This module provides mechanisms to use signal handlers in Python.
Some general rules for working with signals and their handlers:
- A handler for a particular signal, once set, remains installed until
it is explicitly reset (i.e. Python emulates the BSD style interface
regardless of the underlying implementation), with the exception of
the handler for SIGCHLD, which follows the underlying
- There is no way to ``block'' signals temporarily from critical
sections (since this is not supported by all Unix flavors).
- Although Python signal handlers are called asynchronously as far as
the Python user is concerned, they can only occur between the
``atomic'' instructions of the Python interpreter. This means that
signals arriving during long calculations implemented purely in C
(e.g. regular expression matches on large bodies of text) may be
delayed for an arbitrary amount of time.
- When a signal arrives during an I/O operation, it is possible that the
I/O operation raises an exception after the signal handler returns.
This is dependent on the underlying Unix system's semantics regarding
interrupted system calls.
- Because the C signal handler always returns, it makes little sense to
catch synchronous errors like SIGFPE or SIGSEGV.
- Python installs a small number of signal handlers by default:
SIGPIPE is ignored (so write errors on pipes and sockets can be
reported as ordinary Python exceptions) and SIGINT is translated
into a KeyboardInterrupt exception. All of these can be
- Some care must be taken if both signals and threads are used in the
same program. The fundamental thing to remember in using signals and
threads simultaneously is: always perform signal() operations
in the main thread of execution. Any thread can perform an
alarm(), getsignal(), or pause();
only the main thread can set a new signal handler, and the main thread
will be the only one to receive signals (this is enforced by the
Python signal module, even if the underlying thread
implementation supports sending signals to individual threads). This
means that signals can't be used as a means of inter-thread
communication. Use locks instead.
The variables defined in the signal module are:
This is one of two standard signal handling options; it will simply
perform the default function for the signal. For example, on most
systems the default action for SIGQUIT is to dump core
and exit, while the default action for SIGCLD is to
simply ignore it.
This is another standard signal handler, which will simply ignore
the given signal.
All the signal numbers are defined symbolically. For example, the
hangup signal is defined as signal.SIGHUP; the variable names
are identical to the names used in C programs, as found in
The Unix man page for `signal()' lists the existing
signals (on some systems this is signal(2), on others the
list is in signal(7)).
Note that not all systems define the same set of signal names; only
those names defined by the system are defined by this module.
One more than the number of the highest signal number.
The signal module defines the following functions:
- alarm (time)
If time is non-zero, this function requests that a
SIGALRM signal be sent to the process in time seconds.
Any previously scheduled alarm is canceled (i.e. only one alarm can
be scheduled at any time). The returned value is then the number of
seconds before any previously set alarm was to have been delivered.
If time is zero, no alarm id scheduled, and any scheduled
alarm is canceled. The return value is the number of seconds
remaining before a previously scheduled alarm. If the return value
is zero, no alarm is currently scheduled. (See the Unix man page
- getsignal (signalnum)
Return the current signal handler for the signal signalnum.
The returned value may be a callable Python object, or one of the
special values signal.SIG_IGN, signal.SIG_DFL or
None. Here, signal.SIG_IGN means that the
signal was previously ignored, signal.SIG_DFL means that the
default way of handling the signal was previously in use, and
None means that the previous signal handler was not installed
- pause ()
Cause the process to sleep until a signal is received; the
appropriate handler will then be called. Returns nothing. (See the
Unix man page signal(2).)
- signal (signalnum, handler)
Set the handler for signal signalnum to the function
handler. handler can be a callable Python object
taking two arguments (see below), or
one of the special values signal.SIG_IGN or
signal.SIG_DFL. The previous signal handler will be returned
(see the description of getsignal() above). (See the
Unix man page signal(2).)
When threads are enabled, this function can only be called from the
main thread; attempting to call it from other threads will cause a
ValueError exception to be raised.
The handler is called with two arguments: the signal number
and the current stack frame (
None or a frame object; see the
reference manual for a description of frame objects).
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