In object-oriented programming, the decorator pattern is a design pattern that allows behavior to be added to an individual object, dynamically, without affecting the behavior of other objects from the same class. The decorator pattern is often useful for adhering to the Single Responsibility Principle, as it allows functionality to be divided between classes with unique areas of concern. The decorator pattern is structurally nearly identical to the chain of responsibility pattern, the difference being that in a chain of responsibility, exactly one of the classes handles the request, while for the decorator, all classes handle the request.
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There is some history in Java using @ initially as a marker in Javadoc comments  and later in Java 1.5 for annotations , which are similar to Python decorators. The fact that @ was previously unused as a token in Python also means it's clear there is no possibility of such code being parsed by an earlier version of Python, leading to possibly subtle semantic bugs. It also means that ambiguity of what is a decorator and what isn't is removed. That said, @ is still a fairly arbitrary choice. Some have suggested using | instead.
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Concrete Decorator: Here we have two concrete decorators, ExcitedMessageDecorator and QuizzicalMessageDecorator, each of which descends from the abstract MessageDecorator class. However, these decorators do have special behavior in that they override the GetMessage and PrintMessage behaviors and enhance them by calling the base version from MessageDecorator (which in turn delegates to the relevant IMessage object) and then appending exclamations.
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Overall unfamiliarity with the concept. For people who have a passing acquaintance with algebra (or even basic arithmetic) or have used at least one other programming language, much of Python is intuitive. Very few people will have had any experience with the decorator concept before encountering it in Python. There's just no strong preexisting meme that captures the concept.
In Python 2.4a3 (to be released this Thursday), everything remains as currently in CVS. For 2.4b1, I will consider a change of @ to some other single character, even though I think that @ has the advantage of being the same character used by a similar feature in Java. It's been argued that it's not quite the same, since @ in Java is used for attributes that don't change semantics. But Python's dynamic nature makes that its syntactic elements never mean quite the same thing as similar constructs in other languages, and there is definitely significant overlap. Regarding the impact on 3rd party tools: IPython's author doesn't think there's going to be much impact; Leo's author has said that Leo will survive (although it will cause him and his users some transitional pain). I actually expect that picking a character that's already used elsewhere in Python's syntax might be harder for external tools to adapt to, since parsing will have to be more subtle in that case. But I'm frankly undecided, so there's some wiggle room here. I don't want to consider further syntactic alternatives at this point: the buck has to stop at some point, everyone has had their say, and the show must go on.
As an example, consider a window in a windowing system. To allow scrolling of the window's contents, one may wish to add horizontal or vertical scrollbars to it, as appropriate. Assume windows are represented by instances of the Window interface, and assume this class has no functionality for adding scrollbars. One could create a subclass ScrollingWindow that provides them, or create a ScrollingWindowDecorator that adds this functionality to existing Window objects. At this point, either solution would be fine.
When we instantiate a SimpleMessage and then pass it to the various decorators, we now get new behavior. Moreover, since both the concrete component and the concrete decorators all implement / descend from IMessage, they are interchangeable as far as the program is concerned, meaning that we can loop over them together. Further, rather than having to create a new ExcitedAndQuizzicalMessageDecorator class, we were able to achieve the same effect by double wrapping a SimpleMessage object (first in an ExcitedMessageDecorator and then in a QuizzicalMessageDecorator). Finally, note that despite having been passed into various decorators, our simpleMsg object remains unchanged at the end of the program.
Writing a class decorator is very similar to writing a function decorator. The only difference is that the decorator will receive a class and not a function as an argument. In fact, all the decorators you saw above will work as class decorators. When you are using them on a class instead of a function, their effect might not be what you want. In the following example, the @timer decorator is applied to a class:
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