Python asyncio for dummies.

I read several articles on asyncio python module. Watched several conf talks on it. But once I had to deal with it - I was confused. I have solid knowledge of python and can say that I’m a bit used to async programming with node. But it wasn’t easy for me to get my hands wet with asyncio. That’s why I’d like to share a simple but clear example of how it can be used and some basics of it.

What we’ll be looking at

Let’s assume we are developing a sort of CI script that should build frontend project (install dependencies, compile/transpile, bundle, other stuff). We assume that our frontend project uses at least 2 package managers (npm & bower - btw don’t use bower for new projects), so we have to install all dependencies first and then run bundler (e.g. webpack). So even that’s a bit artificial example, but it’s not that mystic and should be clear for those who know a bit about frontend stuff. With that said let’s start.

Without asyncio

Initially, we can write everything sequentially. This way we’ll first install npm dependencies, then bower dependencies and then run webpack to bundle our project. It can be fast if you have a really short list of dependencies in both package managers, fast internet connection, and enough luck. But if you have bower already installed (as well as npm) - they are not dependent and can be run in parallel, or at least not block each other’s execution.

Let’s add some asyncio magic

Well even though it actually uses asyncio, we added 2 asynchronous functions, but run them synchronously as we did without any additional library. But we can see what changed in the file.

  • Marked npm & bower functions with async
  • Added await before those functions
  • Added getting of the event loop and run main until it’s finished withing that event loop with method run_until_complete.

Getting things right

This time let’s get it right. We want processes of installing bower & npm dependencies to be asynchronous and wait for both to finish, only after doing so we want to start with webpack. We can use gather method to generate awaitable (future) object from several async methods.


Now you can see that functions that use some async stuff or should get a result from async function or wait for an async function to execute should be marked as async def. To wait for a result of async function result = await is used (if you don’t want to store result - just await).

Hope this example will give you some minimal understanding of how things from asyncio library work.

Written on October 30, 2017