Python Bindings

zfp 0.5.5 adds zfPy: Python bindings that allow compressing and decompressing NumPy integer and floating-point arrays. The zfPy implementation is based on Cython and requires both NumPy and Cython to be installed. Currently, zfPy supports only serial execution.

The zfPy API is limited to two functions, for compression and decompression, which are described below.


zfpy.compress_numpy(arr, tolerance = -1, rate = -1, precision = -1, write_header = True)

Compress NumPy array, arr, and return a compressed byte stream. The non-expert compression mode is selected by setting one of tolerance, rate, or precision. If none of these arguments is specified, then reversible mode is used. By default, a header that encodes array shape and scalar type as well as compression parameters is prepended, which can be omitted by setting write_header to False. If this function fails for any reason, an exception is thrown.

zfPy compression currently requires a NumPy array (ndarray) populated with the data to be compressed. The array metadata (i.e., shape, strides, and scalar type) are used to automatically populate the zfp_field structure passed to zfp_compress(). By default, all that is required to be passed to the compression function is the NumPy array; this will result in a stream that includes a header and is losslessly compressed using the reversible mode. For example:

import zfpy
import numpy as np

my_array = np.arange(1, 20)
compressed_data = zfpy.compress_numpy(my_array)
decompressed_array = zfpy.decompress_numpy(compressed_data)

# confirm lossless compression/decompression
np.testing.assert_array_equal(my_array, decompressed_array)

Using the fixed-accuracy, fixed-rate, or fixed-precision modes simply requires setting one of the tolerance, rate, or precision arguments, respectively. For example:

compressed_data = zfpy.compress_numpy(my_array, tolerance=1e-3)
decompressed_array = zfpy.decompress_numpy(compressed_data)

# Note the change from "equal" to "allclose" due to the lossy compression
np.testing.assert_allclose(my_array, decompressed_array, atol=1e-3)

Since NumPy arrays are C-ordered by default (i.e., the rightmost index varies fastest) and zfp_compress() assumes Fortran ordering (i.e., the leftmost index varies fastest), compress_numpy() automatically reverses the order of dimensions and strides in order to improve the expected memory access pattern during compression. The decompress_numpy() function also reverses the order of dimensions and strides, and therefore decompression will restore the shape of the original array. Note, however, that the zfp stream does not encode the memory layout of the original NumPy array, and therefore layout information like strides, contiguity, and C vs. Fortran order may not be preserved. Nevertheless, zfPy correctly compresses NumPy arrays with any memory layout, including Fortran ordering and non-contiguous storage.

Byte streams produced by compress_numpy() can be decompressed by the zfp command-line tool. In general, they cannot be deserialized as compressed arrays, however.


decompress_numpy() requires a header to decompress properly, so do not set write_header = False during compression if you intend to decompress the stream with zfPy.



Decompress a byte stream, compressed_data, produced by compress_numpy() (with header enabled) and return the decompressed NumPy array. This function throws on exception upon error.

decompress_numpy() consumes a compressed stream that includes a header and produces a NumPy array with metadata populated based on the contents of the header. Stride information is not stored in the zfp header, so decompress_numpy() assumes that the array was compressed with the first (leftmost) dimension varying fastest (typically referred to as Fortran-ordering). The returned NumPy array is in C-ordering (the default for NumPy arrays), so the shape of the returned array is reversed from the shape information stored in the embedded header. For example, if the header declares the array to be of shape (nx, ny, nz) = (2, 4, 8), then the returned NumPy array will have a shape of (8, 4, 2). Since the compress_numpy() function also reverses the order of dimensions, arrays both compressed and decompressed with zfPy will have compatible shape.


Decompressing a stream without a header requires using the internal _decompress() Python function (or the C API).

zfpy._decompress(compressed_data, ztype, shape, out = None, tolerance = -1, rate = -1, precision = -1)

Decompress a headerless compressed stream (if a header is present in the stream, it will be incorrectly interpreted as compressed data). ztype specifies the array scalar type while shape specifies the array dimensions; both must be known by the caller. The compression mode is selected by specifying one (or none) of tolerance, rate, and precision, as in compress_numpy(), and also must be known by the caller. If out = None, a new NumPy array is allocated. Otherwise, out specifies the NumPy array or memory buffer to decompress into. Regardless, the decompressed NumPy array is returned unless an error occurs, in which case an exception is thrown.

In _decompress(), ztype is one of the zfp supported scalar types (see zfp_type), which are available in zfPy as

type_int32 = zfp_type_int32
type_int64 = zfp_type_int64
type_float = zfp_type_float
type_double = zfp_type_double

These can be manually specified (e.g., zfpy.type_int32) or generated from a NumPy dtype (e.g., zfpy.dtype_to_ztype(array.dtype)).

If out is specified, the data is decompressed into the out buffer. out can be a NumPy array or a pointer to memory large enough to hold the decompressed data. Regardless of the type of out and whether it is provided, _decompress() always returns a NumPy array. If out is not provided, then the array is allocated for the user. If out is provided, then the returned NumPy array is just a pointer to or wrapper around the user-supplied out. If out is a NumPy array, then its shape and scalar type must match the required arguments shape and ztype. To avoid this constraint check, use out = rather than out = ndarray when calling _decompress().


_decompress() is an “experimental” function currently used internally for testing. It does allow decompression of streams without headers, but providing too small of an output buffer or incorrectly specifying the shape or strides can result in segmentation faults. Use with care.