that we only set the inverse of children, not parents. But the schema API automatically sets the inverse of parents for us:

>>> Person.parents.inverse
<Role children of <class '...Person'>>

Again, this saves us from the awkward problem of how to set the inverse of parents before the children attribute exists!

In summary, then, you create a simple bidirectional reference by:

  1. Creating the first attribute as a One or Sequence attribute, without a type or inverse.
  2. Creating the second attribute as a One or Sequence attribute, setting its inverse to the first attribute.

Once you've defined a bidirectional reference, the repository will automatically maintain any relationships you set up between items of the defined type(s):

>>> Joe = Person("Joe", rv, fullname="Joe Schmoe")
>>> Joe
Joe Schmoe

>>> Mary = Person("Mary", rv, fullname="Mary Quite Contrary")
>>> Mary.children = [Joe]
>>> list(Mary.children)
[Joe Schmoe]

>>> list(Joe.parents)
[Mary Quite Contrary]

As you can see, changing Mary.children automatically changed Joe.parents for us. Changing the values on either side of a bidirectional reference automatically changes the opposite side for you.

You may notice, by the way, that we have been using list() to display the Sequence attributes of items here. That's because bidirectional references are implemented using repository RefCollection objects, which aren't quite the same as regular Python list objects:

>>> Joe.parents
<NullViewRefList: //Joe.parents<->children>

RefCollection objects include some additional functionality (such as indexing) that is not otherwise available unless you are using a Sequence that is part of a bidirectional reference. See the repository documentation for more details.

Extending Existing Kinds

Chandler is designed to be modularly extensible, which means that you should be able to add new functionality, without modifying existing code. Sometimes that means you need to be able to add to the schema of existing kinds, without modifying the code that defines them. For example, if you need to create a bidirectional reference between an existing kind and a new kind you're adding, or if you need to add extra attributes to an existing kind.

The Chandler schema API lets you do this by allowing you to create annotation attributes. Annotation attributes are attributes defined by a different class than the class that was originally used to define the kind. They differ from regular attributes in that their names include the module and class where they were defined, to prevent collisions between different modules that want to use similar attribute names.

There are two ways to define annotation attributes: you can create one as an anonymous inverse attribute, or you can define one or more in an annotation class. The next two sections will show you how.

Anonymous Inverses

Suppose we'd like to have a School kind, whose items have Person objects as "attendees". We could simply create a School class with an attendees attribute, and that would work fine... unless we needed a feature that only a bidirectional reference could provide, such as indexing. If we were the ones who created the Person class, we could perhaps edit it to add a school_attended attribute, but perhaps we don't control that code, or it would create a circular dependency between modules.

If we don't really care about having a school_attended attribute on the Person class, we can simply create an anonymous inverse attribute: a free-floating attribute that just defines what the inverse attribute "would have looked like" if it had existed on the original class.

To do this, we simply set the inverse of our attendees attribute to a new attribute descriptor of the desired cardinality (One or Sequence):

>>> class School(schema.Item):
...     attendees = schema.Sequence(Person, inverse=schema.One())

>>> joes_school = School(None, None, None, rv, "Hobart's", attendees=[Joe])

>>> list(joes_school.attendees)
[Joe Schmoe]

You must set the type of the main attribute (attendees in this case), so that the schema API will know what type the anonymous inverse attribute should be attached to (Person in this case). Both sides of the bidirectional reference can include a displayName, description, initialValue, or any of the other standard attribute descriptor arguments. (See the API Details section on Attribute Descriptors, below, for a complete list.)

You can't tell from the example above, but the inverse attribute actually gets attached to the Person kind, and the Joe item actually has an annotation attribute pointing to joes_school. You can get, set, or delete its value, as long as you know its automatically-generated attribute name:

>>> getattr(Joe, 'application.tests.School.attendees.inverse')
<School ... Hobart's>

And any modifications you make will of course propagate to the other side of the bidirectional reference:

>>> delattr(Joe, 'application.tests.School.attendees.inverse')

>>> list(joes_school.attendees)

Notice that the generated name is a combination of:

  1. the parcel name (from the module's __parcel__, if applicable)
  2. the class name where the attribute was defined
  3. the name of the attribute within the class
  4. The word inverse

Note: we haven't talked about parcels yet, so for now you can assume that the first part is the module name where the class is found. (All the classes in this document are defined in the application.tests module for testing purposes.) The only time the first part will not be the module name, is if the module defines a __parcel__ setting in order to do Parcel Redirection (see below).)

Annotation Classes

Accessing "anonymous inverse" attributes can be inconvenient, and in any case they don't let you add anything but bidirectional references to an existing class. So, for more complex extensions, annotation classes are a better way to add attributes.

Annotations can be thought of as a kind of "data adapter" that allows you to extend existing objects with more information. They are different from subclassing, because an object can only be of one class at a time, but you may have as many different annotations for an object as you like. For example, you would not want to subclass Person to create a Teacher class, because a given person might also be an Employee, SoccerPlayer, or indeed also a Student at the same time! It is better to use annotations for such use cases, as they can be mixed and matched at will.

Another use of annotations is to better separate "concerns" or areas of functionality. For example, some Chandler objects define strictly "model" functionality in their base schema and methods, and then have one or more separate annotations that add UI data and methods. This avoids the need for different groups of developers to work on the same class at once, and it also means that it's always possible to create a different UI for the same basic object -- even if you're developing an entirely new UI from scratch that the original Chandler developers didn't envision. It also keeps the code simpler, makes each class individually more understandable, and prevents complicated circular dependencies (where module A depends on B, but B depends on A).

So, let's look at an example. Here, we'll define a Teacher annotation class that adds annotation attributes to the existing Person kind, to record who the teacher's supervisor is, and what certifications they have. We'll also create a linked TeachingCertificate class, so you can see how to create a bidirectional reference between an annotation and a new kind:

>>> class Teacher(schema.Annotation):
...     schema.kindInfo(annotates=Person)   # annotate the "Person" kind
...     certifications = schema.Sequence()
...     supervisor = schema.One(Person)

>>> class TeachingCertificate(schema.Item):
...     subject = schema.One(schema.Text)
...     certified_teachers = schema.Sequence(
...         Teacher, inverse=Teacher.certifications
...     )

Now let's create some instances. Annotation classes do not create persistent instances, however. Instead, their instances are just wrappers or adapters that give you access to the annotation attributes -- attributes that are actually stored in the wrapped item, just like an anonymous inverse. First, let's create a Teacher instance for Mary:

>>> ProfMary = Teacher(Mary)

The above expression can be read as "ProfMary is Mary playing the role of Teacher", or "ProfMary is Mary, viewed as a Teacher". The ProfMary object is not Mary herself; it's just her Teacher attributes. Let's give her a Phys. Ed. certificate:

>>> gym = TeachingCertificate("gym", rv, subject="Physical Education")
>>> ProfMary.certifications = [gym]

>>> list(ProfMary.certifications)
[<TeachingCertificate ... gym ...>]

So far, so good. The ProfMary object has a collection of certificates, and the certficate now knows Mary is certified:

>>> list(gym.certified_teachers)
[Mary Quite Contrary]

Notice that the certificate does not reference the ProfMary object; it refers directly to Mary herself. This is because the annotation attributes really belong to the Person class, and therefore to Mary herself. The Teacher object is just a way to conveniently access all -- and only -- the Teacher attributes of the object. You can think of it as being like an XML namespace or a filter that just gives you access to the teaching-related attributes of the person.

And, because annotation instances delegate all the attribute storage to the underlying, annotated item, you can create as many wrappers as you want for a given item and they will all share the same attribute values. In other words, no matter how many new Teacher(Mary) objects we create, they will all have the same certifications, because they really belong to Mary in the first place:

>>> list(Teacher(Mary).certifications)
[<TeachingCertificate ... gym ...>]

As with anonymous inverses, the attributes are actually "hidden" attributes added to the Person class, using an automatically-generated name. If you know the name, you can access the attributes directly, without using the annotation wrapper:

>>> list(getattr(Mary,'application.tests.Teacher.certifications'))
[<TeachingCertificate ... gym ...>]

But of course that's not very convenient. Sometimes, however, you may have code such as an attribute editor in the user interface that will need to know this full attribute name, because it will be dealing with the plain item and not an annotation wrapper. So, you should be aware that the attribute name is generated using the module name (or its __parcel__) plus the annotation class name and the attribute name within the annotation class. That way, if you need to get at it this way, you can.

As with anonymous inverses, setting or deleting the attribute on either the underlying item (full name) or the annotation wrapper (short name) has identical effects:

>>> setattr(Mary, 'application.tests.Teacher.supervisor', Joe)
>>> ProfMary.supervisor
Joe Schmoe

>>> del ProfMary.supervisor
>>> hasattr(Mary, 'application.tests.Teacher.supervisor')

Annotation wrappers do not have arbitrary attributes, however, only the ones that they were given in their schema:

>>> = "bar"
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: 'Teacher' object has no attribute 'foo'

or that were defined using __slots__ in the class definition:

>>> class Friend(schema.Annotation):
...     __slots__ = ["jabberConnection"]
...     schema.kindInfo(annotates=Person)
...     likes = schema.Sequence()
...     isLikedBy = schema.Sequence(inverse=likes)

>>> Friend(Mary).isLikedBy = [Joe]
>>> list(Friend(Joe).likes)
[Mary Quite Contrary]

The attributes defined using __slots__, however, are not persistent, and they will not be stored in the repository. Each annotation wrapper also has its own separate value for each attribute, no matter what item is wrapped. Thus, although each Friend(Mary) has the same isLikedBy (because it's actually stored by Mary), it has its own independent jabberConnection (because it's stored in a slot on the wrapper). This functionality is sometimes useful for annotations that have some runtime functionality that requires them to reference UI objects, connections to servers, or other non-persistent application objects:

>>> fMary = Friend(Mary)
>>> list(fMary.isLikedBy)
[Joe Schmoe]

>>> f2Mary = Friend(Mary)
>>> list(fMary.isLikedBy)
[Joe Schmoe]

>>> fMary.jabberConnection = "just pretending"
>>> f2Mary.jabberConnection = "another example"

>>> fMary.jabberConnection
'just pretending'

>>> f2Mary.jabberConnection
'another example'

Annotation class instances must wrap an instance of the type they were defined as annotating; thus you can't make a Teacher of anything but a Person (or subclass thereof):

>>> Teacher(gym)
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: <class '...Teacher'> requires a <class '...Person'> instance

But you can wrap another annotation that wraps an item of the appropriate type, because all annotations of the passed-in item are stripped off first. Thus, we can easily convert a Friend to a Teacher or vice versa, since they are both Person annotations:

>>> Teacher(fMary)
Teacher(Mary Quite Contrary)

>>> Friend(ProfMary)
Friend(Mary Quite Contrary)

>>> Friend(Teacher(Friend(Friend(ProfMary))))
Friend(Mary Quite Contrary)

Finally, if you need to "un-annotate" an object to get at the persistent item it's wrapping, you can simply use its itsItem attribute:

>>> fMary.itsItem
Mary Quite Contrary

This is what the annotation classes themselves use, to remove an existing wrapper before creating a new one.

Working With Parcels

What are Parcels?

A parcel is the persistent representation of a Python module or package. Parcels store the schema for the classes that are defined in the corresponding module or package. They also store any persistent items that the parcel developer wants to include in their parcel. These other objects can include things like tasks to be run at Chandler startup, menu items, detail views, etc.

In principle, every Python module either has a parcel or is part of a package that has a parcel. In practice, parcel objects are only created in the repository when the schema APIs are used, or when you create persistent items and the items' classes don't already have their schema stored in a parcel.

Since every module is potentially a parcel, you don't need to do anything special to make it one. Just define the classes for the kinds of objects you'd like to store, and then use them in your code. When they are used with a repository, a parcel will automatically be created in that repository.

It's important, however, to remember that every module could become its own parcel if you define persistent classes in it. If you don't want a module to have its own parcel, then, you need to tell the schema API what parcel to use instead. Our next section explains how.

Parcel Redirection

Sometimes you will not want to have a parcel for every module in your project. For example, you may want to treat an entire package as a single parcel, for ease of reference by other parcels. In these cases, you can add a __parcel__ declaration at the top of a module, to indicate that its contents should be placed in the specified parcel, instead of creating a parcel for that module. This is called parcel redirection, as it redirects any schema defined in the module to be placed in a different parcel than the one that otherwise would have been created.

For example, some modules in the osaf.pim package contain the line:

__parcel__ = "osaf.pim"

This means that the module doesn't get a parcel of its own, and its schema will be redirected to the osaf.pim parcel instead.

Note, however, that for this to work properly, the redirection target (osaf.pim in this case) must import all of the classes defined by the modules that are redirecting their schema to it. Otherwise, the schema API has no way to know when it has seen all of the redirected schema parts. If you look at the module of the osaf.pim package, you'll see that it imports every class defined in the modules that redirect their schema to osaf.pim.

Parcel Installation

When a parcel is created, the schema API checks whether the corresponding module or package has an installParcel() function defined, and if so, calls it. This is your chance to create or update any items that should be included in the parcel. An installParcel() function should be defined like this:

def installParcel(parcel, oldVersion=None):

Replacing the ... with a block of code to create any items you want to include in the parcel, such as menu items or views, or any special collections or other persistent objects. Typically, you will create these items with a "parent" that is the parcel argument. This will make it easier for other parcels to refer to your items, as we will demonstrate later.

Note, by the way, that if you have defined a __parcel__ setting in the module where your installParcel() is, it will not be called. Setting __parcel__ means that the module is not a parcel! (See Parcel Redirection, above.) If you have a __parcel__ setting, you must put your installParcel in the module named by __parcel__, as that is the main module for the parcel.

Accessing Parcel Contents

Usually, your installParcel() code will need to refer to the contents of other parcels and modules. For example, when you create a menu item, you'll need to be able to refer to the menu it belongs in, and that menu item will be found in some other parcel. The schema.ns() API lets you conveniently access a parcel's items and the contents of its corresponding module through a single namespace.

You create this namespace by passing a module name and an item or repository view to schema.ns(). For example, if we want to access the application parcel and its corresponding Python module, we could do this:

>>> app_ns = schema.ns("application", rv)

The resulting object has attributes corresponding to the contents of the application module, e.g.:

>>> app_ns.schema
<module 'application.schema' ...>

It also has a parcel attribute, that refers to the actual schema.Parcel item in the repository, that holds all of the persistent schema for the associated module(s), along with any items created by the module's installParcel() function:

>>> app_ns.parcel
<Parcel (new): application ...>

So, if we create an item using the parcel as its parent, it will then be accessible by name from the namespace object:

>>> Person("Smitty", app_ns.parcel, fullname="I'm Smitty!")
I'm Smitty!

>>> app_ns.Smitty
I'm Smitty!

Note, however, that names defined in the module take precedence over names in the parcel, for purposes of retrieval. If you create a class named Person, and then also create an item whose name is Person, you will only see the Person class in the schema.ns() for your module, not the item. For example, if we add a Smitty variable to the application package, it will hide the Smitty item until we delete it again:

>>> import application
>>> application.Smitty = "Sorry, I'm not Smitty"

>>> app_ns.Smitty
"Sorry, I'm not Smitty"

If you need to access a "shadowed" item like this, you have to explicitly refer to the parcel item, and then use repository APIs to access the item directly:

>>> app_ns.parcel.getItemChild('Smitty')
I'm Smitty!

Or else remove the conflicting definition from the module:

>>> del application.Smitty
>>> app_ns.Smitty
I'm Smitty!

So, when you create items in your parcel, you should take care to give them names that don't conflict with class, variable, or function names in your module, or you will have to use more awkward ways of accessing them.

By the way, just a reminder... you can create a schema.ns() using any existing item, not just a repository view. Most often, you'll use the parcel argument passed in to your installParcel() function, but any persistent item will do. For example:

>>> tests_ns = schema.ns("application.tests", app_ns.parcel)

Installing or Updating Items

Your installParcel() function is responsible for creating or updating any persistent items you want in your parcel. Such items may include UI components such as menu items or detail views, tasks to be run at startup or periodically, preferences, collections, or any other persistent items.

Although the current version of Chandler doesn't support upgrading existing parcels without recreating the repository, future versions will. So, you should write your installParcel() with the assumption that future versions may call it to update an existing parcel.

This means you shouldn't just create items, without checking to see if they already exist, and possibly updating them instead. Since this would lead to quite a lot of repetitive code, the schema.Item class includes an update() classmethod that you can use to write simpler code. The update() method either updates an existing item or creates a new one, and in either case it returns the updated item. For example, here's an installParcel() function that creates or updates a Person item:

>>> def installParcel(parcel, old_version=None):
...     Person.update(parcel, "Carlos", fullname="Carlos Marron")

At the moment, there is no Carlos object in the application parcel:

>>> app_ns.Carlos
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: Carlos is not in <module...'application'...> or <Parcel...>

So, let's call installParcel() to create him:

>>> installParcel(app_ns.parcel)
>>> app_ns.Carlos
Carlos Marron

And we can call it again, since update() works on existing items:

>>> installParcel(app_ns.parcel)
>>> app_ns.Carlos
Carlos Marron

Now, let's change his name, and call installParcel() a third time:

>>> carlos = app_ns.Carlos
>>> carlos.fullname = "Charlie Brown"
>>> carlos.fullname
'Charlie Brown'

>>> installParcel(app_ns.parcel)
>>> carlos.fullname
'Carlos Marron'

As you can see, the update() call sets all the supplied attributes to the given values, so you can ensure that any items you update will have the values you set. Any attributes that the update() call does not set, however, will remain unchanged. For example:

>>> carlos.age = 27
>>> carlos.age

>>> installParcel(app_ns.parcel)
>>> carlos.age

In addition to updating attributes, the kind or class of the item are updated as well. For example:

>>> type(carlos)
<class '...Person'>

>>> class StrangePerson(Person):
...     """A silly example of changing an item's class/kind"""

>>> StrangePerson.update(app_ns.parcel, "Carlos")
Carlos Marron

>>> type(carlos)
<class '...StrangePerson'>

>>> installParcel(app_ns.parcel)
>>> type(carlos)
<class '...Person'>

Note that the update() method can't tell if you've renamed an object that should have the same name, or whether perhaps you've accidentally given two objects the same name, so you need to check these things yourself. If you need to delete old items or rename/relocate items in your installParcel() function, you should just use the normal repository APIs to do so. For example, if your parcel used to have a Carlos item that you now want to call Charlie, you should manually check for the item already existing, and then rename it by setting the itsName attribute.

Parcel Discovery

So far, everything in this guide has assumed that your code is running or your parcel is being automatically created. However, the only way that can happen is for Chandler to already know that your parcel exists! Well, you can also run your code from a script, or invoke it manually from a debugger window or the headless utility, but those aren't very user-friendly ways to get your parcel installed.

Chandler has two ways to automatically identify modules or packages that should be used to create parcels at startup. The first is the --app-parcel option on the Chandler command line. This option sets a module or package name that Chandler will import at startup and attempt to create a parcel for. The default --app-parcel is, which is Chandler's main application parcel. If you are creating a different main application using the Chandler platform, you can use this option to specify a different main parcel.

The second way that Chandler identifies potential parcels is via the --parcelPath option and/or PARCELPATH environment variable. By default, this only includes Chandler-supplied parcels in the parcels directory, but you can add others. Each top-level Python package found in any directory on the parcel path will have a parcel created for it.

For example, the osaf package in the parcels directory is a top-level package in a directory that's on the parcel path, so it will have a parcel automatically created for it. Similarly, most plugin projects will simply define a single top-level package for their plugin. When placed in a directory on the parcel path (or when their containing directory is added to the parcel path), Chandler will detect them at startup and ensure that a parcel exists for them.

If you have a module or package that is neither the --app-parcel nor a top-level package on the parcel path, it will not be loaded at startup unless another module or package depends on it. But what does "depends on" mean here?

Parcel Dependencies

A parcel "A" depends on another parcel "B" if any of the following are true:

  • Any type defined in "A" has an attribute of a type found in "B"
  • Any type defined in "A" is a subclass of a type found in "B"
  • "A" defines an annotation class for an item class found in "B"
  • An installParcel() function in "A" does any of the following:
    • Creates items of a type found in "B"
    • Calls schema.synchronize() with "B" as the target module (see Other APIs, below)
    • Uses schema.ns() to access the contents of the parcel corresponding to "B" (Note: "A" must actually refer to the parcel attribute of the ns instance, or to an item actually stored in the repository, or else a "B" parcel won't be created in the repository)
  • "A" depends on some parcel "C", and "C" in turn depends on "B"

So, if you are creating a parcel "B", and there is some existing parcel "A" that will do one of the above things, you don't need to do anything special with your parcel layout. If you are creating a new parcel, however, that no other parcel depends on, you will need to either make it a top-level package on the parcel path, or you will need to modify an existing parcel to call schema.synchronize() so that your parcel will be loaded. Otherwise, there will be no way for Chandler to know it exists, so its code will never be run, and its items (if any) will never be created.

Note, by the way, that you should avoid circular dependencies between parcels, as these are likely to cause import difficulties, and are usually an indication that your design isn't as well-factored as it could be. For example, you are probably not taking full advantage of Anonymous Inverses and Annotation Classes, as these features make it much easier to avoid circular dependencies. (Because they allow you to define a class's core features in one parcel, and then add extended features in a separate parcel, so that the core class doesn't need to depend on everything that its extended features do.)

API Details

The remainder of this document will cover additional helpful details about the schema API, for more specialized uses than the general-purpose material covered so far.


Abstract Item Classes

You can make an Item subclass abstract (non-instantiable) by setting __abstract__ = True in its class body:

>>> class Thing(schema.Item):
...     __abstract__ = True

>>> Thing()
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: Thing is an abstract class; use a subclass instead

But subclasses of an abstract class are instantiable in the normal way:

>>> class Chair(Thing):
...     pass

>>> Chair('chair',rv)
<Chair ...>

This is useful when you want to define an abstract class that needs some methods to be defined or overridden in subclasses before it can be used.

Enumeration Classes

Sometimes, you have an attribute that you'd like to restrict to a set of fixed, pre-determined values. For example, suppose you want to be able to define attributes that contain a "feed type" value denoting one of the RSS/0.9, RSS/1.0, or ATOM feed formats. You can do this by creating an "enumeration" type, that can then be used as an attribute type. To do this, you subclass schema.Enumeration, and define a values attribute that contains a tuple of strings. Each string must be a valid Python identifier:

>>> class FeedFormat(schema.Enumeration):
...     """Format to be used for a feed"""
...     values = 'RSS_09', 'RSS_10', 'ATOM'

>>> class FeedGenerator(schema.Item):
...     format = schema.One(FeedFormat)
...     # other attributes would go here...

You can then set the defined attribute to any of the strings listed in the enumeration's values:

>>> fg = FeedGenerator('fg',rv, format = 'ATOM')
>>> fg.format

But assigning an unlisted value will produce an error, if the repository view is using immediate error checking:

>>> fg.format = "fizzy_2"
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValueError: Assigning 'fizzy_2' to attribute 'format'...didn't match schema

Enumeration classes also can't be further subclassed:

>>> class ExtendedFormat(FeedFormat):
...     values = "ATOM_20", "FIZZY_19"
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: Enumerations cannot subclass or be subclassed

And they can't include any attributes or methods besides values, which must be a tuple of strings:

>>> class BrokenEnum(schema.Enumeration):
...     values = "error"
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: 'values' must be a tuple of 1 or more strings

>>> class BrokenEnum2(schema.Enumeration):
...     def foo(self): pass
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: ("Only 'values' may be defined in an enumeration class", ...)

Struct Classes

Sometimes, it's useful to create "value" or "structure" types to use in a schema. For example, suppose that you need a "size" type with a width and a height. You can do this by subclassing schema.Struct and defining __slots__:

>>> class Size(schema.Struct):
...     __slots__ = 'width', 'height'

Struct instances are created using either positional arguments in the same order as the names in __slots__:

>>> my_size = Size(1,2)
>>> my_size
Size(1, 2)

>>> Size(4,5,6)
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: ('Unexpected arguments', (6,))

or using keyword arguments with the same names as the slots:

>>> Size(height=1, width=2)
Size(2, 1)

And the instances have the attribute names as the defined slots:

>>> Size(1,2).width
>>> Size(1,2).height

Struct classes may include whatever methods you like, as well as having slots. You may not, however, create further subclasses of a given struct class:

>>> class BadExample(Size): pass
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: Structs cannot subclass or be subclassed

NOTE: Structure instances are currently mutable; that is, you can change their attribute values. However, it is not recommended that you use this feature because it means there's a chance that changes won't be saved, unless you undertake to track the "dirty" state of the objects involved and use repository APIs to flag all items using the value as changed. It is therefore likely that a future version of the Schema API will make structure instances read-only once they are created. So, we recommend that you use code like this to change structure values:

someItem.window_size = Size(3,4)

Instead of code like this:

someItem.window_size.width = 3
someItem.window_size.height = 4

The first example will always cause the changes to be saved, but the second example requires additional steps (not shown) to ensure the changes to someItem are saved. In addition, if there was previously some code like this:

someItem.window_size = otherItem.window_size

Then changing the width and height of someItem.window_size would also affect the value of otherItem.window_size, and otherItem would therefore also need to be saved. This can create hard-to-find bugs, which is why the feature is deprecated.

Defining Clouds

Certain Chandler features such as item copying and sharing are controlled by schema information known as "clouds". A cloud is a named collection of endpoints, each of which sets an inclusion policy for an attribute. The inclusion policies indicate whether items referenced by that attribute should be included by value, by reference, or recursively by the item's clouds.

A complete discussion of clouds, inclusion policies, and how they are used is outside scope of this document, but we will explain here how to specify them. You should consult other Chandler documentation (such as for the sharing system) to determine what clouds your item classes should have and what policies you should use for individual attributes.

In fact, unless you were referred here by some other Chandler documentation, you should skip the remainder of this section. It will probably be quite confusing unless you already know why you would want to define a cloud or clouds for one of your item classes, and what effect the inclusion policies will have on the feature(s) you're trying to add support for.

To define clouds, just use the schema.addClouds() function in the body of your Item subclass. Each keyword argument names a cloud to be created, and its value must be a schema.Cloud() object:

>>> class ItemWithClouds(schema.Item):
...     foo = schema.One(schema.Text)
...     bar = schema.Sequence()
...     baz = schema.One(inverse=bar)
...     fiz = schema.Sequence(schema.Item)
...     schema.addClouds(
...         sharing = schema.Cloud(foo, "displayName"),
...         copying = schema.Cloud(byCloud = [fiz], byRef=[bar,baz]),
...     )

This then creates repository cloud items for the enclosing class:

>>> clouds = schema.itemFor(ItemWithClouds, rv).clouds
>>> list(clouds)
[<Cloud ... SharingCloud ...>, <Cloud ... CopyingCloud ...>]

schema.Cloud() objects specify the endpoints and inclusion policies for a cloud. The inclusion policies are given via keyword arguments (or the lack thereof), and attribute descriptors or attribute names are used to specify the endpoints themselves. For example, the sharing cloud defines two endpoints, for the foo and displayName attributes:

>>> sharing = clouds.getByAlias('sharing')
>>> list(sharing.endpoints)
[<Endpoint ... foo ...>, <Endpoint ... displayName ...>]

Because we simply listed these attributes without an explicit policy, the default byValue inclusion policy was applied:

>>> sharing.endpoints.getByAlias('foo').includePolicy

>>> sharing.endpoints.getByAlias('displayName').includePolicy

To specify any other inclusion policies, you must use keyword arguments naming the policy, and a list or tuple of attribute descriptors or attribute names. The copying cloud above created endpoints for the fiz, bar, and baz attributes, but with different policies:

>>> copying = clouds.getByAlias('copying')

>>> copying.endpoints.getByAlias('fiz').includePolicy

>>> copying.endpoints.getByAlias('bar').includePolicy

>>> copying.endpoints.getByAlias('baz').includePolicy

Note that in most circumstances, you will want to specify endpoints using attribute descriptors directly, as we did in most of our example above. However, there are some times when it will be more useful or convenient to use an attribute name instead, as we did for the displayName attribute above. Also, there may be times when you need to specify an advanced endpoint option such as for the byMethod policy, which requires a method name to be specified in addition to the attribute name and policy. In cases like these, you may wish to directly create a schema.Endpoint object, for example:

>>> class CloudExample2(schema.Item):
...     bar = schema.Sequence()
...     baz = schema.One(inverse=bar)
...     schema.addClouds(
...         sharing = schema.Cloud(
...             byMethod = [
...                 schema.Endpoint(
...                     "bar", "bar", "byMethod", method="someMethod"
...                 )
...             ]
...         )
...     )

>>> sharing = schema.itemFor(CloudExample2, rv).clouds.getByAlias('sharing')

>>> sharing.endpoints.getByAlias('bar').includePolicy

>>> sharing.endpoints.getByAlias('bar').method

Note that you only need to use this if you need to specify a byMethod policy, a non-default cloudAlias for an endpoint, or a series of attributes instead of a single attribute.

A final note on defining clouds: the schema API implementation for Chandler 0.6 does not support defining clouds on annotation attributes, whether they are anonymous inverses or defined in an annotation class. This restriction may be lifted in 0.7 if needed.

Other Metadata

When a parcel is created, persistent items are created that correspond to each class, to store each class' schema. These items can have attributes of their own, such as displayName and description. Depending on whether the class is a schema.Item, schema.Struct, or schema.Enumeration, the attributes may be different, as the type of the persistent item will be different. For all classes, however, you can set attributes of the corresponding items by using the schema.kindInfo() function in the body of your item class:

>>> class CalendarItem(schema.Item):
...     """This is just a demo"""
...     schema.kindInfo(
...         displayName = "Calendar Item",
...     )

Once you've done this, the persistent item corresponding to your class in any given repository view, will have the attribute values you specify:

>>> schema.itemFor(CalendarItem, rv).displayName
'Calendar Item'

Note, however, that you can only specify names that correspond to valid attributes for whatever the corresponding item type is:

>>> class BadMetadata(schema.Item):
...     schema.kindInfo(madeUpName="xyz")
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: 'madeUpName' is not an attribute of Kind

The only attribute used by all schema classes is displayName, which as we mentioned previously may be used by the Chandler UI in some places to show a name to the user. (You should therefore call the _() translation function on such strings before using them, although our examples in this document do not.) The schema.Annotation class also has an annotates attribute, as we saw in the section on Annotation Classes, above.

Whatever the attribute, however, you should note that their values are not inherited by subclasses:

>>> class CalendarItemSubclass(CalendarItem):
...     pass

>>> hasattr(schema.itemFor(CalendarItemSubclass, rv), 'displayName')

Also note that you can make multiple calls to kindInfo() in the same class:

>>> class MultipleMetadata(schema.Item):
...     schema.kindInfo(displayName="Foo")
...     schema.kindInfo(description="Bar")
>>> schema.itemFor(MultipleMetadata, rv).displayName
>>> schema.itemFor(MultipleMetadata, rv).description

as long as you don't change anything you set in a previous call:

>>> class ConflictingMetadata(schema.Item):
...     schema.kindInfo(displayName="Foo")
...     schema.kindInfo(displayName="Bar")
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValueError: 'displayName' defined multiple times for this class

And finally, note that calling kindInfo() is meaningless outside a class statement:

>>> schema.kindInfo(displayName="x")
Traceback (most recent call last):
SyntaxError: kindInfo() must be called in the body of a class statement

Attribute Descriptors

There are currently four types of attribute descriptors: One, Many, Sequence, and Mapping. They are all essentially identical except for their cardinality attribute, which controls how the repository will store the attribute's value:

>>> schema.One.cardinality

>>> schema.Many.cardinality

>>> schema.Sequence.cardinality

>>> schema.Mapping.cardinality

For more information on the implementation of these cardinalities, see the repository package's documentation. In particular, you should note that the set/list/dict types are actually subclasses of the Python builtin types, and offer additional methods that you may need to be aware of, such as indexing methods in the case of Sequence attributes that are part of a bidirectional reference.

Attribute descriptors are used to define repository Attribute objects that persistently store the attribute's schema. When you create an attribute descriptor, you may specify keyword arguments that will be used to set the corresponding parameters of the repository Attribute object, such as redirectTo, defaultValue, initialValue, and so on. For information on these and other parameters, you can consult the model documentation for the //Schema/Core/Attribute kind. Any parameters you do not supply will take on their normal default values, except for``otherName`` which is computed from the attribute's inverse, if any.

In addition to the the attributes defined by the repository Attribute kind, the schema API defines the following additional attributes for descriptor objects:


type is the first argument to the various descriptor constructors, and as such is usually not specified with a keyword argument; instead one can simply use e.g. schema.Sequence(schema.Text) to create an attribute holding a sequence of text strings.

You can omit the type of a descriptor if its target type is currently undefined. This is always necessary for at least one of the two descriptors that compose a given bidirectional reference. When the second descriptor in a bidirectional reference has its inverse set to the first descriptor, the type of both descriptors is determined automatically, since each descriptor should refer to the class containing the other. This allows you to omit the type from both descriptors.

For any attributes that are not part of a bidirectional reference, however, you should specify a type that is one of the following:

  • a schema.Item subclass
  • a schema.Struct subclass
  • a schema.Annotation subclass
  • a schema.Enumeration subclass
  • a schema.TypeReference naming a core repository type

The schema API supplies various pre-configured TypeReference objects for your convenience, such as schema.Text and schema.Integer:

>>> schema.Text

You must use these type references instead of trying to use ordinary Python types or classes, as they cannot be persisted directly:

>>> schema.One(str)
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: ('Attribute type must be Item/Enumeration class or TypeReference', ...)

Note that if the schema API does not provide a pre-existing TypeReference for a repository core schema type, you can manually create one with the schema.TypeReference() constructor using an appropriate repository path. You will need to consult the Chandler model documentation for the core schema types in order to find a type's repository path, if of course a suitable type even exists.

name (read-only)

The name under which this descriptor was first defined in an item class or annotation class, or None if the descriptor has not been used in a class yet:

>>> descriptor = schema.One()
>>> print

>>> class anEntity(schema.Item):
...     aDescriptor = descriptor
owner (read-only)

The item or annotation class in which the descriptor was defined, or None if the descriptor has not been used in a class yet:

>>> descriptor = schema.Sequence()
>>> print descriptor.owner

>>> class anEntity(schema.Item):
...     aDescriptor = descriptor

>>> descriptor.owner
<class '...anEntity'>

If the owner is an item class or annotation class, then setting the descriptor's inverse causes the inverse descriptor's type to be set to the first descriptor's owner, and vice versa. This is how bidirectional references can get set up, without needing to have the classes exist before the descriptors exist. For example, in the following class, the subkinds and superkinds descriptors will both get set up to accept Kind as the type, because in each case the inverse descriptor's owner is Kind:

>>> class Kind(schema.Item):
...     name = schema.One(schema.Text)
...     subkinds = schema.Sequence()
...     superkinds = schema.Sequence(inverse=subkinds)
...     def __repr__(self):
...         return getattr(self,'name',object.__repr__(self))

>>> Kind.subkinds.type
<class '...Kind'>

>>> Kind.superkinds.type
<class '...Kind'>
displayName, description, and doc

The name and description of this attribute descriptor, if any. They will be used to collectively form a __doc__ string, so that help() is informative for Item classes:

>>> Kind.subkinds.doc = "Sub-kinds of this kind"
>>> Kind.superkinds.doc = "Super-kinds of this kind"
>>> = "This kind's name"
>>> = "Kind Name"

>>> help(Kind)                      # doctest: +NORMALIZE_WHITESPACE
Help on class Kind ...
class Kind(application.schema.Item)
 | ...
 |  Data and other attributes defined here:
 |  name = <Role name of <class '...Kind'>>
 |      Kind Name -- One(Text)
 |      This kind's name
 |  subkinds = <Role subkinds of <class '...Kind'>>
 |      Sequence(Kind)
 |      Sub-kinds of this kind
 |  superkinds = <Role superkinds of <class '...Kind'>>
 |      Sequence(Kind)
 |      Super-kinds of this kind
 |  ...

As you can see, the automatically-generated __doc__ for an attribute descriptor includes its displayName (if any), its cardinality and type, followed by a blank line and the doc or description.

Note that doc is actually just a convenient shortcut for description; there is no real difference between the two attributes:

>>> is

The doc and description are always strings, even if empty:

>>> schema.One().description

The descriptor object that represents the "other side" of the relationship, or None if not yet set. Setting a descriptor's inverse automatically attempts to set the other descriptor's inverse, so that each descriptor's inverse attribute points to the other. Thus, you only have to set one descriptor's inverse attribute in order to link them both together. Above, we only set the inverse of superkinds, but both end up pointing to each other automatically:

>>> Kind.superkinds.inverse
<Role subkinds of <class '...Kind'>>

>>> Kind.subkinds.inverse
<Role superkinds of <class '...Kind'>>

Other APIs

There are a few other schema API functions remaining, that don't fit into any of the preceding categories:


Imports the named module (or named item within a module):

>>> import sys
>>> schema.importString("sys.stdout") is sys.stdout

>>> schema.importString("application.tests")
<module 'application.tests' from '...'>

>>> import application.tests
>>> schema.importString("application.tests") is application.tests

There's nothing Chandler-specific or Schema API-specific about this function; you can use it to import any Python object from anywhere.

synchronize(repoView, moduleName)
Ensure that the named module has been imported, and that its offered schema (if any) has been imported into the supplied repository view as a parcel. This is a convenient way to force a particular parcel to be loaded if it hasn't already been, or to specify any explicit Parcel Dependencies. It's also used by Chandler itself to load the parcels it finds during Parcel Discovery.
itemFor(obj, repoView)

Return the repository item that corresponds to the supplied object. For example, itemFor(AnItemClass) returns the repository Kind that represents that class in the given repository view:

>>> schema.itemFor(schema.Item, rv)
<Kind ... Item ...>

This function is mainly useful when you need to deal with repository or other APIs that require a repository item rather than a class or attribute descriptor. Any Item, Struct, or Enumeration subclass that you create can be passed to this function to get a corresponding repository item for the class' schema. Similarly, you can pass an attribute descriptor to this function to get a repository item for the attribute's schema.

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