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Python interface

The whole C API is exposed in Python using SWIG, hence the tc{.swg} files in the subdirectories. This allows to call C functions from Python more or less transparently.

Loading and using Yael

Assuming that the PYTHONPATH environment variable is set to Yael’s installation root, importing the Yael interface and creating a new vector is done as:

from yael import yael
a = yael.fvec_new_0(5)

In order to shorten the call, one could also import the function in the current namespace, as:

from yael.yael import *
a = fvec_new_0(5)

However, we do not advise to do so, in order to avoid function name conflicts when using other python libraries jointly with Yael.

Guidelines for the wrapping process

  • for most of the objects, memory is not managed by Python. They must be free’d explicitly. The main exception is for vectors, which can be explicitly acquired by Python so that they are garbage-collected like a Python object
  • arrays for simple types are called ivec, fvec, etc. Usage:
    • a = ivec(4) constructs an array of 4 ints, accessible in Python with a[2], as one would expect. There is no bound checking: the Python object does not know about the size of the array (like with C pointers).
    • a.cast() returns an int* usable as a C function argument (most of the time, the cast is automatic, and a can be used when a function expects an int *).
    • if a C function returns an int*, b = ivec.frompointer(x) makes the Python a[i] valid to access C’s x[i].
    • returns x + 2 (pointer arithmetic).
    • b = ivec.acquirepointer(x) will, in addition, call free(x) when the Python object b is deleted. This function therefore ensures that x will be cleaned up by the Python garbage collector. Often, when a C function returns a newly allocated pointer x, it is advisable to immediately do x=ivec.acquirepointer(x).
    • a.clear(3) clears out the 3 first elements of the vector.
    • if c is another int*, a.copyfrom(c, 1, 2) will copy 2 elements from c to a at offset 1 (ie. a[1] = c[0] and a[2] = c[1]).
    • a.tostring(3) returns a Python string with the 3 first elements of a as raw binary data. They can be used eg. in the array module.
    • similarly, a.fromstring(s) fills the first elements of a with raw values read from the string.
  • all wrapped functions release Python’s Global Interpreter Lock (to allow multithreaded execution), so Python API functions should not be called in C code.
  • output arguments in the C code (their names end in _out) are combined with the function results tuples.

NumPy interface

If Yael is configured with --enable-numpy, arrays can be exchanged with Numpy arrays. This is done through a series of functions with self-explanatory names:


Arrays corresponding to Yael’s fvec are of Numpy’s dtype='float32'. Moving from yael to numpy produces line vectors, that can be reshaped to matrices if needed.

These functions copy their arguments. To share the same data buffer between Yael and Numpy, suffix the function with _ref.

See the program for an example usage.

Numpy interface (high level)

A few functions of Yael are also made available with pure Numpy arguments and return types. They are in the ynumpy module. They include:

fvecs_read ivecs_read siftgeo_read

All matrix arguments should be in C indexing, because numpy’s support for Fortran-style indexing is close to unusable. Therefore, in the function documentation, all references to “columns” should become “lines”. See for an example.

ctypes interface

Arrays can also be exchanged with ctypes. This is done by converting pointers to integers. See for an example.