Difference between dictionary and OrderedDict


I am trying to get a sorted dictionary. But the order of the items between mydict and orddict doesn’t seem to change.

from collections import OrderedDict

mydict = {'a': 1, 'b': 2, 'c': 3, 'd': 4}

orddict = OrderedDict(mydict)

print(mydict, orddict)

# print items in mydict:
for k, v in mydict.items():
    print(k, v)

# print items in ordered dictionary
for k, v in orddict.items():
    print(k, v)

# print the dictionary keys
# for key in mydict.keys():
#     print(key)

#  print the dictionary values
# for value in mydict.values():
#     print(value)
Asked By: liv2hak



An OrderedDict preserves the order elements were inserted:

>>> od = OrderedDict()
>>> od['c'] = 1
>>> od['b'] = 2
>>> od['a'] = 3
>>> od.items()
[('c', 1), ('b', 2), ('a', 3)]
>>> d = {}
>>> d['c'] = 1
>>> d['b'] = 2
>>> d['a'] = 3
>>> d.items()
[('a', 3), ('c', 1), ('b', 2)]

So an OrderedDict does not order the elements for you, it preserves the order you give it.

If you want to “sort” a dictionary, you probably want

>>> sorted(d.items())
[('a', 1), ('b', 2), ('c', 3)]
Answered By: Brian Malehorn

Ordered dictionaries are just like regular dictionaries but they remember the order that items were inserted. When iterating over an ordered dictionary, the items are returned in the order their keys were first added.

So it only sorts by order of adding into the dict

You can build an OrderedDict order by key as follow,

orddict = OrderedDict(sorted(mydict.items(), key = lambda t: t[0]))

or simply as @ShadowRanger mentioned in comment

orddict = OrderedDict(sorted(d.items()))

If you want to order by value,

orddict = OrderedDict(sorted(mydict.items(), key = lambda t: t[1]))

More information in OrderedDict Examples and Recipes

Answered By: neo

Adding on to the answer by Brian, OrderedDict is really great. Here’s why:

  • You can use it as simple dict object because it supports equality testing with other Mapping objects like collections.counter.

  • OrderedDict preserves the insertion order as explained by Brian. In addition to that it has a method popitem which returns (key,value) pairs in LIFO order. So, you can also use it as a mapped ‘stack’.

You not only get the full features of a dict but also, some cool tricks.

Answered By: xssChauhan

As of Python 3.7, a new improvement to the dict built-in is:

the insertion-order preservation nature of dict objects has been declared to be an official part of the Python language spec.

This means there is no real need for OrderedDict anymore . They are almost the same.

Some minor details to consider…

Here are some comparisons between Python 3.7+ dict and OrderedDict:

from collections import OrderedDict

d = {'b': 1, 'a': 2}
od = OrderedDict([('b', 1), ('a', 2)])

# they are equal with content and order
assert d == od
assert list(d.items()) == list(od.items())
assert repr(dict(od)) == repr(d)

Obviously, there is a difference between the string representation of the two object, with the dict object in more natural and compact form.

str(d)  # {'b': 1, 'a': 2}
str(od) # OrderedDict([('b', 1), ('a', 2)])

As for different methods between the two, this question can be answered with set theory:

d_set = set(dir(d))
od_set = set(dir(od))
# {'__dict__', '__reversed__', 'move_to_end'}  for Python 3.7
# {'__dict__', 'move_to_end'}  for Python 3.8+

This means OrderedDict has at most two features that dict does not have built-in, but work-arounds are shown here:

Workaround for __reversed__ / reversed()

No workaround is really needed for Python 3.8+, which fixed this issue. OrderedDict can be "reversed", which simply reverses the keys (not the whole dictionary):

reversed(od)        # <odict_iterator at 0x7fc03f119888>
list(reversed(od))  # ['a', 'b']

# with Python 3.7:
reversed(d)                    # TypeError: 'dict' object is not reversible
list(reversed(list(d.keys()))) # ['a', 'b']

# with Python 3.8+:
reversed(d)        # <dict_reversekeyiterator at 0x16caf9d2a90>
list(reversed(d))  # ['a', 'b']

To properly reverse a whole dictionary using Python 3.7+:

dict(reversed(list(d.items())))  # {'a': 2, 'b': 1}

Workaround for move_to_end

OrderedDict has a move_to_end method, which is simple to implement:

od.move_to_end('b')  # now it is: OrderedDict([('a', 2), ('b', 1)])

d['b'] = d.pop('b')  # now it is: {'a': 2, 'b': 1}
Answered By: Mike T

Starting with CPython 3.6 and all other Python implementations starting with Python 3.7, the built-in dict is ordered – you get the items out in the order you inserted them. Which makes dict and OrderedDict effectively the same.

The documentation for OrderedDict lists the remaining differences. The most important one is that

  • The equality operation for OrderedDict checks for matching order.

Then there’s a few minor practical differences:

  • dict.popitem() takes no arguments, whereas OrderedDict.popitem(last=True) accepts an optional last= argument that lets you pop the first item instead of the last item.
  • OrderedDict has a move_to_end(key, last=True) method to efficiently reposition an element to the end or the beginning. With dicts you can move a key to the end by re-inserting it: mydict['key'] = mydict.pop('key')
  • Until Python 3.8, you could do reversed(OrderedDict()) but reversed({}) would raise a TypeError: 'dict' object is not reversible error because they forgot to add a __reversed__ dunder method to dict when they made it ordered. This is now fixed.

And there are a few under-the-hood differences that might mean that you could get better performance for some specific usecase with OrderedDict:

  • The regular dict was designed to be very good at mapping
    operations. Tracking insertion order was secondary.
  • The OrderedDict was designed to be good at reordering operations.
    Space efficiency, iteration speed, and the performance of update
    operations were secondary.
  • Algorithmically, OrderedDict can handle frequent reordering
    operations better than dict. This makes it suitable for tracking
    recent accesses (for example in an LRU cache).

See this great talk from 2016 by Raymond Hettinger for details on how Python dictionaries are implemented.

Answered By: Boris Verkhovskiy