Wrapping new tools

This section serves as a reference for wrapping new tools as they are added to BEDTools.

Example program description

Let’s assume we would like to wrap a new program, appropriately named newProgramBed. Its signature from the command line is newProgramBed -a <infile> -b <other file> [options], and it accepts -a stdin to indicate data is being piped to it:

newProgramBed -a <BED/VCF/GFF> -b <BED/VCF/GFF> [options]

Method name

Generally, I’ve tried to keep method names as similar as possible to BEDTools programs while still being PEP8-compliant. The trailing ‘Bed’ is usually removed from the program name. So here the name would probably be new_program.

Define a method in BedTool

Define a method in BedTool … and don’t add any content to the function body. This is because the decorator we’re about to add will replace the method wholesale; anything that’s in the function body will effectively be ignored.

def new_program(self):

Add the _wraps() decorator

This is where most of the work happens.

Since most of the work of wrapping BEDTools programs needs to happen every time a new program is wrapped, this work is abstracted out into the _wraps() function.


The _wraps() docstring and source is the best place to learn the details on what it’s doing; here we’ll focus on using it.

Our hypothetical program, newProgramBed, takes -a as the first input. We’d like to have -a implicitly be passed as whatever our BedTool already points to, so we use the implicit='a' kwarg to _wraps() here. newProgramBed also takes a second input, -b. We describe that to the wrapper with the other='b' kwarg.

Any other keyword args that are used when calling the method will automatically be passed to the program. So if newProgramBed has an optional -s argument, we don’t need to specify that here. When the user passes an s=True kwarg, it will be passed automatically to newProgramBed as the argument -s. If newProgramBed does not accept a -z argument but the user passes one anyway, we rely on the BEDTools program to do the error-checking of arguments and report any errors back to Python.

Here’s what the new method looks like so far:

@_wraps(prog='newProgramBed', implicit='a', other='b')
def new_program(self):

For wrapped programs that expect a genome file or have more complex arguments, see the docstring and source for _wrap().

Add doctests

While the function body will be replaced wholesale by the decorator, the docstring will be copied to the new function. This is important because it means we can write meaningful documentation and, even more importantly, doctests for this method. Writing a doctest within the method’s docstring means it will automatically be found by the test suite.

@_wraps(prog='newProgramBed', implicit='a', other='b')
def new_program(self):
    Converts all features to length of 1.

    Example usage:

    >>> a = pybedtools.example_bedtool('a.bed')
    >>> b = pybedtools.example_bedtool('b.bed')
    >>> c = a.new_program(b, s=True)
    >>> print c  #+NORMALIZE_WHITESPACE
    chr1    1       2
    chr1    100     101
    chr1    150     151
    chr1    900     901

Add to list of known programs

The last thing to do is to add the new program to the end of the tuple pybedtools.helpers._prog_names. This creates rudimentary security by only allowing these programs to be called, and acts as sort of a central registry for programs that have been wrapped.


That’s it! We now have a method, BedTool.new_program(), that wraps a hypothetical newProgramBed BEDTools program, will accept any optional args that newProgramBed does, will return a new BedTool containing the results, and it’s tested.

This new method can be be chained with other BedTool instances, used as an iterator or generator, or anything else a normal BedTool can do … for example:

a = pybedtools.example_bed('a.bed')
b = pybedtools.example_bed('b.bed')
c = a.new_program(b, s=True).filter(lambda x: x.start < 125).saveas('t.bed', trackline='track name="one-bp features"')