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Using PyKX within a q session


As described in the majority of the documentation associated with PyKX, the principal intended usage of the library is as Python first interface to the programming language q and it's underlying database kdb+. However as described in the limitations section here not all use-cases can be satisfied with this modality. In particular software relying on the use of active subscriptions such as real-time analytic engines or any functionality reliant on timers in q cannot be run from Python directly without reimplementing this logic Pythonically.

As such a modality is distributed with PyKX which allows Python functionality to be run from within a q session. This is achieved through the creation of a domain-specific language (DSL) which allows for the execution and manipulation of Python objects within a q session. Providing this functionality allows users proficient in kdb+/q to build applications which embed machine learning/data science libraries within production q infrastructures and allows users to use plotting libraries to visualise the outcomes of their analyses.

Getting started


To make use of PyKX running embedded within a q session a user must have the following set up

  1. The user has access to a running q environment, follow the q installation guide here for more information.
  2. The user is permissioned to run PyKX with access to a license containing the feature flags insights.lib.pykx and insights.lib.embedq For more information see here.


To facilitate the execution of Python code within a q session a user must first install the PyKX library and the q script used to drive this embedded feature into their $QHOME location. This can be done as follows.

  1. Install the PyKX library following the instructions here.
  2. Run the following command to install the pykx.q script:

    python -c "import pykx;pykx.install_into_QHOME()"

    If you previously had embedPy installed pass:

    python -c "import pykx;pykx.install_into_QHOME(overwrite_embedpy=True)"

    If you cannot edit files in QHOME you can copy the files to your local folder and load pykx.q from there:

    python -c "import pykx;pykx.install_into_QHOME(to_local_folder=True)"


Once installation has been completed a user should be in a position to initialise the library as follows

q)\l pykx.q
console    | {pyexec"pykx.console.PyConsole().interact(banner='', exitmsg='')"}
getattr    | code
get        | {[f;x]r:wrap f x 0;$[count x:1_x;.[;x];]r}[code]enlist
setattr    | {i.load[(`set_attr;3)][unwrap x;y;i.convertArg[i.toDefault z]`.]}
set        | {i.load[(`set_global;2)][x; i.convertArg[i.toDefault y]`.]}
print      | {$[type[x]in 104 105 112h;i.repr[0b] unwrap x;show x];}
repr       | {$[type[x]in 104 105 112h;i.repr[1b] unwrap x;.Q.s x]}
import     | {[f;x]r:wrap f x 0;$[count x:1_x;.[;x];]r}[code]enlist

Using the library

Usage of the functionality provided by this library can range in complexity from the simple execution of Python code through to the generation of streaming applications containing machine learning models. The following documentation section outlines the use of this library under various use-case agnostic scenarios

Evaluating and Executing Python code

Executing Python code

This interface allows a user to execute Python code a variety of ways:

  1. Executing directly using the .pykx.pyexec function

    This is incredibly useful if there is a requirement to script execution of Python code within a library

    q).pykx.pyexec"import numpy as np"
    q).pykx.pyexec"array = np.array([0, 1, 2, 3])"
    [0 1 2 3]
  2. Usage of the PyKX console functionality

    This is useful when interating within a q session and needing to prototype some functionality in Python

    >>> import numpy as np
    >>> print(np.linspace(0, 10, 5))
    [ 0.   2.5  5.   7.5 10. ]
    >>> quit()
  3. Execution through use of a p) prompt

    Provided as a way to embed execution of Python code within a q script, additionally this provides backwards compatibility with PyKX.

    q)p)import numpy as np
    q)p)print(np.arange(1, 10, 2))
    [1 3 5 7 9]
  4. Loading of a .p file

    This is provided as a method of executing the contents of a Python file in bulk.

    $ cat test.p
    def func(x, y):
    $ q pykx.q
    q)\l test.p

Evaluating Python code

The evaluation of Python code can be completed using PyKX by passing a string of Python code to a variety of functions.

Differences between evaluation and execution

Python evaluation (unlike Python execution) does not allow side effects. Any attempt at variable assignment or class definition will signal an error. To execute a string performing side effects, use .pykx.pyexec or .p.e.

Difference between eval and exec in Python

To evaluate Python code and return the result to q, use the function .pykx.qeval.


Similarly to evaluate Python code and return the result as a foreign object denoting the underlying Python object

q)show a:.pykx.pyeval"1+2"
q)print a

Finally to return a hybrid representation which can be manipulated to return the q or Python representation you can run the following

q)show b:.pykx.eval"1+2"
q)b`       // Convert to a q object
q)b`.      // Convert to a Python foreign

Interacting with PyKX objects

Foreign objects

At the lowest level, Python objects are represented in q as foreign objects, which contain pointers to objects in the Python memory space.

Foreign objects can be stored in variables just like any other q datatype, or as part of lists, dictionaries or tables. They will display as foreign when inspected in the q console or using the string (or .Q.s) representation.

Serialization: Kdb+ cannot serialize foreign objects, nor send them over IPC: they live in the embedded Python memory space. To pass these objects over IPC, first convert them to q.

PyKX objects

Foreign objects cannot be directly operated on in q. Instead, Python objects are typically represented as PyKX objects, which wrap the underlying foreign objects. This provides the ability to get and set attributes, index, call or convert the underlying foreign object to a q object.

Use .pykx.wrap to create an PyKX object from a foreign object.

q)p:.pykx.wrap x
q)p           /how an PyKX object looks

More commonly, PyKX objects are retrieved directly from Python using one of the following functions:

function argument example
.pykx.import symbol: name of a Python module or package, optional second argument is the name of an object within the module or package np:.pykx.import`numpy
.pykx.get symbol: name of a Python variable in __main__ v:.pykx.get`varName
.pykx.eval string: Python code to evaluate x:.pykx.eval"1+1"

Side effects: As with other Python evaluation functions and noted previously, .pykx.eval does not permit side effects.

Converting data

Given obj, an PyKX object representing Python data, we can get the underlying data (as foreign or q) using

obj`. / get data as foreign
obj`  / get data as q

For example:

1 2 3

None and identity

Python None maps to the q identity function :: when converting from Python to q (and vice versa).

There is one important exception to this. When calling Python functions, methods or classes with a single q data argument, passing :: will result in the Python object being called with no arguments, rather than a single argument of None. See the section below on Zero-argument calls for how to explicitly call a Python callable with a single None argument.

Getting attributes and properties

Given obj, an PyKX object representing a Python object, we can get an attribute or property directly using

obj`:attr         / equivalent to obj.attr in Python
obj`:attr1.attr2  / equivalent to obj.attr1.attr2 in Python

These expressions return PyKX objects, allowing users to chain operations together.

obj[`:attr1]`:attr2  / equivalent to obj.attr1.attr2 in Python


$ cat class.p
class obj:
    def __init__(self,x=0,y=0):
        self.x = x
        self.y = y
q)\l class.p

Setting attributes and properties

Given obj, an PyKX object representing a Python object, we can set an attribute or property directly using

obj[:;`:attr;val]  / equivalent to obj.attr=val in Python




Given lst, an PyKX object representing an indexable container object in Python, we can access the element at index i using

lst[@;i]    / equivalent to lst[i] in Python

We can set the element at index i (to object x) using

lst[=;i;x]  / equivalent to lst[i]=x in Python

These expressions return PyKX objects, e.g.

q)lst'[@;;`]2 1 0 3

Getting methods

Given obj, an PyKX object representing a Python object, we can access a method directly using

obj`:method  / equivalent to obj.method in Python

Presently the calling of PyKX objects representing Python methods is only supported in such a manner that the return of evaluation is a PyKX object.

For example

q)arange:np`:arange                   / callable returning PyKX object
q)arange 12
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

PyKX function API

Using the function API, PyKX objects can be called directly (returning PyKX objects) or declared callable returning q or foreign data.

Users explicitly specify the return type as q or foreign, the default is as a PyKX object.

Given func, an PyKX object representing a callable Python function or method, we can carry out the following operations:

func                   / func is callable by default (returning PyKX)
func arg               / call func(arg) (returning PyKX)
func[<]                / declare func callable (returning q)
func[<]arg             / call func(arg) (returning q)
func[<;arg]            / equivalent
func[>]                / declare func callable (returning foreign)
func[>]arg             / call func(arg) (returning foreign)
func[>;arg]            / equivalent

Chaining operations Returning another PyKX object from a function or method call, allows users to chain together sequences of operations. We can also chain these operations together with calls to .pykx.import, .pykx.get and .pykx.eval.

PyKX examples

Some examples

$ cat test.p # used for tests
class obj:
    def __init__(self,x=0,y=0):
        self.x = x # attribute
        self.y = y # property (incrementing on get)
    def y(self):
        return a
    def y(self, y):
        self.__y = y
    def total(self):
        return self.x + self.y
q)\l test.p
q)obj:.pykx.get`obj / obj is the *class* not an instance of the class
q)o:obj[]           / call obj with no arguments to get an instance
q)o[;`]each 5#`:x
0 0 0 0 0
q)o[;`]each 5#`:y
3 5 7 9 11
q)o[;`]each 5#`:y
10 13 15 17 19
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
0 1 2  3
4 5 6  7
8 9 10 11
0 1 2 3 4  5
6 7 8 9 10 11
0 1 2  3
4 5 6  7
8 9 10 11
q)stdout `$"hello\n";
q)stderr `$"goodbye\n";
q)ofunc:.pykx.eval["lambda x:2+x";<]
q)ofunc oarg
q)p)def add2(x,y):return x+y

Function argument types

One of the distinct differences that PyKX has over the previous incarnation of embedded interfacing with Python in q PyKX is support for a much wider variety of data type conversions between q and Python.

In particular the following types are supported:

  1. Python native objects
  2. Numpy objects
  3. Pandas objects
  4. PyArrow objects
  5. PyKX objects

By default when passing a q object to a callable function it will be converted to the most "natural" analogous types. This is controlled through the setting of .pykx.util.defaultConv

  • PyKX/q generic list objects will be converted to Python lists
  • PyKX/q table/keyed table objects will be converted to Pandas equivalent DataFrames
  • All other PyKX/q objects will be converted to their analogous PyKX/q types


Prior to PyKX 2.1.0 all conversions from q objects to Python would convert to their Numpy equivalent. This behaviour raised a number of issues with migration for users previously operating with embedPy and as such has been migrated to the behaviour described above. If you require the same behaviour as that prior to 2.1.0 please set the environment variable PYKX_DEFAULT_CONVERSION="np"

For example:

q)typeFunc:.pykx.eval"lambda x:print(type(x))"
q)typeFunc 1; 
<class 'numpy.int64'>
q)typeFunc til 10;
<class 'numpy.ndarray'>
q)typeFunc (10?1f;10?1f)
<class 'list'>
q)typeFunc ([]100?1f;100?1f);
<class 'pandas.core.frame.DataFrame'>

The default behavior of the conversions which are undertaken when making function/method calls is controlled through the definition of .pykx.util.defaultConv


This can have one of the following values:

Python type Value
Default "default"
Python "py"
Numpy "np"
Pandas "pd"
PyArrow "pa"
PyKX "k"

Taking the examples above for Numpy we can update the default types across all function calls

q)typeFunc:.pykx.eval"lambda x:print(type(x))"
q)typeFunc 1;
<class 'int'>
q)typeFunc til 10;
<class 'list'>
q)typeFunc ([]100?1f;100?1f);
<class 'dict'>

q)typeFunc 1;
<class 'numpy.int64'>
q)typeFunc til 10;
<class 'pandas.core.series.Series'>
q)typeFunc ([]100?1f;100?1f);
<class 'pandas.core.frame.DataFrame'>

q)typeFunc 1;
<class 'numpy.int64'>
q)typeFunc til 10;
<class 'pyarrow.lib.Int64Array'>
q)typeFunc ([]100?1f;100?1f);
<class 'pyarrow.lib.Table'>

q)typeFunc 1;
<class 'pykx.wrappers.LongAtom'>
q)typeFunc til 10;
<class 'pykx.wrappers.LongVector'>
q)typeFunc ([]100?1f;100?1f);
<class 'pykx.wrappers.Table'>

Alternatively individual arguments to functions can be modified using the* functionality, for example in the following:

q)typeFunc:.pykx.eval"lambda x,y: [print(type(x)), print(type(y))]"
q)typeFunc[til 10;til 10];                          // Simulate passing both arguments with defaults
<class 'numpy.ndarray'>
<class 'numpy.ndarray'>
q)typeFunc[til 10].pykx.topd til 10;               // Pass in the second argument as Pandas series
<class 'numpy.ndarray'>
<class 'pandas.core.series.Series'>
q)typeFunc[.pykx.topa([]100?1f);til 10];           // Pass in first argument as PyArrow Table
<class 'pyarrow.lib.Table'>
<class 'numpy.ndarray'>
q)typeFunc[.pykx.tok til 10;.pykx.tok ([]100?1f)]; // Pass in two PyKX objects
<class 'pykx.wrappers.LongVector'>
<class 'pykx.wrappers.Table'>

Setting Python variables

Variables can be set in Python __main__ using .pykx.set


Function calls

Python allows for calling functions with

  • A variable number of arguments
  • A mixture of positional and keyword arguments
  • Implicit (default) arguments

All of these features are available through the PyKX function-call interface. Specifically:

  • Callable PyKX objects are variadic
  • Default arguments are applied where no explicit arguments are given
  • Individual keyword arguments are specified using the (infix) pykw operator
  • A list of positional arguments can be passed using pyarglist (like Python *args)
  • A dictionary of keyword arguments can be passed using pykwargs (like Python **kwargs)

Keyword arguments last We can combine positional arguments, lists of positional arguments, keyword arguments and a dictionary of keyword arguments. However, all keyword arguments must always follow any positional arguments. The dictionary of keyword arguments (if given) must be specified last.

Example function calls

q)p)import numpy as np
q)p)def func(a=1,b=2,c=3,d=4):return np.array([a,b,c,d,a*b*c*d])
q)qfunc:.pykx.get[`func;<] / callable, returning q

Positional arguments are entered directly. Function calling is variadic, so later arguments can be excluded.

q)qfunc[2;2;2;2]   / all positional args specified
2 2 2 2 16
q)qfunc[2;2]       / first 2 positional args specified
2 2 3 4 48
q)qfunc[]          / no args specified
1 2 3 4 24
q)qfunc[2;2;2;2;2] / error if too many args specified
'TypeError('func() takes from 0 to 4 positional arguments but 5 were given')
  [0]  qfunc[2;2;2;2;2] / error if too many args specified

Individual keyword arguments can be specified using the pykw operator (applied infix). Any keyword arguments must follow positional arguments, but the order of keyword arguments does not matter.

q)qfunc[`d pykw 1;`c pykw 2;`b pykw 3;`a pykw 4] / all keyword args specified
4 3 2 1 24
q)qfunc[1;2;`d pykw 3;`c pykw 4]   / mix of positional and keyword args
1 2 4 3 24
q)qfunc[`a pykw 2;`b pykw 2;2;2]   / error if positional args after keyword args
'TypeError("func() got multiple values for argument 'a'")
  [0]  qfunc[`a pykw 1;pyarglist 2 2 2] 
q)qfunc[`a pykw 2;`a pykw 2]       / error if duplicate keyword args
'Expected only unique key names for keyword arguments in function call
  [0]  qfunc[`a pykw 2;`a pykw 2]  

A list of positional arguments can be specified using pyarglist (similar to Python’s *args). Again, keyword arguments must follow positional arguments.

q)qfunc[pyarglist 1 1 1 1]          / full positional list specified
1 1 1 1 1
q)qfunc[pyarglist 1 1]              / partial positional list specified
1 1 3 4 12
q)qfunc[1;1;pyarglist 2 2]          / mix of positional args and positional list
1 1 2 2 4
q)qfunc[pyarglist 1 1;`d pykw 5]    / mix of positional list and keyword args
1 1 3 5 15
q)qfunc[pyarglist til 10]           / error if too many args specified
'TypeError('func() takes from 0 to 4 positional arguments but 10 were given')
  [0]  qfunc[pyarglist til 10]      / error if too many args specified
q)qfunc[`a pykw 1;pyarglist 2 2 2]  / error if positional list after keyword args
'TypeError("func() got multiple values for argument 'a'")
  [0]  qfunc[`a pykw 1;pyarglist 2 2 2] 

A dictionary of keyword arguments can be specified using pykwargs (similar to Python’s **kwargs). If present, this argument must be the last argument specified.

q)qfunc[pykwargs`d`c`b`a!1 2 3 4]             / full keyword dict specified
4 3 2 1 24
q)qfunc[2;2;pykwargs`d`c!3 3]                 / mix of positional args and keyword dict
2 2 3 3 36
q)qfunc[`d pykw 1;`c pykw 2;pykwargs`a`b!3 4] / mix of keyword args and keyword dict
3 4 2 1 24
q)qfunc[pykwargs`d`c!3 3;2;2]                 / error if keyword dict not last
'pykwargs last
q)qfunc[pykwargs`a`a!1 2]                     / error if duplicate keyword names

All 4 methods can be combined in a single function call, as long as the order follows the above rules.

q)qfunc[4;pyarglist enlist 3;`c pykw 2;pykwargs enlist[`d]!enlist 1]
4 3 2 1 24

pykw, pykwargs, and pyarglist

Before defining functions containing pykw, pykwargs, or pyarglist within a script, the file p.q must be loaded explicitly. Failure to do so will result in errors 'pykw, 'pykwargs, or 'pyarglist.

Zero-argument calls

In Python these two calls are not equivalent:

func()       #call with no arguments
func(None)   #call with argument None

PyKX function called with :: calls Python with no arguments

Although :: in q corresponds to None in Python, if an PyKX function is called with :: as its only argument, the corresponding Python function will be called with no arguments.

To call a Python function with None as its sole argument, retrieve None as a foreign object in q and pass that as the argument.

q)pyfunc pynone;
Python form q
func() call with no arguments func[] or func[::]
func(None) call with argument None func[.pykx.eval"None"]

Q functions applied to empty argument lists

The rank (number of arguments) of a q function is determined by its signature, an optional list of arguments at the beginning of its definition. If the signature is omitted, the default arguments are as many of x, y and z as appear, and its rank is 1, 2, or 3.

If it has no signature, and does not refer to x, y, or z, it has rank 1. It is implicitly unary. If it is then applied to an empty argument list, the value of x defaults to (::).

So func[::] is equivalent to func[] – and in Python to func(), not func[None].

Printing or returning object representation

.pykx.repr returns the string representation of a Python object, either PyKX or foreign. This representation can be printed to stdout using .pykx.print. The usage of this function with a q object

q).pykx.repr x
"{'a': 1, 'b': 2}"
q).pykx.print x
{'a': 1, 'b': 2}

q).pykx.repr ([]5?1f;5?1f)
"x         x1       \n-------------------\n0.3017723 0.3927524\n0.785033  0.5..
q).pykx.print ([]5?1f;5?1f)
x         x1        
0.6137452 0.4931835 
0.5294808 0.5785203 
0.6916099 0.08388858
0.2296615 0.1959907 
0.6919531 0.375638  

Aliases in the root

For convenience, pykx.q defines print in the default namespace of q, as aliases for .pykx.print. To prevent the aliasing of this function please set either:

  1. UNSET_PYKX_GLOBALS as an environment variable.
  2. unsetPyKXGlobals as a command line argument when initialising your q session.