Generating Rows

Metatab Datafile terms can reference python functions, programs and IPython notebooks to generate rows.

To reference a program, the Root.Datafile must be a URL with a program scheme and a relative path. Usually, the file is placed in a subdirectory named ‘scripts’ at the same level as the metadata.csv file. It must be an executable program, and may be any executable program.

When a data package is created, regardless of the type, a filesystem package is created first, then other types of packages are created from the filesystem package. This means that the row-generating program is only run once per resource when multiple packages are created, and also that the program can open the Metatab package being used to run the program to access previously created resource files.

Generating Rows With Functions

Datafiles can specify URLs that will use a Python function to generate rows.

First, the URL must have a python scheme:

Datafile: python:pylib#extract

The lib component references the module that holds the function to use, and the fragement (#extract ) is the name of the function. The module can be anything. In this case, Metatab will automatically import the lib module, from the package that holds the source Metatab file ( metadata.csv ). To be a module, the lib directory must have a in it.

The signature for the function is:

f(resource, doc, env, *args, **kwargs)

Yield rows for a Root.Datafile

  • resource (Term) – The resource object for the Root.Datafile that is being built.

  • doc (MetapackDoc) – The current Metapack document.

  • env (dict) – a dictionary of environmental variables.


Yields tuple or list rows.

where resource is the Metatab resource term for the Datafile term, and doc is the Metapack document.

Common Patterns

Copy a Reference

If you want to maintain dependency information, particularly using mp doc, it is important to have all of the foreign packages used by a Metapack package referenced in the References section. You can copy in a foreign package by including it as a Root.Datafile in the Resources section, but then mp doc -d won’t report it as a dependency.

To maintin dependencies, you can:

  • Reference the foren package in the References

  • Copy it into a Resource with the python:metapack.rowgenerator#copy_reference row generator.

For instance:

Section: References
Reference.Name: comments

Section: Resources
Datafile: python:metapack.rowgenerator#copy_reference
Datafile.Name: comments

In this example, the copy_reference function will copy the ‘comments’ reference into the ‘comments’ Datafile.

Generating Rows With Programs

Generally, it is much easier to implement a python function as a row generator than a program, but programs can also be useful. The program can receive information from Metatab through program options and environmental variables, and must print CSV formatted lines to std out.

There are two broad sources for inputs to the program. The first is are several values that are passed into the program regardless of the configuration of the Root.DataFile term. The second are the properties of the Root.DataFile terms.

The inputs for all programs are:

  • METATAB_DOC: An env var that holds the URL for the Metatab document being processed

  • METATAB_PACKAGE: An env var that holds the metatab document’s package URL. ( Which is usually the same as the document URL )

  • METATAB_WORKING_DIR: An env var that holds the path to the directory holding the metatab file.

  • PROPERTIES: An env var with holds a JSON encoded dict with the three previous env values, along with the properties dict for the Root.DataFile term.

Additionally, the program receives the Root.DataFile properties in these forms:

  • Properties that have names that are all uppercased are assigned to env variables.

  • Properties that have names that begin with ‘-‘ are assigned to program options.

Since the program must output CSV formatted lines, a CSV writer can be constructed on sys.stdout:

import sys
import csv

w = csv.writer(sys.stdout)


If the program generates logging or warnings, they must be printed to sys.stderr

import sys

print("ERROR!", file=sys.stderr)

It is very common for a program to open the Metatab document that is being used to run the row generator. You can use the METATAB_DOC environmental variable to get a reference to the current package.

import metatab as mt
doc = mt.open_package(environ['METATAB_DOC'])