The difference between sys.stdout.write and print?

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Question :

The difference between sys.stdout.write and print?

Are there situations in which sys.stdout.write() is preferable to print?

(Examples: better performance; code that makes more sense)

Answer #1:

print is just a thin wrapper that formats the inputs (modifiable, but by default with a space between args and newline at the end) and calls the write function of a given object. By default this object is sys.stdout, but you can pass a file using the “chevron” form. For example:

print >> open('file.txt', 'w'), 'Hello', 'World', 2+3


In Python 3.x, print becomes a function, but it is still possible to pass something other than sys.stdout thanks to the fileargument.

print('Hello', 'World', 2+3, file=open('file.txt', 'w'))


In Python 2.6+, print is still a statement, but it can be used as a function with

from __future__ import print_function

Update: Bakuriu commented to point out that there is a small difference between the print function and the print statement (and more generally between a function and a statement).

In case of an error when evaluating arguments:

print "something", 1/0, "other" #prints only something because 1/0 raise an Exception

print("something", 1/0, "other") #doesn't print anything. The function is not called
Answered By: luc

Answer #2:

print first converts the object to a string (if it is not already a string). It will also put a space before the object if it is not the start of a line and a newline character at the end.

When using stdout, you need to convert the object to a string yourself (by calling “str”, for example) and there is no newline character.


print 99

is equivalent to:

import sys
sys.stdout.write(str(99) + 'n')
Answered By: dogbane

Answer #3:

Here’s some sample code based on the book Learning Python by Mark Lutz that addresses your question:

import sys
temp = sys.stdout                 # store original stdout object for later
sys.stdout = open('log.txt', 'w') # redirect all prints to this log file
print("testing123")               # nothing appears at interactive prompt
print("another line")             # again nothing appears. it's written to log file instead
sys.stdout.close()                # ordinary file object
sys.stdout = temp                 # restore print commands to interactive prompt
print("back to normal")           # this shows up in the interactive prompt

Opening log.txt in a text editor will reveal the following:

another line
Answered By: Will Townes

Answer #4:

My question is whether or not there
are situations in which
sys.stdout.write() is preferable to

After finishing developing a script the other day, I uploaded it to a unix server. All my debug messages used print statements, and these do not appear on a server log.

This is a case where you may need sys.stdout.write instead.

Answered By: LiamSullivan

Answer #5:

There’s at least one situation in which you want sys.stdout instead of print.

When you want to overwrite a line without going to the next line, for instance while drawing a progress bar or a status message, you need to loop over something like

Note carriage return-> "rMy Status Message: %s" % progress

And since print adds a newline, you are better off using sys.stdout.

Answered By: Carlos

Answer #6:

My question is whether or not there are situations in which sys.stdout.write() is preferable to print

If you’re writing a command line application that can write to both files and stdout then it is handy. You can do things like:

def myfunc(outfile=None):
    if outfile is None:
        out = sys.stdout
        out = open(outfile, 'w')
        # do some stuff
        out.write(mytext + 'n')
        # ...
        if outfile is not None:

It does mean you can’t use the with open(outfile, 'w') as out: pattern, but sometimes it is worth it.

Answered By: Hamish Downer

Answer #7:

In 2.x, the print statement preprocesses what you give it, turning it into strings along the way, handling separators and newlines, and allowing redirection to a file. 3.x turns it into a function, but it still has the same responsibilities.

sys.stdout is a file or file-like that has methods for writing to it which take strings or something along that line.

Answer #8:

A difference between print and sys.stdout.write to point out in Python 3, is also the value which is returned when executed in the terminal. In Python 3, sys.stdout.write returns the length of the string whereas print returns just None.

So for example running following code interactively in the terminal would print out the string followed by its length, since the length is returned and output when run interactively:

>>> sys.stdout.write(" hi ")
 hi 4

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