How to generate Python from Thrift.

When your Python code imports Thrift generated files, Pants will detect the imports and run the Apache Thrift compiler to generate those files.


Example repository

See the codegen example repository for an example of using Thrift to generate Python.


Benefit of Pants: generated files are always up-to-date

With Pants, there's no need to manually regenerate your code or check it into version control. Pants will ensure you are always using up-to-date files in your builds.

Thanks to fine-grained caching, Pants will regenerate the minimum amount of code required when you do make changes.

Step 1: Activate the Thrift Python backend

Add this to your pants.toml:

backend_packages.add = [

You will also need to make sure that thrift is discoverable on your PATH, as Pants does not install Thrift for you. Alternatively, you can tell Pants where to discover Thrift:

# Defaults to the special string "<PATH>", which expands to your $PATH.
thrift_search_paths = ["/usr/bin"]

This backend adds the new thrift_source target, which you can confirm by running ./pants help thrift_source.

To reduce boilerplate, you can also use the thrift_sources target, which generates one thrift_source target per file in the sources field.

thrift_sources(name="thrift", sources=["user.thrift", "admin.thrift"])

# Spiritually equivalent to:
thrift_source(name="user", source="user.thrift")
thrift_source(name="admin", source="admin.thrift")

# Thanks to the default `sources` value of '*.thrift', spiritually equivalent to:

Step 2: Set up the thrift runtime library

Generated Python files require the thrift dependency for their imports to work properly.

Add thrift to your project, e.g. your requirements.txt (see Third-party dependencies).


Pants will then automatically add these dependencies to your thrift_sources targets created in the next step.

Step 3: Generate thrift_sources target

Run ./pants tailor for Pants to create a thrift_sources target wherever you have .thrift files:

$ ./pants tailor
Created src/thrift/BUILD:
  - Add thrift_sources target thrift

Pants will use dependency inference for any import statements in your .thrift files, which you can confirm by running ./pants dependencies path/to/file.thrift. You should also see the python_requirement target for the thrift library from the previous step.

Step 4: Confirm Python imports are working

Now, you can import the generated Python modules in your Python code.

For each Thrift file, the compiler will generate at least three files,, and The location of those files—and corresponding imports—depends on whether you set namespace py in your .thrift file:

namespace py




Files generated as top-level modules, without any prefix directories.



  • user/
  • user/
  • user/

Python import:
import user.ttypes


Files generated into the namespace.

models/user.thrift, with namespace py custom_namespace.user


  • custom_namespace/
  • custom_namespace/user/
  • custom_namespace/user/
  • custom_namespace/user/

Python import:
import custom_namespace.user.ttypes

As shown in the table, your Python imports depend on whether the Thrift file uses namespace py.

Imports behave the same regardless of whether you have source roots, such as src/thrift. The import will still either be the top-level file like user.ttypes or the custom namespace.

Pants's dependency inference will detect Python imports of Thrift modules, which you can confirm by running ./pants dependencies path/to/

You can also manually add the dependency:



TIp: set namespace py

Pants can handle Thrift regardless of whether you set namespace py.

However, it's often a good idea to set the namespace because it can make your imports more predictable and declarative. It also reduces the risk of your Thrift file names conflicting with other Python modules used, such as those from third-party requirements.

For example, compare import user.ttypes to import codegen.models.user.ttypes.


Run ./pants export-codegen :: to inspect the files

./pants export-codegen :: will run all relevant code generators and write the files to dist/codegen using the same paths used normally by Pants.

You do not need to run this goal for codegen to work when using Pants; export-codegen is only for external consumption outside of Pants.

Multiple resolves

If you're using multiple resolves (i.e. multiple lockfiles), then you may need to set the python_resolve field. thrift_source targets only work with a single resolve, meaning, for example, that a python_source target that uses the resolve 'a' can only depend on Thrift targets that also uses this same resolve.

By default, thrift_source / thrift_sources targets use the resolve set by the option [python].default_resolve. To use a different resolve, set the field python_resolve: str to one of the values from the option [python].resolves.

You must also make sure that any resolves that use codegen include the python_requirement target for the thrift runtime library from Step 2. Pants will eagerly validate this for you.

For example:


    # Note that this version can be different than what we use 
    # above for `resolve-a`.



Pants 2.11 will be adding support for using the same thrift_source target with multiple resolves through a new parametrize() feature.

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