What are main() and __name__ in Python?

Apr 20, 2024#python

Technically, Python doesn’t require a specific main entry point like some other programming languages like C or Java. When you run a Python script, the interpreter simply executes the code line by line from the beginning of the file.

While it’s not strictly required to have a main entry point like in languages such as C or Java, it’s a common convention to include one. This ensures that the code block within this if statement is executed only when the script is run directly, not when it’s imported as a module into another script.

def some_function():
    print("This is some function")

def main():
    print("This is the main function")

if __name__ == "__main__":

No built-in main() function

Python was designed to be used interactively. The interactive interpreter executes code line by line, which wouldn’t align well with the concept of a single entry point function.

Python encourages modularity and code reuse. By not enforcing a main() function, developers are free to organize their code in a way that promotes better modularity.

Using a main() function in Python is just a convention. It’s a pattern adopted by the Python community to make scripts more organized and to clearly define the entry point when a script is executed directly. This convention is not enforced by the language itself but is widely used because it helps in distinguishing which parts of the code should run when the script is executed versus when it’s imported as a module.

Using built-in __main__ variable

In Python, __name__ is a special built-in variable that holds the name of the current module or script. When a Python script is executed directly, the value of __name__ is set to "__main__". However, if the script is imported as a module into another script, the value of __name__ is set to the name of the module (i.e., the filename without the “.py” extension).

This behavior allows Python scripts to know whether they are being run as the main program or if they are being imported as a module into another script.

It’s commonly used in conjunction with the if __name__ == "__main__": construct to provide a main entry point for scripts and to execute certain code only when the script is run directly.

Best practices for writing main functions

It’s generally recommended to minimize expressions outside of functions and the if __name__ == "__main__": block. If you need global variables, use them cautiously and consider refactoring your code to avoid them.

  • Put most of your code inside functions or classes.
  • Use if __name__ == "__main__": to control the execution of your code.
  • Create a separate function called main() to contain the code you want to run.
  • Call other functions from within main().
def greet(name):
    return f"Hello, {name}!"

def calculate_sum(a, b):
    return a + b

def main():
    # Call other functions within main()
    greeting = greet("Copilot")

    total = calculate_sum(5, 7)
    print(f"The sum is: {total}")

if __name__ == "__main__":

Putting as few statements as possible in the block below if __name__ == "__main__": can improve code clarity and correctness. Most often, a main() function encapsulates the program’s primary behavior.