Absolute Importing versus
Relative Importing: Understanding the Differences
Coding can be an uphill task. It comes with its fair share of challenges, even for experts.
One of the areas of programming that can be confusing, especially for beginners, is importing modules. Python, for example, offers two methods of importing modules absolute and relative importing.
In this article, we shall delve into both methods’ definition, advantages, and disadvantages, with a focus on Python.
Absolute importing requires you to use a full path to the module you want to import. It provides a direct link to the intended module, starting from the main module or the standard library.
Simply put, the import path is from the main module or the library to the submodules or functions.
Absolute Importing is clear and straightforward. Once defined, it’s easy to understand and remains valid throughout the life cycle of your program.
So, in essence, it requires less thinking time than the relative method.
On the flip side, it becomes complicated when dealing with deeper layers of a module. For instance, when dealing with modules that have imported many other modules, it could become messy.
On the other hand, relative importing utilizes a relative path to import modules. It starts from a certain package or sub-package upwards.
Relative importing has two approaches: implicit and explicit.
In implicit relative imports, the module is imported as a sub-package or module. The module’s location is relative to the module that is calling it.
Explicit relative imports are when you use the dot operator to locate the module’s exact location. It’s more precise and entails naming the package name and the intended module’s location.
Unlike absolute importing, using relative importing reduces complexity. The module paths are short and crisp.
This feature saves import statements if you are importing many modules from the same package.
The primary disadvantage with relative importing is that it’s not very readable. Modules may not be aware of their root modules or the origin of functions.
This feature results in the code becoming brittle and possibly malfunctioning in the future.
Which One Is Better?
It all depends on the situation at hand. When dealing with small programs that require less deep layer importation, absolute importation could be your best bet.
It’s easier to read and understand. However, when dealing with large systems, relative importation is more preferable.
Importing modules in Python can be complicated. However, understanding the difference between absolute and relative importing can help streamline the importing process.
Absolute importing is straightforward but becomes cumbersome when dealing with deep layers of modules. On the other hand, relative importing reduces complexity; however, it’s not as readable, which may lead to coding errors.
Choose your importing method wisely, keeping in mind the project scope and complexity. When it comes to importing modules in Python, one of the decisions programmers need to make is whether to use absolute or relative importing.
As we have already discussed, absolute importing requires a full path to the module, while relative importing uses a relative path. In this article’s expansion, we shall look at the differences between these two methods of importing modules.
As we have already established, one of the main differences between absolute and relative imports lies in the path used to import the module. While absolute importing uses a full path to the module, relative importing uses a relative path, starting from the calling module’s location.
Another difference is in how the importation statement is written. For instance, take the code example below:
# Absolute importing
# Relative importing
In absolute importing, the import statement requires the full path to the module, starting from the main module’s location. On the other hand, in relative importing, the statement starts with `from ..`, indicating that the module is from a parent directory.
It’s also worth noting that in relative importing, the number of dots before the module name determines the level of the module where the statement is coming from. For example, one dot refers to the current level, two dots mean the parent level, and so on.
Scope of Import
The scope of import is another difference between absolute and relative importing. Absolute importing is usually used when importing modules from the Python library or the main module.
In contrast, relative importing is used when importing modules within the same package or sub-package. Consider a package named `MyPackage` with the following directory layout:
If you want to import `submodule.py` in `main.py`, you can either use absolute or relative importing.
If you prefer absolute importing, the import statement would be:
# Absolute importing
On the other hand, if you choose to use relative importing, you can use the following statement:
# Relative importing
from .subpackage import submodule
Here, the dot indicates that the module is from the same package as `main.py`. The `from` keyword is then followed by the sub-package name and the module name.
When it comes to code readability, this is a personal preference. However, depending on how you write your code or the complexity of your project, readability may become a challenge.
With absolute importing, the code is easier to read because the import statements are straightforward and require less thinking time. In contrast, relative importing can be messier, especially when dealing with many levels of modules.
The dot notation and the number of dots required could become confusing to read, leading to possible coding errors.
When it comes to efficiency, there is no significant difference between absolute and relative importing. Both methods of importing modules achieve the primary objective of making modules available in your code.
What’s critical is how you structure your code and whether you choose the appropriate method of importing modules for your project.
In conclusion, the differences between absolute and relative importing are clear. The main difference is how the import statement is written and the path used to access the module.
The scope of import and code readability are also distinctions between the two. However, there is no significant difference when it comes to efficiency.
Choose your method of importing modules wisely, depending on the project size and complexity, to make your code efficient and more manageable in the long run. In conclusion, understanding the differences between absolute and relative importing in Python is essential in ensuring your code’s efficiency and manageability.
Absolute importing requires a full path to the module, while relative importing uses a relative path. The scope of import, readability, and efficiency are different between the two.
It’s crucial to choose the appropriate method of importing modules depending on the project’s size and complexity. Choose wisely, and make your code efficient and more manageable.