Python Pipelines Guideline for Beginners

If you’re a Python developer, you might be familiar with the concept of “pipelines”. But what exactly does it mean? And what benefits do pipelines offer? In this blog, we’ll delve into the concept of pipelines in Python, and the advantages they bring to your code in terms of readability and efficiency.

Python Pipelines: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

What are Pipelines in Python?

So, what are pipelines in Python?

For those who don’t know, pipelines serve as a systematic arrangement of continuous operations or functions designed to handle data. The output of each operation serves as the input for the subsequent one, creating a continuous flow until the ultimate result is achieved. Conceptually, pipelines can be visualized as a sequence of interconnected pipes, facilitating the smooth flow of data from one pipe to another, undergoing various transformations or manipulations occurring throughout the process. 

What are Pipelines in Python Example

Solution 1: Creating a Loop

An approach to do this involves creating a loop that iterates the list and applies each operation one by one, storing the intermediate outcome in a new list. For example:

Example of non Pipelines in Python

This code works, but it’s not very clean or efficient. It makes three new lists, taking up memory and making the code harder to follow. Plus, it involves writing four loops, which can be a bit tedious and error-prone.

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Solution 2: Use a Pipeline

A smarter way is to use a pipeline. Think of it like a series of connected steps. Instead of creating extra lists and loops, you can link the operations together. To do this, we can use the built-in map and filter. These functions apply a given operation to each element of a group without creating extra lists. There are also the sum and len functions that calculate the total and length of an iterable, respectively. Here’s an example to illustrate this idea:

Pipe function in Python - Example

This new code is shorter and simpler than the previous one. It avoids creating extra lists or loops and makes it clear how data moves from one step to the next. However, it’s not super easy to read because it uses nested map and filter calls, which might be confusing.

Solution 3: Use the Pipeline Function

A better way to make the code more readable is by using the pipe function from the toolz library. The pipe function takes an initial value and a sequence of functions. It then applies each function to the result of the previous one, making it easier to understand the overall flow of the code. For instance:

Using the pipe function from the toolz library

This new code is easier to understand and more elegant compared to the old ones. It clearly shows the sequence of operations that are applied to the data, and it doesn’t use complicated nested calls or extra lists in between. The pipe function makes the code look like a series of connected steps, where the data smoothly goes from one action to the next.

Why You Should Use Pipelines?

Pipelines are used for several reasons, providing a structured and efficient way to handle complex processes. Here are some common reasons why pipelines are used:

    • Readability: Using pipelines in your code makes it easier to read and understand. Pipelines help you see how data moves from one step to the next, without making the code messy with extra variables or loops. Pipelines also make your code modular and reusable because you can break down each step into its own function. This makes it simple to test and use those functions in different situations.
    • Efficiency: Pipelines can make your code run faster and use less memory. Instead of creating temporary lists or collections that can slow things down, pipelines let you perform operations only when necessary. As a result, this saves time and resources, especially when working with big or endless amounts of data.
  • Flexibility: Pipelines are like flexible sets of instructions that you can easily adjust or add to. You can change the order of the steps or even remove some, and it won’t mess up the rest of the plan. These pipelines can do different things like sifting, organizing, simplifying, combining, grouping, and arranging info in different ways to get the outcomes you want.
  • Debugging and Monitoring: With well-defined stages, it becomes easier to identify and fix issues at specific points in the pipeline. Additionally, monitoring the pipeline’s progress and performance is more straightforward, enabling better management and optimization.
  • Security and Compliance: In some industries, compliance and security standards are crucial. Pipelines can be designed to include necessary checks, validations, and security measures at various stages, ensuring that the process adheres to regulatory requirements.

How to Use Pipelines in Python?

There are various ways to set up and use pipelines in Python. Here are a few methods:

  • Using Built-in Functions: Python comes with pre-built functions like map, filter, reduce, zip, enumerate, sorted, and reverse. These functions take a function and a sequence of items as inputs, producing a new sequence by applying the function to each element of the original one.
  • Using List Comprehensions: List comprehensions offer a concise way to create lists in Python. They can also be employed for pipelines. In this approach, you perform a sequence of operations on each element of a list and collect the results in a new list.
  • Using Generator Expressions: Generator expressions are similar to list comprehensions but return a generator object instead of a list. Generators produce elements on the fly without storing them in memory. You can utilize generator expressions to create pipelines by applying a series of operations to each element and yielding the results one at a time.

Some Common Libraries for Pipelining in Python

  • scikit-learn: scikit-learn is a widely used machine learning library in Python that provides a range of tools for data preprocessing, feature extraction, model training, and evaluation. It also offers functionality for building and executing machine learning pipelines using the Pipeline class, allowing for seamless integration of various preprocessing and modeling steps.
  • TensorFlow: TensorFlow is a powerful open-source library for machine learning and deep learning. It provides tools for building and training neural networks and supports the creation of complex pipelines using its high-level API called TensorFlow Extended (TFX). TFX enables the construction of end-to-end machine learning workflows, including data validation, preprocessing, model training, and serving.
  • Apache Airflow: Apache Airflow is a popular platform for programmatically authoring, scheduling, and monitoring workflows. It allows the creation of complex data pipelines by defining tasks and their dependencies as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs). Airflow provides a rich set of operators for performing diverse tasks, such as data ingestion, transformation, and model training, and it offers powerful features for managing and monitoring pipeline execution.


It can be said that pipelines in Python offer a powerful and efficient approach to data processing and analysis. This guide has equipped beginners with the necessary knowledge and resources to embark on their pipeline journey, laying the foundation for building scalable, reproductive, and modular data workflows. With continuous learning and practice, you can unlock the full potential of Python pipelines and make significant strides in your data-driven projects.

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