Static analysis tool for Python

ast, attribute, type, object, hierarchy, tree, static, analysis, dependency, module, abstract-syntax-tree, python, tree-algorithms, trees
pip install saplings==4.3.1


saplings is a Python library for searching, analyzing, and transforming Abstract Syntax Trees (ASTs). It provides some generic algorithms (saplings) that work with Python's built-in ast module. Each sapling belongs to one of two categories:

  • Traversals:
    • Searching for nodes by type, id, attribute, or scope
    • Generating frequency maps for specific nodes
    • Applying custom transformations to the tree
  • Analyses:


Compiled binaries are available for every release, and you can also install saplings with pip:

$ pip install saplings

Requires Python 3.0 or higher.


To get started, import the Harvester object from saplings and initialize it with the root node of your AST. The Harvester object holds your AST and exposes instance methods (aka saplings) for traversing and analyzing that tree.

import ast
from saplings import Harvester

my_file = open("path/to/", 'r').read()
my_ast = ast.parse(my_file)
my_harvester = Harvester(my_ast)

Harvester Object

Harvester holds the root node of your AST and inherits from ast.NodeVisitor. Every traversal is depth-first by default. The following saplings are currently available:

find(nodes=[], skip=[]) -> List[ast.Node]

Returns a list of matching AST nodes. nodes is a list of node types to retrieve and the skip parameter is a list of subtrees to skip in the traversal. Both parameters are optional, and by default find() will return a list of all nodes contained in the AST.

# Retrieves all list, set, and dictionary comprehension nodes
# from the AST, but skips nodes contained in functions

comprehensions = my_harvester.find(
     nodes=[ast.ListComp, ast.SetComp, ast.DictComp],
# stdout: [<_ast.ListComp object at 0x102a8dd30>, <_ast.ListComp object at 0x102b1a128>, <_ast.DictComp object at 0x102c2b142>]

get_freq_map(nodes=[], skip=[]) -> Dict[str, int]

Returns a dictionary mapping node types to their frequency of occurence in the AST. nodes is a list of nodes to analyze and the skip parameter is a list of subtrees to skip in the traversal. Both are optional, and by default get_freq_map() will return a dictionary containing all node types in the tree and their frequencies.

# Counts the number of 'while' and 'for' loops present in the AST

loop_freqs = my_harvester.get_freq_map(nodes=[ast.While, ast.For])
# stdout: {ast.While: 19, ast.For: 12}

transform(nodes=[], transformer=lambda node: node) -> ast.Node

Applies a user-defined transformation to specific nodes in the AST, and returns the root node of the modified AST. nodes is a list of nodes to apply the transformation to and the transformer parameter is a function that takes a node as input and returns a modified version. Both are optional, and by default transform() will return the root node of the original AST, unchanged.

# Replaces the value of all "olive" strings with "apple"

def str_transformer(node):
     if node.s == "olive":
          node.s = "apple"

     return node

apple_tree = my_harvester.transform(nodes=[ast.Str], transformer=str_transformer)

get_halstead(metric) -> float

Calculates and returns a Halstead complexity metric for the AST. metric is a string specifying the name of the metric to calculate. The following metrics are supported:

  • Volume: describes the implementation size of the program in mathematical bits
  • Time: estimates how long it might take to write the program in seconds
  • Bugs: estimates the number of errors in the program
# All possible method calls

volume = my_harvester.get_halstead("volume")
time = my_harvester.get_halstead("time")
bugs = my_harvester.get_halstead("bugs")

get_type(nodes) -> Dict[ast.Node, str]

Coming soon: basic type inference powered by MyPy's TypeChecker.

Node Groups

Coming soon!

Planting a Sapling

If you've written an AST-related algorithm that isn't in this library, feel free to make a contribution! Just fork the repo, make your changes, and then submit a pull request. If you do contribute, please follow the guidelines in the contributing guide.

If you've discovered a bug or have a feature request, just create an issue and I'll take care of it!