Unpacking Tuples in a For Loop

Published • 2 min read

Have you ever noticed as you learn more and more of a programming language, you often forgo the basics for a more complex solution? It's the old KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.

Well, I have to constantly remind myself of this, and here's a real life example...


The other day I was provided a text file full of employee information in tuples.

("http://www.url.com/1.png", "J. DOE", "DEPT 1", "2020-01-01")
("http://www.url.com/2.png", "D. JONES", "DEPT 2", "2020-02-01")
("http://www.url.com/3.png", "B. SMITH", "DEPT 3", "2020-03-01")
("http://www.url.com/4.png", "L. BLUE", "DEPT 4", "2020-04-01")

So, I loaded the file and appended each tuple to a list leaving me with something like this.

employees = [
    ("http://www.url.com/1.png", "J. DOE", "DEPT 1", "2020-01-01"),
    ("http://www.url.com/2.png", "D. JONES", "DEPT 2", "2020-02-01"),
    ("http://www.url.com/3.png", "B. SMITH", "DEPT 3", "2020-03-01"),
    ("http://www.url.com/4.png", "L. BLUE", "DEPT 4", "2020-04-01")

My task was to download each employee picture from the url in the tuple and then save them locally using the remaining information for the file name.

There were 500+ employees, so this would be torture to do manually 😩.

I originally started learning Python from the book Automate the Boring Stuff with Python, and this is a great example of what it teaches. Enter Python 🐍.

My first thought was to iterate over the list of tuples and make a dictionary so I could easily access each variable by name... But that's an extra step I didn't need to take.

I could just unpack the tuple values to proper named variables right inside of my for loop.

>>> for url, name, dept, date in employees:
...     print(f"Downloading {name} image...")
Downloading J. DOE image...
Downloading D. JONES image...
Downloading B. SMITH image...
Downloading L. BLUE image...

As you can see, it's quite easy and definitely more Pythonic to have easily identifiable variable names (e.g., url, name, dept, date).

After re-learning this basic idea, I wondered if this also worked with the enumerate method. Well, it certainly does.

>>> for i, (url, name, dept, date) in enerarate(employees):
...     print(f"Record {I}: {name} image located @ {url}")
Record 0: J. DOE located @ https://www.url.com/1
Record 1: D. JONES located @ https://www.url.com/2
Record 2: B. SMITH located @ https://www.url.com/3
Record 3: L. BLUE located @ https://www.url.com/4

Boom! I've got a built-in iteration counter now too. I'll just pass this information over to my requests function and save myself a few hundred clicks.

Category: development

Tags: automation, python