Python is an amazingly productive language that allows developers to write complex applications quickly. But as your Python app grows, you may discover parts of your code that feel slow, hence to improve the performance of our code and optimize it we’ll explore various techniques in this article that can manage our Python code to run faster and be efficient.
Table of Contents
Profiling to Find Bottlenecks
The first step is identifying which parts of your program are taking the most time. Python’s built-in profiling modules allow measuring which functions and snippets use the most CPU cycles or milliseconds.
The cProfile module provides deterministic profiling by running your code line-by-line and recording timings. The pstats results can highlight slow areas:
p = pstats.Stats()
For small snippets, you can use the timeit module to conveniently time code execution:
By profiling periodically as you add features, you can catch slow code before it becomes a big issue.
Faster Numeric Code with NumPy
If your Python code does heavy number-crunching, switching arrays to NumPy can provide a 100x speedup in some cases. NumPy uses pre-compiled C code on the backend for fast n-dimensional array math and matrix operations.
Rewriting parts of your program to use NumPy arrays instead of lists can accelerate things tremendously. Other math/science-focused libraries like SciPy, Pandas, Statsmodels, and BeautifulSoup also build on top of NumPy.
NumPy introduces the ndarray (n-dimensional array) data structure to replace Python’s built-in lists. These ndarrays allow for element-by-element calculations across entire arrays, batches of vectors/matrices, broadcasts, slicing, math with scalars, and hundreds of vector/matrix operations to be applied at C speed. Indexing also uses advanced techniques so that accessing ranges of values across axes is lightning-fast regardless of array size.
Rewriting the sections of your Python program doing numerical computing, matrix math, or data analytics to use NumPy arrays instead of plain Python lists can accelerate things tremendously. As a bonus, many other Python data analysis and visualization libraries are designed to integrate tightly with NumPy’s arrays.
This includes libraries like SciPy for signal processing, image manipulation, optimization, stats; Pandas for data wrangling and data frames; Statsmodels for statistical modeling and hypothesis testing; Matplotlib/Seaborn for graphics and visualization; and even BeautifulSoup/Scrapy for web scraping and parsing HTML into numerical data for analysis.
Parallelizing with Threads and Processes
Does your program have sections of code that could run independently in parallel? By spreading work across multiple CPU cores, you can significantly boost speed.
Python provides two primary options for parallel programming – threads and processes. The Thread class from the threading module allows spinning up multiple threads that run within the same parent process. Threads share state and memory space, which requires some synchronization but allows easy data sharing between parallel chunks.
Switching between threads has less overhead than processes, so threads shine for I/O-bound use cases like making concurrent web requests or running simultaneous database queries.
Python’s multiprocessing module goes a step further by truly launching completely separate child processes. Each process gets its own dedicated Python interpreter instance and memory space.
No synchronization is needed since no state is shared, but explicit data exchange mechanisms like multiprocessing queues are needed to communicate results or buffer items between processes.
A common example is to parallelize batches of files to process using a thread or process pool:
from multiprocessing import Pool
# do intensive file processing
if __name__ == '__main__':
pool = Pool(8) # 8 parallel threads
filenames = ['file1.txt', 'file2.txt' ...]
Going Asynchronous with asyncio
Asyncio provides infrastructure for single-threaded concurrent code using async/await for non-blocking I/O operations. This asynchronous approach shines when Python needs to manage many network connections or requests.
An asynchronous web scraper can gather pages dramatically faster:
async def fetch_page(url):
resp = await aiohttp.request('GET', url)
return await resp.text()
async def main():
urls = ['url1', 'url2'...]
tasks = 
for url in urls:
pages = await asyncio.gather(*tasks)
By properly utilizing asynchronous I/O patterns, significant speedups are possible with asyncio.
Compiling Critical Code with Cython
For pure C-speed in Python, Cython compiles Python-like code down to C. It works exceptionally well for tight number-crunching algorithms.
Functions defined with the @cython.cfunc decorator are compiled into C:
print(exponential(15)) # compiles to fast C code
For even bigger speed gains, the whole Python application can be converted to a C extension module. Cython helps integrate fast C libraries, intuitive Python code, and lighter memory usage.
Caching Frequent Requests
Adding caching layers for data, queries and requests is a proven way to relieve load and speed things up. Python has excellent memcache tools like django-cache-machine and flask-caching for web apps.
A cached function decorator can simplify this by storing results:
from functools import lru_cache
# returned cached result if available
Caching is essential for optimizing all kinds of Python programs.
In Conclusion, we can optimize our Python Code with mechanisms such as Parallelisation, Using Asynchronous methods, making use of Libraries such as NumPy for faster mathematical procedures, and caching frequent requests. These above-mentioned methods make your code optimized and improve the performance at the same time.
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What are some profiling tools available in Python to identify bottlenecks?
Some useful profiling tools in Python include cProfile, pstats, timeit, line_profiler, memory_profiler, and py-spy. These measure CPU usage, memory allocation, and can identify slow lines of code.
When should I consider parallelizing my Python code?
Parallelization with threads/processes helps when there are tasks in your program that could run independently on separate CPU cores simultaneously. This includes batch data processing, making concurrent web requests, computationally intensive calculations, and more.
How can NumPy help speed up Python code?
NumPy offers faster multi-dimensional arrays and vector math operations. Replacing lists with NumPy arrays makes Python better optimized for numeric computing. NumPy can integrate with extensions libraries like SciPy, Pandas, SciKit-Learn, Matplotlib and more.
What are some differences between multi-threading and multi-processing in Python?
Threads run in the same memory space and switching between them has less overhead, while processes have separate memory allocated. Threads share state which requires synchronization while processes are fully independent.
When would caching help improve Python application performance?
Caching can drastically speed up Python apps by avoiding repeat expensive requests or recalculations. This works well for network API queries, database calls, computation results, web page rendering, and more.
How does Cython help make Python code faster?
Cython compiles Python code down to optimized C code while keeping Python’s expressiveness. This works very well for math/science code. Entire apps can be converted to C extensions through Cython.
What are some tricks to optimize Python while retaining readability?
Readability matters, so selectively applying optimizations only on bottlenecks is key. Using functions, modules, inheritance and encapsulation also helps partition optimized sections.
How can asynchronous programming speed up Python?
Asynchronous network I/O performed concurrently helps Python manage many connections efficiently. The asyncio module facilitates this well for cases like web scraping.
Are compiled languages always faster than Python?
Not necessarily – it depends on the programmer’s skill, libraries used, and fitting the language to the task. For parallel and asynchronous paradigms, Python can be very performant.
How can I profile parts of my Python codebase to identify issues?
Modules like line_profiler and memory_profiler are great for drilling down into Python code sections to analyze CPU cycles and memory usage line-by-line or function-by-function.