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Modes of Operation

PyKX exists to supersede all previous interfaces between q and Python, this document outlines the various conditions under which PyKX can operate and the limitations/requirements which are imposed under these distinct operating modalities, specifically this document breaks down the following:

  • PyKX within a Python session
  • Operating with a valid KX License
  • Operating in the absence of a valid KX License
  • PyKX within a q session with a valid KX License

PyKX within a Python session

PyKX operating within a Python session is intended to offer a replacement for qPython and PyQ. In order to facilitate replacement of qPython PyKX provides a mode of operation for IPC based communication which allows for the creation of IPC connections and the conversion of data from Pythonic representations to kx objects, this IPC only modality is referred to as "Unlicensed mode" within the documentation. The following outline the differences between "Licensed" and "Unlicensed" operation.

The following table outlines some of the key differences between the two operating modes

Feature With a PyKX Enabled License Without a PyKX Enabled License
Convert objects from q to Pythonic types and vice-versa
Query synchronously and asynchronously an existing q server via IPC
Query synchronously and asynchronously an existing q server with TLS enabled
Interact with PyKX tables via a Pandas like API
Can run arbitrary q code within a Python session
Display PyKX/q objects within a Python session
Load kdb+ Databases within a Python session
Can read/write JSON, CSV and q formats to/from disk
Access to Python classes for SQL, schema creation custom data conversion
Run Python within a q session using PyKX under q
Full support for nulls, infinities, data slicing and casting
Production Support

Operating in the absence of a KX License

Unlicensed mode is a feature-limited mode of operation for PyKX which aims to replace qPython, which has the benefit of not requiring a valid q license (except for the q license required to run the remote q process that PyKX will connect to in this mode).

This mode cannot run q embedded within it, and so it lacks the ability to run q code within the local Python process, and also every feature that depends on running q code. Despite this limitation, it provides the following features (which are all also available in licensed mode):

  • Conversions from Python to q
  • With the exception of Python callable objects
  • Conversions from q to Python
  • A q IPC interface

Operating with a valid KX License

Licensed mode is the standard mode of operation of PyKX, wherein it is running under a Python process with a valid q license. This modality aims to replace PyQ as the Python first library for KX. All PyKX features are available in this mode.

The following are the differences provided through operation with a valid KX License

  1. Users can execute PyKX/q functionality directly within a Python session
  2. PyKX objects can be represented in a human readable format rather than as a memory address, namely

    >>> kx.q('([]til 3;3?0Ng)')
    x x1                                  
    0 8c6b8b64-6815-6084-0a3e-178401251b68
    1 5ae7962d-49f2-404d-5aec-f7c8abbae288
    2 5a580
    >>> conn.q('([]til 3;3?0Ng)')
  3. PyKX objects can be introspected through indexing

    >>> import pykx as kx
    >>> tab = kx.q('til 10')
    >>> tab[1:6]
    pykx.LongVector(pykx.q('1 2 3 4 5'))
    >>> py = [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
    >>> kx.toq(py)
    >>> kx.toq(py)[1:6]
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
      File "/usr/local/anaconda3/lib/python3.8/site-packages/pykx/", line 1166, in __getitem__
        raise LicenseException('index into K object')
    pykx.exceptions.LicenseException: A valid q license must be in a known location (e.g. `$QLIC`) to index into K object.
  4. Users can cast between kx object types explicitly

    >>> import pykx as kx
    >>> py = [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
    >>> kx.K.cast(kx.toq(py), kx.FloatVector)
    pykx.FloatVector(pykx.q('0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9f'))
    >>> import pykx as kx
    >>> py = [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
    >>> kx.K.cast(kx.toq(py), kx.FloatVector)
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
      File "/usr/local/anaconda3/lib/python3.8/site-packages/pykx/", line 419, in cast
        return ktype(self)
      File "/usr/local/anaconda3/lib/python3.8/site-packages/pykx/", line 246, in __new__
        return toq(x, ktype=None if cls is K else cls, cast=cast) # TODO: 'strict' and 'cast' flags
      File "pykx/toq.pyx", line 2543, in pykx.toq.ToqModule.__call__
      File "pykx/toq.pyx", line 470, in pykx.toq.from_pykx_k
    pykx.exceptions.LicenseException: A valid q license must be in a known location (e.g. `$QLIC`) to directly convert between K types..
  5. Access to the following classes/functionality are supported when running in the licensed modality but not unlicensed, note this is not an exhaustive list

    1. kx.q.sql
    3. kx.q.write
    4. kx.q.schema
    5. kx.q.console
  6. Pandas API functionality for interactions with and PyKX Table objects
  7. Keyed tables can be converted to equivalent Numpy types
  8. All types can be disambiguated, generic null can be discerned from a projection null, and similar for regular vs splayed tables.
  9. Numpy list object conversion when operating with a valid PyKX license are optimized relative to unlicensed mode.
  10. The is_null, is_inf, has_nulls, and has_infs methods of K objects are only supported when using a license.

Choosing to run with/without a license

Users can choose to initialise PyKX under one of these modalities explicitly through the use of the QARGS environment variable as follows:

Modality argument Description
--unlicensed Starts PyKX in unlicensed mode. No license check will be performed, and no warning will be emitted at start-up if embedded q initialization fails.
--licensed Raise a PyKXException (as opposed to emitting a PyKXWarning) if embedded q initialization fails.

In addition to the PyKX specific start-up arguments QARGS also can be used to set the standard q command-line arguments.

Alternatively for users who wish to make use of PyKX in unlicensed mode they can set the environment variable PYKX_UNLICENSED="true" or define this in their .pykx-config file as outlined here.

PyKX within a q session

Fully described here the ability to use PyKX within a q session directly is intended to provide the ability to replace embedPy functionally with an updated and more flexible interface. Additionally it provides the ability to use Python functionality within a q environment which does not have the central limitations that exist for PyKX as outlined here, namely Python code can be used in conjunction with timers and subscriptions within a q/kdb+ ecosystem upon which are reliant on these features of the language.

Similar to the use of PyKX in it's licensed modality PyKX running under q requires a user to have access to an appropriate license containing the insights.lib.pykx and insights.lib.embedq licensing flags.