Understanding Python’s compile() Method: A Comprehensive Guide

In this tutorial, we will delve into the usage, walkthrough and proper application of the Python method known as compile(). This built-in function is a powerful tool that allows you to dynamically create Python code.

What is compile()?

The compile() function in Python converts a string or an AST (Abstract Syntax Tree) object into a code object. The resulting object can then be executed using functions like exec() and eval().

        # Syntax
        compile(source, filename, mode, flags=0, dont_inherit=False)
  • source: Required. Either a normal string, a byte string, or an AST object.
  • filename: Required. The file from which the code was read. If it wasn’t read from a file, you can give a name yourself.
  • mode: Required. It specifies what kind of code must be compiled. It can be ‘exec’ if source consists of full program, ‘eval’ if it contains single expression or ‘single’ for single interactive statement.
  • flags and dont_inherit: Optional parameters that control which future statements affect the compilation of source.

A Simple Walkthrough

To better understand how to use the compile() function in python let’s look at an example:

# Example
x = 5
y = 7

# Code to be compiled
codeInString = 'a = x+y\nprint("sum =", a)'
codeObejct = compile(codeInString, 'sumstring', 'exec')

# Execute the code object

In this example, we first define two variables x and y. We then create a string that contains Python code. This string is compiled into a code object using the compile() function. Finally, we execute the compiled code using exec(). The output will be “sum = 12”.

Proper Usage of compile()

The compile() function is particularly useful when you need to generate Python code on the fly. It’s also used in applications that need to accept arbitrary user input.

However, it’s important to note that using compile() can pose serious security risks if not handled properly as it allows execution of arbitrary Python commands.

Always ensure you sanitize and check any input passed to compile() from an untrusted source.


The Python’s built-in function compile() offers a powerful way to dynamically generate and execute Python code. However, its usage should be done with caution due to potential security risks.

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