Fix Python – What is the problem with shadowing names defined in outer scopes?

Question

Asked By – Framester

I just switched to PyCharm and I am very happy about all the warnings and hints it provides me to improve my code. Except for this one which I don’t understand:

This inspection detects shadowing names defined in outer scopes.

I know it is bad practice to access variable from the outer scope, but what is the problem with shadowing the outer scope?

Here is one example, where PyCharm gives me the warning message:

data = [4, 5, 6]

def print_data(data): # <-- Warning: "Shadows 'data' from outer scope
    print data

print_data(data)

Now we will see solution for issue: What is the problem with shadowing names defined in outer scopes?


Answer

There isn’t any big deal in your above snippet, but imagine a function with a few more arguments and quite a few more lines of code. Then you decide to rename your data argument as yadda, but miss one of the places it is used in the function’s body… Now data refers to the global, and you start having weird behaviour – where you would have a much more obvious NameError if you didn’t have a global name data.

Also remember that in Python everything is an object (including modules, classes and functions), so there’s no distinct namespaces for functions, modules or classes. Another scenario is that you import function foo at the top of your module, and use it somewhere in your function body. Then you add a new argument to your function and named it – bad luck – foo.

Finally, built-in functions and types also live in the same namespace and can be shadowed the same way.

None of this is much of a problem if you have short functions, good naming and a decent unit test coverage, but well, sometimes you have to maintain less than perfect code and being warned about such possible issues might help.

This question is answered By – bruno desthuilliers

This answer is collected from stackoverflow and reviewed by FixPython community admins, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5 , cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0