Using Cython with NumPyΒΆ

Cython has support for fast access to NumPy arrays. To optimize code using such arrays one must cimport the NumPy pxd file (which ships with Cython), and declare any arrays as having the ndarray type. The data type and number of dimensions should be fixed at compile-time and passed. For instance:

import numpy as np
cimport numpy as np
def myfunc(np.ndarray[np.float64_t, ndim=2] A):
    <...>

myfunc can now only be passed two-dimensional arrays containing double precision floats, but array indexing operation is much, much faster, making it suitable for numerical loops. Expect speed increases well over 100 times over a pure Python loop; in some cases the speed increase can be as high as 700 times or more. [Seljebotn09] contains detailed examples and benchmarks.

Fast array declarations can currently only be used with function local variables and arguments to def-style functions (not with arguments to cpdef or cdef, and neither with fields in cdef classes or as global variables). These limitations are considered known defects and we hope to remove them eventually. In most circumstances it is possible to work around these limitations rather easily and without a significant speed penalty, as all NumPy arrays can also be passed as untyped objects.

Array indexing is only optimized if exactly as many indices are provided as the number of array dimensions. Furthermore, all indices must have a native integer type. Slices and NumPy “fancy indexing” is not optimized. Examples:

def myfunc(np.ndarray[np.float64_t, ndim=1] A):
    cdef Py_ssize_t i, j
    for i in range(A.shape[0]):
        print A[i, 0] # fast
        j = 2*i
        print A[i, j] # fast
        k = 2*i
        print A[i, k] # slow, k is not typed
        print A[i][j] # slow
        print A[i,:]  # slow

Py_ssize_t is a signed integer type provided by Python which covers the same range of values as is supported as NumPy array indices. It is the preferred type to use for loops over arrays.

Any Cython primitive type (float, complex float and integer types) can be passed as the array data type. For each valid dtype in the numpy module (such as np.uint8, np.complex128) there is a corresponding Cython compile-time definition in the cimport-ed NumPy pxd file with a _t suffix [1]. Cython structs are also allowed and corresponds to NumPy record arrays. Examples:

cdef packed struct Point:
    np.float64_t x, y

def f():
    cdef np.ndarray[np.complex128_t, ndim=3] a = \
        np.zeros((3,3,3), dtype=np.complex128)
    cdef np.ndarray[Point] b = np.zeros(10,
        dtype=np.dtype([('x', np.float64),
                        ('y', np.float64)]))
    <...>

Note that ndim defaults to 1. Also note that NumPy record arrays are by default unaligned, meaning data is packed as tightly as possible without considering the alignment preferences of the CPU. Such unaligned record arrays corresponds to a Cython packed struct. If one uses an aligned dtype, by passing align=True to the dtype constructor, one must drop the packed keyword on the struct definition.

Some data types are not yet supported, like boolean arrays and string arrays. Also data types describing data which is not in the native endian will likely never be supported. It is however possible to access such arrays on a lower level by casting the arrays:

cdef np.ndarray[np.uint8, cast=True] boolarr = (x < y)
cdef np.ndarray[np.uint32, cast=True] values = \
    np.arange(10, dtype='>i4')

Assuming one is on a little-endian system, the values array can still access the raw bit content of the array (which must then be reinterpreted to yield valid results on a little-endian system).

Finally, note that typed NumPy array variables in some respects behave a little differently from untyped arrays. arr.shape is no longer a tuple. arr.shape[0] is valid but to e.g. print the shape one must do print (<object>arr).shape in order to “untype” the variable first. The same is true for arr.data (which in typed mode is a C data pointer).

There are many more options for optimizations to consider for Cython and NumPy arrays. We again refer the interested reader to [Seljebotn09].

[1]In Cython 0.11.2, np.complex64_t and np.complex128_t does not work and one must write complex or double complex instead. This is fixed in 0.11.3. Cython 0.11.1 and earlier does not support complex numbers.
[Seljebotn09](1, 2) D. S. Seljebotn, Fast numerical computations with Cython, Proceedings of the 8th Python in Science Conference, 2009.
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