Spec API vs. Python API

There are two ways of writing pipelines with Ploomber. This document discusses the differences and how to decide which API to use.

Data projects span a wide range of applications, from small projects requiring a few scripts to large ones requiring greater flexibility.

If you’re getting started, the Spec API is recommended. The Spec API is flexible enough to handle many common use cases without requiring you to learn a Python API, you can get started quickly and get pretty far using some of the advanced feature, check out the full documentation for details.

However, the Spec API is static, meaning that your pipeline.yaml completely describes your pipeline’s structure. Under some circumstances, you may want your pipeline to be more “dynamic.” For example, you may use some input parameters and create a “pipeline factory,” which is a function that takes those input parameters and creates a pipeline, allowing you to morph the specifics of your pipeline (number of tasks, dependencies among them, etc.) dynamically, you can only achieve so via the Python API is a. The downside is that it has a steeper learning curve.

There is a third way of assembling a pipeline by pointing to a directory with scripts. This API allows you quickly test simple pipelines that may only have a couple of tasks.

For examples using different APIs, click here

Depending on the API you use, the pipeline will be exposed to Ploomber differently. For example, if using the Spec API, you tell the pipeline to Ploomber by pointing to the path to a pipeline.yaml file, known as an entry point, discussed below.

Entry points

To execute your pipeline, Ploomber needs to know where it is. This location is known as “entry point”. There are three types of entry points (ordered by flexibility):

  1. A directory

  2. [Spec API] Spec (aka pipeline.yaml)

  3. [Python API] Factory function (a function that returns a DAG object)

The following sections describe each entry point in detail.

Directory entry point

Ploomber can figure out your pipeline without even having a pipeline.yaml, by just passing a directory. This kind of entry point is the simplest one but also, the less flexible, since there isn’t a pipeline definition, products must be declared in the source code itself. Note that only Python and R scripts support this, for example:

# + tags=["parameters"]
product = {'nb': 'output.ipynb', 'data': 'output.csv'}
upstream = ['a_task']
# -

# continues...

Internally, Ploomber uses the ploomber.spec.DAGSpec.from_directory method. See the documentation for details.

All commands that accept the --entry-point/-e parameter can take a directory as a value. For example, to build a pipeline using the current directory:

ploomber build --entry-point .

It’s also possible to select a subset of the files in a directory using a glob-like pattern:

ploomber build --entry-point "*.py" # note the quotes

Note: Pipelines built without a pipeline.yaml file cannot be parametrized.

[Spec API] Spec entry point

If you want to customize how Ploomber executes your pipeline, you have to create a pipeline.yaml file; this is known as a spec entry point. A pipeline.yaml file is the recommended approach for most projects: it has a good level of flexibility and doesn’t require you to learn Ploomber’s internal Python API.

To call a DAG defined in a path/to/pipeline.yaml file pass the path:

ploomber build --entry-point pah/to/pipeline.yaml

If your pipeline exists inside a package:

ploomber build --entry-point my_package::pah/to/pipeline.yaml

The command above searches for package my_package (by doing import my_package), then uses the relative path.

You can omit the --entry-point argument if the pipeline.yaml is in a standard location (Default locations).

An added feature is pipeline parametrization, to learn more Parametrized pipelines.

For schema details see: Spec API (pipeline.yaml).

[Python API] Factory entry point

The last approach requires you to write Python code to specify your pipeline. It has a steeper learning curve because you have to become familiar with the API specifics, but it provides the most significant level of flexibility.

The primary advantage is dynamic pipelines, whose exact number of tasks and dependency relations are determined when executing your Python code. For example, you might use a for loop to dynamically generate a few tasks based on some input parameters.

For Ploomber to know how to build your pipeline written as Python code, you have to provide a factory entry point, which is a function that returns a DAG object. For example, if your factory is a function called make in a file called pipeline.py, then your entry point is the dotted path pipeline.make, which may look like this:

from ploomber import DAG

def make():
    dag = DAG()
    # add tasks to your pipeline...
    return dag

You can execute commands against your pipeline like this:

ploomber {command} --entry-point pipeline.make

Internally, Ploomber will do something like this:

from pipeline import make

dag = make()

# (if using ploomber build)

If your factory function has arguments, they will show up in the CLI. This guide shows how to parametrize a factory function: Parametrized pipelines

If your factory function has a docstring, the first line displays in the CLI help menu (e.g. ploomber build --entry-point factory.make --help). If the docstring is in the numpydoc format (and numpydoc is installed, pip install numpydoc), descriptions for documented parameters will be displayed as well.