17.3. Processing JSON results

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. It looks a lot like the representation of nested dictionaries and lists in python when we write them out as literals in a program, but with a few small differences (e.g., the word null instead of None). When your program receives a JSON-formatted string, generally you will want to convert it into a python object, a list or a dictionary.

Again, python provides a module for doing this. The module is called json. We will be using two functions in this module, loads and dumps.

json.loads() takes a string as input and produces a python object (a dictionary or a list) as output.

Consider, for example, some data that we might get from Apple’s iTunes, in the JSON format:

The other function we will use is dumps. It does the inverse of loads. It takes a python object, typically a dictionary or a list, and returns a string, in JSON format. It has a few other parameters. Two useful parameters are sort_keys and indent. When the value True is passed for the sort_keys parameter, the keys of dictionaries are output in alphabetic order with their values. The indent parameter expects an integer. When it is provided, dumps generates a string suitable for displaying to people, with newlines and indentation for nested lists or dictionaries. For example, the following function uses json.dumps to make a human-readable printout of a nested data structure.

Check Your Understanding

    nested-9-1: Because we can only write strings into a file, if we wanted to convert a dictionary d into a json-formatted string so that we could store it in a file, what would we use?
  • json.loads(d)
  • loads turns a json-formatted string into a list or dictionary
  • json.dumps(d)
  • dumps turns a list or dictionary into a json-formatted string
  • d.json()
  • .json() tries to invoke the json method, but that method is not defined for dictionaries

    nested-9-2: Say we had a JSON string in the following format. How would you convert it so that it is a python list?

    entertainment = """[{"Library Data": {"count": 3500, "rows": 10, "locations": 3}}, {"Movie Theater Data": {"count": 8, "rows": 25, "locations": 2}}]"""
  • entertainment.json()
  • The .json() method is not defined for strings.
  • json.dumps(entertainment)
  • dumps (dump to string) turns a list or dictionary into a json-formatted string
  • json.loads(entertainment)
  • loads (load from string) turns a json-formatted string into a list or dictionary
Next Section - 17.4. Nested Iteration