# 14.7: Pickling

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A limitation of dbm is that the keys and values have to be strings or bytes. If you try to use any other type, you get an error.

The pickle module can help. It translates almost any type of object into a string suitable for storage in a database, and then translates strings back into objects.

pickle.dumps takes an object as a parameter and returns a string representation (dumps is short for “dump string”):

>>> import pickle
>>> t = [1, 2, 3]
>>> pickle.dumps(t)
b'\x80\x03]q\x00(K\x01K\x02K\x03e.'


The format isn’t obvious to human readers; it is meant to be easy for pickle to interpret. pickle.loads(“load string”) reconstitutes the object:

>>> t1 = [1, 2, 3]
>>> s = pickle.dumps(t1)
>>> t2
[1, 2, 3]


Although the new object has the same value as the old, it is not (in general) the same object:

>>> t1 == t2
True
>>> t1 is t2
False


In other words, pickling and then unpickling has the same effect as copying the object.

You can use pickle to store non-strings in a database. In fact, this combination is so common that it has been encapsulated in a module called shelve.

This page titled 14.7: Pickling is shared under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Allen B. Downey (Green Tea Press) .