Python – Why does Python code run faster in a function

benchmarkingcpythonperformanceprofilingpython

def main():
    for i in xrange(10**8):
        pass
main()

This piece of code in Python runs in (Note: The timing is done with the time function in BASH in Linux.)

real    0m1.841s
user    0m1.828s
sys     0m0.012s

However, if the for loop isn't placed within a function,

for i in xrange(10**8):
    pass

then it runs for a much longer time:

real    0m4.543s
user    0m4.524s
sys     0m0.012s

Why is this?

Best Solution

Inside a function, the bytecode is:

  2           0 SETUP_LOOP              20 (to 23)
              3 LOAD_GLOBAL              0 (xrange)
              6 LOAD_CONST               3 (100000000)
              9 CALL_FUNCTION            1
             12 GET_ITER            
        >>   13 FOR_ITER                 6 (to 22)
             16 STORE_FAST               0 (i)

  3          19 JUMP_ABSOLUTE           13
        >>   22 POP_BLOCK           
        >>   23 LOAD_CONST               0 (None)
             26 RETURN_VALUE        

At the top level, the bytecode is:

  1           0 SETUP_LOOP              20 (to 23)
              3 LOAD_NAME                0 (xrange)
              6 LOAD_CONST               3 (100000000)
              9 CALL_FUNCTION            1
             12 GET_ITER            
        >>   13 FOR_ITER                 6 (to 22)
             16 STORE_NAME               1 (i)

  2          19 JUMP_ABSOLUTE           13
        >>   22 POP_BLOCK           
        >>   23 LOAD_CONST               2 (None)
             26 RETURN_VALUE        

The difference is that STORE_FAST is faster (!) than STORE_NAME. This is because in a function, i is a local but at toplevel it is a global.

To examine bytecode, use the dis module. I was able to disassemble the function directly, but to disassemble the toplevel code I had to use the compile builtin.