Iterating in fixed-size chunks in Python

Here’s a fairly common problem I have: I have an iterable, and I want to go through it in “chunks”. Rather than looking at every item of the sequence one-by-one, I want to process multiple elements at once.

For example, when I’m using the bulk APIs in Elasticsearch, I can index many document with a single API call, which is more efficient than making a new API call for every document.

Here’s the sort of output I want:

for c in chunked_iterable(range(14), size=4):
    print(c)

# (0, 1, 2, 3)
# (4, 5, 6, 7)
# (8, 9, 10, 11)
# (12, 13)

I have two requirements which are often missed in Stack Overflow answers or other snippets I’ve found:

So to save me having to find it again, this is what I usually use:

import itertools


def chunked_iterable(iterable, size):
    it = iter(iterable)
    while True:
        chunk = tuple(itertools.islice(it, size))
        if not chunk:
            break
        yield chunk

Most of the heavy lifting is done by itertools.islice(); I call that repeatedly until it returns an empty sequence. The itertools module has lots of useful functions for this sort of thing.

The it = iter(iterable) line may be non-obvious – this ensures that the value it is using the same iterator throughout. If you pass certain fixed iterables to islice(), it creates a new iterator each time – and then you only ever get the first handful of elements.

For example, trying to call chunked_iterable([1, 2, 3, 4, 5], size=2) without this line would emit [1, 2] forever.

I think it’s the difference between a container (for which iter(…) returns a new object each time) and an iterator (for which iter(…) returns itself). I forget the exact details, but I remember first reading about this in Brett Slatkin’s book Effective Python.