3.16 marshal -- Alternate Python object serialization

This module contains functions that can read and write Python values in a binary format. The format is specific to Python, but independent of machine architecture issues (e.g., you can write a Python value to a file on a PC, transport the file to a Sun, and read it back there). Details of the format are undocumented on purpose; it may change between Python versions (although it rarely does).3.1

This is not a general ``persistence'' module. For general persistence and transfer of Python objects through RPC calls, see the modules pickle and shelve. The marshal module exists mainly to support reading and writing the ``pseudo-compiled'' code for Python modules of .pyc files.

Not all Python object types are supported; in general, only objects whose value is independent from a particular invocation of Python can be written and read by this module. The following types are supported: None, integers, long integers, floating point numbers, strings, Unicode objects, tuples, lists, dictionaries, and code objects, where it should be understood that tuples, lists and dictionaries are only supported as long as the values contained therein are themselves supported; and recursive lists and dictionaries should not be written (they will cause infinite loops).

Caveat: On machines where C's long int type has more than 32 bits (such as the DEC Alpha), it is possible to create plain Python integers that are longer than 32 bits. Since the current marshal module uses 32 bits to transfer plain Python integers, such values are silently truncated. This particularly affects the use of very long integer literals in Python modules -- these will be accepted by the parser on such machines, but will be silently be truncated when the module is read from the .pyc instead.3.2

There are functions that read/write files as well as functions operating on strings.

The module defines these functions:

dump (value, file)
Write the value on the open file. The value must be a supported type. The file must be an open file object such as sys.stdout or returned by open() or posix.popen(). It must be opened in binary mode ('wb' or 'w+b').

If the value has (or contains an object that has) an unsupported type, a ValueError exception is raised -- but garbage data will also be written to the file. The object will not be properly read back by load().

load (file)
Read one value from the open file and return it. If no valid value is read, raise EOFError, ValueError or TypeError. The file must be an open file object opened in binary mode ('rb' or 'r+b').

Warning: If an object containing an unsupported type was marshalled with dump(), load() will substitute None for the unmarshallable type.

dumps (value)
Return the string that would be written to a file by dump(value, file). The value must be a supported type. Raise a ValueError exception if value has (or contains an object that has) an unsupported type.

loads (string)
Convert the string to a value. If no valid value is found, raise EOFError, ValueError or TypeError. Extra characters in the string are ignored.


... does).3.1
The name of this module stems from a bit of terminology used by the designers of Modula-3 (amongst others), who use the term ``marshalling'' for shipping of data around in a self-contained form. Strictly speaking, ``to marshal'' means to convert some data from internal to external form (in an RPC buffer for instance) and ``unmarshalling'' for the reverse process.
... instead.3.2
A solution would be to refuse such literals in the parser, since they are inherently non-portable. Another solution would be to let the marshal module raise an exception when an integer value would be truncated. At least one of these solutions will be implemented in a future version.

See About this document... for information on suggesting changes.