python-peps / pep-3112.txt

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PEP: 3112
Title: Bytes literals in Python 3000
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: Jason Orendorff <>
Status: Final
Type: Standards Track
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Requires: 358
Created: 23-Feb-2007
Python-Version: 3.0
Post-History: 23-Feb-2007


This PEP proposes a literal syntax for the ``bytes`` objects
introduced in PEP 358.  The purpose is to provide a convenient way to
spell ASCII strings and arbitrary binary data.


Existing spellings of an ASCII string in Python 3000 include::

    bytes('Hello world', 'ascii')
    'Hello world'.encode('ascii')

The proposed syntax is::

    b'Hello world'

Existing spellings of an 8-bit binary sequence in Python 3000 include::

    bytes([0x7f, 0x45, 0x4c, 0x46, 0x01, 0x01, 0x01, 0x00])
    bytes('\x7fELF\x01\x01\x01\0', 'latin-1')

The proposed syntax is::


In both cases, the advantages of the new syntax are brevity, some
small efficiency gain, and the detection of encoding errors at compile
time rather than at runtime.  The brevity benefit is especially felt
when using the string-like methods of bytes objects::

    lines = bdata.split(bytes('\n', 'ascii'))  # existing syntax
    lines = bdata.split(b'\n')  # proposed syntax

And when converting code from Python 2.x to Python 3000::

    sok.send('EXIT\r\n')  # Python 2.x
    sok.send('EXIT\r\n'.encode('ascii'))  # Python 3000 existing
    sok.send(b'EXIT\r\n')  # proposed

Grammar Changes

The proposed syntax is an extension of the existing string
syntax [#stringliterals]_.

The new syntax for strings, including the new bytes literal, is::

  stringliteral: [stringprefix] (shortstring | longstring)
  stringprefix: "b" | "r" | "br" | "B" | "R" | "BR" | "Br" | "bR"
  shortstring: "'" shortstringitem* "'" | '"' shortstringitem* '"'
  longstring: "'''" longstringitem* "'''" | '"""' longstringitem* '"""'
  shortstringitem: shortstringchar | escapeseq
  longstringitem: longstringchar | escapeseq
    <any source character except "\" or newline or the quote>
  longstringchar: <any source character except "\">
  escapeseq: "\" NL
    | "\\" | "\'" | '\"'
    | "\a" | "\b" | "\f" | "\n" | "\r" | "\t" | "\v"
    | "\ooo" | "\xhh" 
    | "\uxxxx" | "\Uxxxxxxxx" | "\N{name}"

The following additional restrictions apply only to bytes literals
(``stringliteral`` tokens with ``b`` or ``B`` in the

- Each ``shortstringchar`` or ``longstringchar`` must be a character
  between 1 and 127 inclusive, regardless of any encoding
  declaration [#encodings]_ in the source file.

- The Unicode-specific escape sequences ``\u``\ *xxxx*,
  ``\U``\ *xxxxxxxx*, and ``\N{``\ *name*\ ``}`` are unrecognized in
  Python 2.x and forbidden in Python 3000.

Adjacent bytes literals are subject to the same concatenation rules as
adjacent string literals [#concat]_.  A bytes literal adjacent to a
string literal is an error.


Each evaluation of a bytes literal produces a new ``bytes`` object.
The bytes in the new object are the bytes represented by the
``shortstringitem`` or ``longstringitem`` parts of the literal, in the
same order.


The proposed syntax provides a cleaner migration path from Python 2.x
to Python 3000 for most code involving 8-bit strings.  Preserving the
old 8-bit meaning of a string literal is usually as simple as adding a
``b`` prefix.  The one exception is Python 2.x strings containing
bytes >127, which must be rewritten using escape sequences.
Transcoding a source file from one encoding to another, and fixing up
the encoding declaration, should preserve the meaning of the program.
Python 2.x non-Unicode strings violate this principle; Python 3000
bytes literals shouldn't.

A string literal with a ``b`` in the prefix is always a syntax error
in Python 2.5, so this syntax can be introduced in Python 2.6, along
with the ``bytes`` type.

A bytes literal produces a new object each time it is evaluated, like
list displays and unlike string literals.  This is necessary because
bytes literals, like lists and unlike strings, are
mutable [#eachnew]_.

Reference Implementation

Thomas Wouters has checked an implementation into the Py3K branch,


.. [#stringliterals]

.. [#encodings]

.. [#concat]

.. [#eachnew]


This document has been placed in the public domain.