Python bytecode instrumentation framework

bytecode, injection, instrumentation
pip install equip==0.1


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equip: Python Bytecode Instrumentation

equip is a small library that helps with Python bytecode instrumentation. Its API is designed to be small and flexible to enable a wide range of possible instrumentations.

The instrumentation is designed around the injection of bytecode inside the bytecode of the program to be instrumented. However, the developer does not need to know anything about the Python bytecode since the injected code is Python source.


The package can be installed with pip for the latest release:

$ pip install equip

Or you can get/install the latest development version:

$ git clone https://github.com/neuroo/equip.git
$ cd equip
$ python setup.py install


The documentation is available on http://equip.readthedocs.org

Simplest Example

The following example shows how to write a simple instrumentation tool that will print all method called in the program, along with its arguments:

  import sys
  from equip import Instrumentation, MethodVisitor, SimpleRewriter

  print ">> START"
  print "[CALL] {file_name}::{method_name}:{lineno}", {arguments}
  print "<< END"

  class MethodInstr(MethodVisitor):
    def __init__(self):

    def visit(self, meth_decl):
      rewriter = SimpleRewriter(meth_decl)

  instr_visitor = MethodInstr()
  instr = Instrumentation(sys.argv[1])
  if not instr.prepare_program():
  instr.apply(instr_visitor, rewrite=True)

This program requires the path to the program to instrument, and will compile the source to generate the bytecode to instrument. All bytecode will be loaded into a representation, and the MethodInstr visitor will be called on all method declarations.

When a change is required (i.e., the code actually needs to be instrumented), the Instrumentation will overwrite the pyc file.

Running the instrumented program afterwards does not require anything but executing it as you would usually do. If the injected code has external dependencies, you can simply modify the PYTHONPATH to point to the required modules.

A more realistic example can be found in the examples:

  • Call counters: Instrument a program and record calls for each method during its execution. The output is then serialized to JSON.

Versioning and Experimental Status

The current status of equip should be considered experimental. There is much more tests to be written and code cleanup to be made before equip can be considered as reliable.

When it is reliable, it will be bumped to version 1.0.

Current Capabilities of Equip

The API of equip is fairly high level and it's possible not to use the simple Instrument interface in order to manually retrieve Declaration found in the bytecode. Then rewrite them manually. A BytecodeVisitor is also provided to iterate over all the bytecode (however, no rewriter is currently available to easily append one instruction at a time).

Another part of the API in equip allow for reasoning about the python bytecode (currently, with control flow analysis).

Bytecode Injection

The current way to inject custom code in the original bytecode is handled by the SimpleRewriter. It allows for injections in multiple parts:

  • BEFORE: before any other bytecode
  • AFTER: just before each RETURN_VALUE
  • LINENO: when a given line number is encountered
  • MODULE_ENTER: at the very beginning of a module (wrapped in a if __name__ == '__main__')
  • MODULE_EXIT: at the very end of a module (wrapped in a if __name__ == '__main__')

Specific methods are available to handle these injection, for which the first step is to process the code to be injected to replace the templated values (e.g., {return_value}, {arguments}, etc.) and then compile the code.

The compiled code is what will be injected in the original bytecode.

Since the code might have external dependencies, it is possible to add new import statements (which are written in the module), using SimpleRewriter.insert_import

Bytecode Analysis

For smarter instrumentation, you often need to perform lightweight analysis of the bytecode. equip provides some capabilities in this domain with:

  • Construction of the ControlFlow graph (associated with one Declaration)
  • Dominance properties are also computed (dominator tree, post-dominators, dominance frontier) and provided by the DominatorTree utility
  • Traversals to help with searching the CFG