The main reason I use Shelve is to be able to quickly develop code without worrying about db table structure. Unfortunately changing a class name from, say, 'class1' to 'class2' gives "AttributeError: 'module' object has no attribute 'class2'" on the next run. What is the canonical way to rename a Shelved class? What other similar surprises are lurking deeper into the Shelve db structure?


Shelve uses pickle to serialize objects. Pickle loads objects by name; the module and class name are stored and looked up when deserialising.

The easiest way to support 'legacy' names is to simply create an alias:

class NewName(object):
    # a renamed object, once named OldName

# backwards-compatible names for unpickling
OldName = NewName

When unpickling, modulename.OldName is looked up and used, which is simply the same class as NewName. When storing a change in the shelve, the new name will be used.

  • Ok, seems to work with my simple data structures. In general, then, one would need 1) an OldName = NewName statement for each object renamed, and 2) a one time read + write of all objects, and 3) deleting all OldName = NewName. I'll do some experimenting. – Mayavimmer May 5 '14 at 16:52
  • @Mayavimmer: you can include the 'alias' in the code that does the shelve refresh; e.g. load everything, save everything again in a script, but include a import mymodule; mymodule.OldName = mymodule.NewName line to inject the alias just for the migration. – Martijn Pieters May 5 '14 at 16:54

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