Distributing type information

Stub files

Stub files are files containing type hints that are only for use by the type checker, not at runtime. There are several use cases for stub files:

  • Extension modules

  • Third-party modules whose authors have not yet added type hints

  • Standard library modules for which type hints have not yet been written

  • Modules that must be compatible with Python 2 and 3

  • Modules that use annotations for other purposes

Stub files have the same syntax as regular Python modules. There is one feature of the typing module that is different in stub files: the @overload decorator described below.

The type checker should only check function signatures in stub files; It is recommended that function bodies in stub files just be a single ellipsis (...).

The type checker should have a configurable search path for stub files. If a stub file is found the type checker should not read the corresponding “real” module.

While stub files are syntactically valid Python modules, they use the .pyi extension to make it possible to maintain stub files in the same directory as the corresponding real module. This also reinforces the notion that no runtime behavior should be expected of stub files.

Additional notes on stub files:

  • Modules and variables imported into the stub are not considered exported from the stub unless the import uses the import ... as ... form or the equivalent from ... import ... as ... form. (UPDATE: To clarify, the intention here is that only names imported using the form X as X will be exported, i.e. the name before and after as must be the same.)

  • However, as an exception to the previous bullet, all objects imported into a stub using from ... import * are considered exported. (This makes it easier to re-export all objects from a given module that may vary by Python version.)

  • Just like in normal Python files, submodules automatically become exported attributes of their parent module when imported. For example, if the spam package has the following directory structure:


    where __init__.pyi contains a line such as from . import ham or from .ham import Ham, then ham is an exported attribute of spam.

  • Stub files may be incomplete. To make type checkers aware of this, the file can contain the following code:

    def __getattr__(name) -> Any: ...

    Any identifier not defined in the stub is therefore assumed to be of type Any.

The Typeshed Project

The typeshed project contains type stubs for the standard library (vendored or handled specially by type checkers) and type stubs for third-party libraries that don’t ship their own type information (typically distributed via PyPI). Policies regarding the stubs collected there are decided separately and described in the project’s documentation.

Type information in libraries

There are several motivations and methods of supporting typing in a package. This specification recognizes three types of packages that users of typing wish to create:

  1. The package maintainer would like to add type information inline.

  2. The package maintainer would like to add type information via stubs.

  3. A third party or package maintainer would like to share stub files for a package, but the maintainer does not want to include them in the source of the package.

This specification aims to support all three scenarios and make them simple to add to packaging and deployment.

The two major parts of this specification are the packaging specifications and the resolution order for resolving module type information.

Packaging Type Information

In order to make packaging and distributing type information as simple and easy as possible, packaging and distribution is done through existing frameworks.

Package maintainers who wish to support type checking of their code MUST add a marker file named py.typed to their package supporting typing. This marker applies recursively: if a top-level package includes it, all its sub-packages MUST support type checking as well.

To have this file including with the package, maintainers can use existing packaging options such as package_data in setuptools. For more details, see the guide to providing type annotations.

For namespace packages (see PEP 420), the py.typed file should be in the submodules of the namespace, to avoid conflicts and for clarity.

This specification does not support distributing typing information as part of module-only distributions or single-file modules within namespace packages.

The single-file module should be refactored into a package and indicate that the package supports typing as described above.

Stub-only Packages

For package maintainers wishing to ship stub files containing all of their type information, it is preferred that the *.pyi stubs are alongside the corresponding *.py files. However, the stubs can also be put in a separate package and distributed separately. Third parties can also find this method useful if they wish to distribute stub files. The name of the stub package MUST follow the scheme foopkg-stubs for type stubs for the package named foopkg.

Note the name of the distribution (i.e. the project name on PyPI) containing the package MAY be different than the mandated *-stubs package name. The name of the distribution SHOULD NOT be types-*, since this is conventionally used for stub-only packages provided by typeshed.

For stub-only packages adding a py.typed marker is not needed since the name *-stubs is enough to indicate it is a source of typing information.

Third parties seeking to distribute stub files are encouraged to contact the maintainer of the package about distribution alongside the package. If the maintainer does not wish to maintain or package stub files or type information inline, then a third party stub-only package can be created.

In addition, stub-only distributions MAY indicate which version(s) of the runtime package are targeted by indicating the runtime distribution’s version(s) through normal dependency data. For example, the stub package flyingcircus-stubs can indicate the versions of the runtime flyingcircus distribution it supports through dependencies field in pyproject.toml.

For namespace packages (see PEP 420), stub-only packages should use the -stubs suffix on only the root namespace package. All stub-only namespace packages should omit __init__.pyi files. py.typed marker files are not necessary for stub-only packages, but similarly to packages with inline types, if used, they should be in submodules of the namespace to avoid conflicts and for clarity.

For example, if the pentagon and hexagon are separate distributions installing within the namespace package shapes.polygons The corresponding types-only distributions should produce packages laid out as follows:

└── polygons
    └── pentagon
        └── __init__.pyi

└── polygons
    └── hexagon
        └── __init__.pyi

Partial Stub Packages

Many stub packages will only have part of the type interface for libraries completed, especially initially. For the benefit of type checking and code editors, packages can be “partial”. This means modules not found in the stub package SHOULD be searched for in part four of the module resolution order below, namely inline packages.

Type checkers should merge the stub package and runtime package directories. This can be thought of as the functional equivalent of copying the stub package into the same directory as the corresponding runtime package and type checking the combined directory structure. Thus type checkers MUST maintain the normal resolution order of checking *.pyi before *.py files.

If a stub package distribution is partial it MUST include partial\n in a py.typed file. For stub-packages distributing within a namespace package (see PEP 420), the py.typed file should be in the submodules of the namespace.

Type checkers should treat namespace packages within stub-packages as incomplete since multiple distributions may populate them. Regular packages within namespace packages in stub-package distributions are considered complete unless a py.typed with partial\n is included.

Import resolution ordering

The following is the order in which type checkers supporting this specification SHOULD resolve modules containing type information:

  1. Stubs or Python source manually put in the beginning of the path. Type checkers SHOULD provide this to allow the user complete control of which stubs to use, and to patch broken stubs or inline types from packages. In mypy the $MYPYPATH environment variable can be used for this.

  2. User code - the files the type checker is running on.

  3. Stub packages - these packages SHOULD supersede any installed inline package. They can be found in directories named foopkg-stubs for package foopkg.

  4. Packages with a py.typed marker file - if there is nothing overriding the installed package, and it opts into type checking, the types bundled with the package SHOULD be used (be they in .pyi type stub files or inline in .py files).

  5. Typeshed - only for modules in the standard library.

If typecheckers identify a stub-only namespace package without the desired module in step 3, they should continue to step 4/5. Typecheckers should identify namespace packages by the absence of __init__.pyi. This allows different subpackages to independently opt for inline vs stub-only.

Type checkers that check a different Python version than the version they run on MUST find the type information in the site-packages/dist-packages of that Python version. This can be queried e.g. pythonX.Y -c 'import site; print(site.getsitepackages())'. It is also recommended that the type checker allow for the user to point to a particular Python binary, in case it is not in the path.