I need to compress a string into some format so that I can pass it along on the command line and avoid writing it to file (which would require locking files to prevent simultaneous writes so I prefer to pass it directly). I then need to decompress the string in Python. The standard Compress function seems like a good candidate as it indeed compresses strings into string without spaces. According to https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/a/104661/45020 I should be able to decode the string in python using zlib.

However, I cannot manage.

I tried with

import zlib
data = data if isinstance(data, bytes) else data.encode('utf-8')
data = base64.b64decode(data)

where data is the string outputted by Compress in Mathematica with the leading 1: removed as suggested in the linked post.

It decompressed without any error in python, but seems to be a meaningless string nothing like the original string that I put in. I guess that the standard Compress is no good to me in this situation?

How can I best compress a string in Mathematica in such a way that I can decompress it in Python.

Compressing using "GZIP" does not seem to work at all. I get an error

"File \!\(\"/tmp/m0000213298301.gz\"\) not found during Import"

Sorry about requiring no spaces. That was not actually important.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Did you notice that both answers mention that base64 encoding is also involved? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I do Compress["Hello, World!"] then remove the initial 1: with StringTake[Compress["Hello, World!"], 3 ;;] then I get eJxTTMoPCuZlYGDwSM3JyddRCM8vyklRBAA//AYO . From python I get b'!boRS\r\x00\x00\x00Hello, World!'. I suspect the initial junk is information Mathematica would use to determine the compressed object is a string when decompressing, since you can compress just about anything so it needs to know what type it is. The answer you linked actually mentions these mysterious bytes. $\endgroup$
    – flinty
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @flinty, thank you! When looking carefully I do see that some parts resemble the original. However in my case it is not as simple as it just being preceded by junk. The junk is everywhere. Things like \\012\\011. $\endgroup$
    – Kvothe
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Could you compress also with BinarySerialize (using PerformanceGoal -> "Size"), then in python use the WolframClientForPython to extract it? The thing is that BinarySerialize performs better than Compress. $\endgroup$
    – rhermans
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 12:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MarcoB Yes. $\endgroup$
    – Alan
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


I'm not familiar with your application nor your reason to remove spaces for passing arguments in the command-line interface. You will see two examples which in both of them a string successfully recived from Mathematica in python.

Without conversion:

Use python sys library to access command-line arguments passed to python with Mathematica RunProcess which will send values as argument without being worry about spaces:

message = "This is a sample text";

RunProcess[{"python", "-c", "import sys;print(sys.argv)", 
  message}, "StandardOutput"]

(*Out: "['-c', 'This is a sample text']" *)

In python use sys.argv to access the string you had sent as an argument.

With conversion:

I find out that Mathematica ExportString[message, "Base64"] will add \n to the end of the string, so before sending remove that:

message = "This is a sample text";

em = StringTake[ExportString[message, "Base64"], {1, -2}];

RunProcess[{"python", "-c", 
  "import base64;import sys;print(base64.b64decode(sys.argv[1]),end='')", 
  em}, "StandardOutput"]

RunProcess[{"python", "-c", 
  "import base64;print(base64.b64decode('" <> em <> 
   "'),end='')"}, "StandardOutput"]

(*Out 1: "b'This is a sample text'" *)

(*Out 2: "b'This is a sample text'" *)

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