Understanding the if __name__ == "__main__" Statement in Python


When working with Python, you may have come across the statement if __name__ == "__main__" at the beginning of a script or module. This statement serves a special purpose in Python programs, allowing you to control the behavior of your code when it is executed directly as a script versus being imported as a module. In this article, we will explore the concept behind if __name__ == "__main__" and why it is commonly used in Python programming.

Understanding the Statement

The if __name__ == "__main__" statement is a conditional check that evaluates to True only if the current module or script is being executed directly as the main program. In other words, if the module or script is imported as a module by another program, the __name__ variable is set to the name of the module or script, rather than "__main__". This allows you to differentiate between the main program and imported modules, and execute specific code blocks accordingly.

Let's consider an example to understand this better. Suppose you have a Python script called my_script.py with the following code:

                # my_script.py
                def say_hello():
                    print("Hello, World!")
                if __name__ == "__main__":

In this example, the say_hello() function is defined, which simply prints "Hello, World!". If you execute this script directly, i.e., by running python my_script.py in the command line, the __name__ variable will be set to "__main__" and the code block inside the if __name__ == "__main__" statement will be executed, resulting in the output:

                Hello, World!

On the other hand, if you import the my_script module into another Python script or interactive session, the __name__ variable will be set to "my_script" instead of "__main__", and the code block inside the if __name__ == "__main__" statement will not be executed automatically. This allows you to use the functions and variables defined in the my_script module without the additional code running by default.

Why Use if __name__ == "__main__"?

Now that we understand how if __name__ == "__main__" works, let's discuss why you might want to use this statement in your Python programs. There are several reasons why the if __name__ == "__main__" idiom is commonly employed:

  • Module Execution vs. Import: Python modules can be executed directly as scripts or imported into other programs as modules. By using the if __name__ == "__main__" statement, you can differentiate between these two modes and execute specific code only when the module is run as the main program.
  • Testing and Debugging: When you are developing a Python module or script, you may want to include a section of code that is only executed when you run the module directly for testing or debugging purposes. Instead of commenting out or removing this code before importing the module, you can encapsulate it within the if __name__ == "__main__" statement to ensure it is executed only in the desired scenario.
  • Code Organization and Readability: The if __name__ == "__main__" statement can be used as a convenient way to organize and structure your code. By containing the main execution logic within this statement, you can make it clear to other developers which part of the module is intended to be executed directly and which parts are meant for internal use or as helper functions.


Let's explore a few examples to see if __name__ == "__main__" in action.

Example 1: Simple Hello World

In this example, we have a simple Python script that prints "Hello, World!" when executed directly:

                # hello_world.py
                def say_hello():
                    print("Hello, World!")
                if __name__ == "__main__":

When we run this script using python hello_world.py in the command line, we get the output:

                Hello, World!

However, if we import the hello_world module into another Python script, nothing is printed since the if __name__ == "__main__" code block is not executed by default.

Example 2: Calculator Module

Let's say we have a Python module called calculator.py that contains various mathematical functions. In addition to the mathematical functions, we also want to include a simple demo that shows how to use these functions. We can achieve this by using the if __name__ == "__main__" statement, as shown below:

                # calculator.py
                def add(a, b):
                    return a + b
                def subtract(a, b):
                    return a - b
                def multiply(a, b):
                    return a * b
                def divide(a, b):
                    return a / b
                if __name__ == "__main__":
                    num1 = 10
                    num2 = 5
                    print("Adding:", add(num1, num2))
                    print("Subtracting:", subtract(num1, num2))
                    print("Multiplying:", multiply(num1, num2))
                    print("Dividing:", divide(num1, num2))

When we run this module directly, we get the output:

                Adding: 15
                Subtracting: 5
                Multiplying: 50
                Dividing: 2.0

On the other hand, if we import the calculator module into another Python script, none of the demo code will be executed by default. We can use the mathematical functions defined in the module without running the extra code.


The if __name__ == "__main__" statement in Python allows you to control the behavior of your code when it is executed directly as a script versus being imported as a module. By encapsulating code within this statement, you can ensure that it is only executed in the desired scenario, providing flexibility, code organization, and readability. Understanding and utilizing this idiom is an essential aspect of Python programming.