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Storing data with dicts


Teaching: 15 min
Exercises: 15 min
  • How do I store structured data?

  • Be able to store data using Python’s dict objects.

Dictionaries (also called dicts) are another key data structure we’ll need to use to write a pipeline. In particular, dicts allow efficient key-value storage of any type of data.

To create a dict, we use syntax like the following.

example = {}

We can then store values in our dict using indexing. The index is referred to as the “key”, and the stored data is referred to as the “value”.

example['key'] = 'value'

In addition, keys can be stored using any type of value. Let’s add several more values to demonstrate this.

example[1] = 2
example[4] = False
example['test'] = 5
example[7] = 'myvalue'

To retrieve all keys in the dictionary, we can use the .keys()method. Note how we used the list() function to turn our resulting output into a list.

['key', 1, 4, 'test', 7]

Likewise, we can retrieve all the values at once, using .values()

['value', 2, False, 5, 'myvalue']

Dictionary order

Note that the order of keys and values in a dictionary should not be relied upon. We’ll create dictionary another way to demonstrate this:

unordered = {'a': 1,
             'b': 2,
             'c': 3,
             'd': 4}
{'a': 1, 'b': 2, 'c': 3, 'd': 4}

Depending on your version of Python, the dictionary will either be in order, or out of order. If you are on Python 3.6+ dictionaries are ordered.

Iterate through and print the dictionary’s keys in both forward and reverse order.

(To iterate through the dict in a specific order, you will need to sort the keys using the sorted() function.)

Key Points

  • Dicts provide key-value storage of information.