Blinker Documentation

Blinker provides fast & simple object-to-object and broadcast signaling for Python objects.

The core of Blinker is quite small but provides powerful features:

  • a global registry of named signals
  • anonymous signals
  • custom name registries
  • permanently or temporarily connected receivers
  • automatically disconnected receivers via weak referencing
  • sending arbitrary data payloads
  • collecting return values from signal receivers
  • thread safety

Blinker was written by Jason Kirtand and is provided under the MIT License. The library supports Python 2.4 or later; Python 3.0 or later; or Jython 2.5 or later; or PyPy 1.6 or later.

Decoupling With Named Signals

Named signals are created with signal():

>>> from blinker import signal
>>> initialized = signal('initialized')
>>> initialized is signal('initialized')

Every call to signal('name') returns the same signal object, allowing unconnected parts of code (different modules, plugins, anything) to all use the same signal without requiring any code sharing or special imports.

Subscribing to Signals

Signal.connect() registers a function to be invoked each time the signal is emitted. Connected functions are always passed the object that caused the signal to be emitted.

>>> def subscriber(sender):
...     print("Got a signal sent by %r" % sender)
>>> ready = signal('ready')
>>> ready.connect(subscriber)
<function subscriber at 0x...>

Emitting Signals

Code producing events of interest can Signal.send() notifications to all connected receivers.

Below, a simple Processor class emits a ready signal when it’s about to process something, and complete when it is done. It passes self to the send() method, signifying that that particular instance was responsible for emitting the signal.

>>> class Processor:
...    def __init__(self, name):
... = name
...    def go(self):
...        ready = signal('ready')
...        ready.send(self)
...        print("Processing.")
...        complete = signal('complete')
...        complete.send(self)
...    def __repr__(self):
...        return '<Processor %s>' %
>>> processor_a = Processor('a')
>>> processor_a.go()
Got a signal sent by <Processor a>

Notice the complete signal in go()? No receivers have connected to complete yet, and that’s a-ok. Calling send() on a signal with no receivers will result in no notifications being sent, and these no-op sends are optimized to be as inexpensive as possible.

Subscribing to Specific Senders

The default connection to a signal invokes the receiver function when any sender emits it. The Signal.connect() function accepts an optional argument to restrict the subscription to one specific sending object:

>>> def b_subscriber(sender):
...     print("Caught signal from processor_b.")
...     assert == 'b'
>>> processor_b = Processor('b')
>>> ready.connect(b_subscriber, sender=processor_b)
<function b_subscriber at 0x...>

This function has been subscribed to ready but only when sent by processor_b:

>>> processor_a.go()
Got a signal sent by <Processor a>
>>> processor_b.go()
Got a signal sent by <Processor b>
Caught signal from processor_b.

Sending and Receiving Data Through Signals

Additional keyword arguments can be passed to send(). These will in turn be passed to the connected functions:

>>> send_data = signal('send-data')
>>> @send_data.connect
... def receive_data(sender, **kw):
...     print("Caught signal from %r, data %r" % (sender, kw))
...     return 'received!'
>>> result = send_data.send('anonymous', abc=123)
Caught signal from 'anonymous', data {'abc': 123}

The return value of send() collects the return values of each connected function as a list of (receiver function, return value) pairs:

>>> result
[(<function receive_data at 0x...>, 'received!')]

Anonymous Signals

Signals need not be named. The Signal constructor creates a unique signal each time it is invoked. For example, an alternative implementation of the Processor from above might provide the processing signals as class attributes:

>>> from blinker import Signal
>>> class AltProcessor:
...    on_ready = Signal()
...    on_complete = Signal()
...    def __init__(self, name):
... = name
...    def go(self):
...        self.on_ready.send(self)
...        print("Alternate processing.")
...        self.on_complete.send(self)
...    def __repr__(self):
...        return '<AltProcessor %s>' %

connect as a Decorator

You may have noticed the return value of connect() in the console output in the sections above. This allows connect to be used as a decorator on functions:

>>> apc = AltProcessor('c')
>>> @apc.on_complete.connect
... def completed(sender):
...     print "AltProcessor %s completed!" %
>>> apc.go()
Alternate processing.
AltProcessor c completed!

While convenient, this form unfortunately does not allow the sender or weak arguments to be customized for the connected function. For this, connect_via() can be used:

>>> dice_roll = signal('dice_roll')
>>> @dice_roll.connect_via(1)
... @dice_roll.connect_via(3)
... @dice_roll.connect_via(5)
... def odd_subscriber(sender):
...     print("Observed dice roll %r." % sender)
>>> result = dice_roll.send(3)
Observed dice roll 3.

Optimizing Signal Sending

Signals are optimized to send very quickly, whether receivers are connected or not. If the keyword data to be sent with a signal is expensive to compute, it can be more efficient to check to see if any receivers are connected first by testing the receivers property:

>>> bool(signal('ready').receivers)
>>> bool(signal('complete').receivers)
>>> bool(AltProcessor.on_complete.receivers)

Checking for a receiver listening for a particular sender is also possible:

>>> signal('ready').has_receivers_for(processor_a)

Documenting Signals

Both named and anonymous signals can be passed a doc argument at construction to set the pydoc help text for the signal. This documentation will be picked up by most documentation generators (such as sphinx) and is nice for documenting any additional data parameters that will be sent down with the signal.

See the documentation of the receiver_connected built-in signal for an example.

API Documentation

All public API members can (and should) be imported from blinker:

from blinker import ANY, signal

Basic Signals

blinker.base.ANY = ANY

Token for “any sender”.

blinker.base.receiver_connected = <blinker.base.Signal object at 0x1041516d0>

Sent by a Signal after a receiver connects.

Argument :

the Signal that was connected to

  • receiver_arg – the connected receiver
  • sender_arg – the sender to connect to
  • weak_arg – true if the connection to receiver_arg is a weak reference

Deprecated since version 1.2.

As of 1.2, individual signals have their own private receiver_connected and receiver_disconnected signals with a slightly simplified call signature. This global signal is planned to be removed in 1.6.

class blinker.base.Signal(doc=None)

A notification emitter.

Parameters:doc – optional. If provided, will be assigned to the signal’s __doc__ attribute.

An ANY convenience synonym, allows Signal.ANY without an additional import.


Emitted after each connect().

The signal sender is the signal instance, and the connect() arguments are passed through: receiver, sender, and weak.

New in version 1.2.


Emitted after disconnect().

The sender is the signal instance, and the disconnect() arguments are passed through: receiver and sender.

Note, this signal is emitted only when disconnect() is called explicitly.

The disconnect signal can not be emitted by an automatic disconnect (due to a weakly referenced receiver or sender going out of scope), as the receiver and/or sender instances are no longer available for use at the time this signal would be emitted.

An alternative approach is available by subscribing to receiver_connected and setting up a custom weakref cleanup callback on weak receivers and senders.

New in version 1.2.

receivers = None

A mapping of connected receivers.

The values of this mapping are not meaningful outside of the internal Signal implementation, however the boolean value of the mapping is useful as an extremely efficient check to see if any receivers are connected to the signal.

connect(receiver, sender=ANY, weak=True)

Connect receiver to signal events sent by sender.

  • receiver – A callable. Will be invoked by send() with sender= as a single positional argument and any **kwargs that were provided to a call to send().
  • sender – Any object or ANY, defaults to ANY. Restricts notifications delivered to receiver to only those send() emissions sent by sender. If ANY, the receiver will always be notified. A receiver may be connected to multiple sender values on the same Signal through multiple calls to connect().
  • weak – If true, the Signal will hold a weakref to receiver and automatically disconnect when receiver goes out of scope or is garbage collected. Defaults to True.
connect_via(sender, weak=False)

Connect the decorated function as a receiver for sender.

  • sender – Any object or ANY. The decorated function will only receive send() emissions sent by sender. If ANY, the receiver will always be notified. A function may be decorated multiple times with differing sender values.
  • weak – If true, the Signal will hold a weakref to the decorated function and automatically disconnect when receiver goes out of scope or is garbage collected. Unlike connect(), this defaults to False.
The decorated function will be invoked by send() with
sender= as a single positional argument and any **kwargs that were provided to the call to send().

New in version 1.1.

connected_to(*args, **kwds)

Execute a block with the signal temporarily connected to receiver.

  • receiver – a receiver callable
  • sender – optional, a sender to filter on

This is a context manager for use in the with statement. It can be useful in unit tests. receiver is connected to the signal for the duration of the with block, and will be disconnected automatically when exiting the block:

with on_ready.connected_to(receiver):
   # do stuff

New in version 1.1.

disconnect(receiver, sender=ANY)

Disconnect receiver from this signal’s events.

  • receiver – a previously connected callable
  • sender – a specific sender to disconnect from, or ANY to disconnect from all senders. Defaults to ANY.

True if there is probably a receiver for sender.

Performs an optimistic check only. Does not guarantee that all weakly referenced receivers are still alive. See receivers_for() for a stronger search.


Iterate all live receivers listening for sender.

send(*sender, **kwargs)

Emit this signal on behalf of sender, passing on **kwargs.

Returns a list of 2-tuples, pairing receivers with their return value. The ordering of receiver notification is undefined.

  • *sender – Any object or None. If omitted, synonymous with None. Only accepts one positional argument.
  • **kwargs – Data to be sent to receivers.
temporarily_connected_to(receiver, sender=ANY)

An alias for connected_to().

  • receiver – a receiver callable
  • sender – optional, a sender to filter on

New in version 0.9.

Changed in version 1.1: Renamed to connected_to(). temporarily_connected_to was deprecated in 1.2 and will be removed in a subsequent version.

Named Signals

blinker.base.signal(name, doc=None)

Return the NamedSignal name, creating it if required.

Repeated calls to this function will return the same signal object. Signals are created in a global Namespace.

class blinker.base.NamedSignal(name, doc=None)

Bases: blinker.base.Signal

A named generic notification emitter.

name = None

The name of this signal.

class blinker.base.Namespace

Bases: dict

A mapping of signal names to signals.

signal(name, doc=None)

Return the NamedSignal name, creating it if required.

Repeated calls to this function will return the same signal object.

class blinker.base.WeakNamespace(*args, **kw)

Bases: weakref.WeakValueDictionary

A weak mapping of signal names to signals.

Automatically cleans up unused Signals when the last reference goes out of scope. This namespace implementation exists for a measure of legacy compatibility with Blinker <= 1.2, and may be dropped in the future.

New in version 1.3.

signal(name, doc=None)

Return the NamedSignal name, creating it if required.

Repeated calls to this function will return the same signal object.

Blinker Changelog

Version 1.4

Released July 23, 2015

  • Verified Python 3.4 support (no changes needed)
  • Additional bookkeeping cleanup for non-ANY connections at disconnect time.
  • Added Signal._cleanup_bookeeping() to prune stale bookkeeping on demand

Version 1.3

Released July 3, 2013

  • The global signal stash behind blinker.signal() is now backed by a regular name-to-Signal dictionary. Previously, weak references were held in the mapping and ephermal usage in code like signal('foo').connect(...) could have surprising program behavior depending on import order of modules.
  • blinker.Namespace is now built on a regular dict. Use blinker.WeakNamespace for the older, weak-referencing behavior.
  • Signal.connect(‘text-sender’) uses an alterate hashing strategy to avoid sharp edges in text identity.

Version 1.2

Released October 26, 2011

  • Added Signal.receiver_connected and Signal.receiver_disconnected per-Signal signals.
  • Deprecated the global ‘receiver_connected’ signal.
  • Verified Python 3.2 support (no changes needed!)

Version 1.1

Released July 21, 2010

  • Added @signal.connect_via(sender) decorator
  • Added signal.connected_to shorthand name for the temporarily_connected_to context manager.

Version 1.0

Released March 28, 2010

  • Python 3.0 and 3.1 compatibility

Version 0.9

Released February 26, 2010

  • Added Signal.temporarily_connected_to context manager
  • Docs! Sphinx docs, project web site.

Version 0.8

Released February 14, 2010

  • Initial release
  • Extracted from flatland.util.signals
  • Added Python 2.4 compatibility
  • Added nearly functional Python 3.1 compatibility (everything except connecting to instance methods seems to work.)
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