Creating A New Task

PyText uses a Task class as a central place to define components for data processing, model training, metric reporting etc. and wire up those components. One can easily inherit from an existing task and replace some (or all) components.

In this tutorial, we’ll write a WordTaggingTask, and its associated components.

1. Define the Task

Usually features, targets, data_handler, model and metric_reporter are the components subject to change, and we can reuse the other more general ones e.g trainer, optimizer and exporter

from word_tagging import ModelInputConfig, TargetConfig

class WordTaggingTask(Task):
  class Config(Task.Config):
    features: ModelInputConfig = ModelInputConfig()
    targets: TargetConfig = TargetConfig()
    data_handler: WordTaggingDataHandler.Config = WordTaggingDataHandler.Config()
    model: WordTaggingModel.Config = WordTaggingModel.Config()
    trainer: Trainer.Config = Trainer.Config()
    optimizer: OptimizerParams = OptimizerParams()
    scheduler: Optional[SchedulerParams] = SchedulerParams()
    metric_reporter: WordTaggingMetricReporter.Config = WordTaggingMetricReporter.Config()
    exporter: Optional[TextModelExporter.Config] = TextModelExporter.Config()

Every Task has an embedded Config, which defines the config of it’s components in a nested way. The base Task has a from_config method that creates every component and wires them up.

2. Define ModelInput and Target

The first two configs in the Config are model inputs (features) and targets (expected outputs), which define the interface between data processing and model training.


class ModelInputConfig(ModuleConfig):
  word_feat: WordFeatConfig = WordFeatConfig()
  dict_feat: Optional[DictFeatConfig] = None
  char_feat: Optional[CharFeatConfig] = None

class TargetConfig(ConfigBase):
  # Transform sequence labels to BIO format
  use_bio_labels: bool = False

ModelInputConfig defines all the possible input to our model, and will be used in DataHandler to create TorchText Field to process raw data and also in Model to create the first model layer: the Embedding.

3. Implement DataHandler

PyText uses the open source library TorchText for part of data preprocessing, including padding, numericalization and batching. On top of TorchText, PyText incorporates a Featurizer, which provides data processing steps that are shared in both training and inference time. Tokenization is a typical step in Featurizer.

The general pipeline of a data handler is:

  1. Read data from a file into a list of raw data examples.
  2. Convert each row of row data to a TorchText Example.
  3. Generate a TorchText Dataset from the examples and a list of predefined TorchText Field
  4. Return a BatchIterator which will generate a tuple of (input, target, context) tensors for each iteration.

The base DataHandler already implements most of these steps, all we need to do is:

  1. Define the fields in from_config classmethod, a factory method to create a component from a config:

    def from_config(cls, config: Config, model_input_config, target_config, **kwargs):
        model_input_fields: Dict[str, Field] = create_fields(
                ModelInput.WORD_FEAT: TextFeatureField,
                ModelInput.DICT_FEAT: DictFeatureField,
                ModelInput.CHAR_FEAT: CharFeatureField,
        target_fields: Dict[str, Field] = {WordLabelConfig._name: WordLabelField.from_config(target_config)}
        extra_fields: Dict[str, Field] = {ExtraField.TOKEN_RANGE: RawField()}
        return cls(

We create input Field by using the create_fields method which combines the input config (first argument) with the provided map of name to Class (second argument). Each Field is constructed using its from_config method with the matching config from the input_config. Since this is a word labeling task, we need a Field for the expected labels, so we pass a single WordLabelField into target_fields along with its column name. Finally, we specify an extra field token_range which will be used later to merge predicted word labels into the slots. Extra fields are processed but not used directly by the model. They are passed along as batch context, which, as mentioned above, will be used later in the process.

  1. Override the preprocess_row method to convert a row of raw data into a TorchText Example:

    def preprocess_row(self, row_data: Dict[str, Any]) -> Dict[str, Any]:
          features = self.featurizer.featurize(
                  raw_text=row_data.get(RawData.TEXT, ""),
                  raw_gazetteer_feats=row_data.get(RawData.DICT_FEAT, ""),
          res = {
              # features
              ModelInput.WORD_FEAT: features.tokens,
              ModelInput.DICT_FEAT: (
              ModelInput.CHAR_FEAT: features.characters,
              # target
              [Target.WORD_LABEL_FIELD] = data_utils.align_slot_labels(
              # extra data
              BatchContext.TOKEN_RANGE: features.token_ranges,
          return res

Here we invoke the Featurizer and map the data to TorchText Field names to create a TorchText Dataset later. Note the data_utils.align_slot_labels method here, which breaks the slot labels that span multiple words into labels for each word (with word labels and token ranges as inputs). We do the processing here because TorchText assumes a 1:1 mapping between raw input and Field.

4. Implement Model

A typical model in PyText is organized in four layers: Embedding, Representation, Decode and Output. For any new model that conforms to this architecture, writing the model is no more than just defining the config of each layer, since the constructor and forward methods are already well defined in base Model.:

class WordTaggingModel(Model):
  class Config(ConfigBase):
    representation: Union[BiLSTMSlotAttention.Config, BSeqCNNRepresentation.Config] = BiLSTMSlotAttention.Config()
    decoder: MLPDecoder.Config = MLPDecoder.Config()
    output_layer: Union[WordTaggingOutputLayer.Config, CRFOutputLayer.Config] = WordTaggingOutputLayer.Config()

You may notice that there’s no config for the embedding layer here, because it directly uses ModelInputConfig, already defined in the Task’s Config. By default, the embedding layer use EmbeddingList which creates a list of sub embedding modules according to the ModelInputConfig, and concatenates their vectors in the forward method. We don’t need to override anything in this example since the default behavior in base Model already does this:

def compose_embedding(cls, sub_embs):
  return EmbeddingList(sub_embs.values(), concat=True)

the sub_embs parameter contains the embeddings we previously defined in the ModelInputConfig (word_feat, dict_feat, char_feat).

If you’re creating more complicated models, e.g PairNN, you can override this function to reflect the embedding structure:

def compose_embedding(cls, sub_embs):
  return EmbeddingList(
    EmbeddingList(sub_embs["word_feat_1"], sub_embs["dict_feat_1"], concat=True),
    EmbeddingList(sub_embs["word_feat_2"], sub_embs["dict_feat_2"], concat=True),

Each layer can be either a single Module or a Union of multiple. In this example, we give the user the choosing between two different types of representation layers, which can be configured in config JSON file, with the default set to BiLSTMSlotAttention.

An example config of changing it to BSeqCNNRepresentation looks like:

  "model": {
    "representation": {
      "BSeqCNNRepresentation": {}

The Decoder layer is a simple MLPDecoder.

The Output layer does three things -

  1. Computes loss
  2. Gets the prediction
  3. Exports to a Caffe2 net

Here we provide two options in this model: WordTaggingOutputLayer and CRFOutputLayer. The former calculates a cross entropy loss and applies log softmax to get the prediction, while the latter uses CRF (Conditional Random Fields) algorithm to get both. The source code of both classes can be found in the PyText codebase. We’ll explain 3) in more detail in a following section.

What if I have a completely different model structure? Then you can completely override both the from_config and forward methods in your model class. However please inherit your model class from the base Model and use the create_module method to construct modules. Doing so will give you the features of freezing / saving / loading any part of the model for free. It’s as easy as setting the value in the corresponding config:

  "model": {
    "representation": {
      "BSeqCNNRepresentation": {
        "freeze": true,
        "save_path": ""
        "load_path": ""

5. Implement MetricReporter

Next we need to write a MetricReporter to calculate metrics and report model training/test results.:

class WordTaggingMetricReporter(MetricReporter):
    def __init__(self, channels, label_names, pad_index):
        self.label_names = label_names
        self.pad_index = pad_index

    def calculate_metric(self):
        return compute_classification_metrics(
                        LabelPrediction(s, p, e)
                        for s, p, e in zip(scores, pred, expect)
                        if e != self.pad_index
                    for scores, pred, expect in zip(
                        self.all_scores, self.all_preds, self.all_targets

    def get_model_select_metric(metrics):
        return metrics.accuracy

The MetricReporter base class already aggregates all the output from Trainer, including predictions, scores and targets. The default aggregation behavior is concatenating the tensors from each batch and converting it to list. If you want different aggregation behavior, you can override it with your own implementation. Here we use the compute_classification_metrics method provided in pytext.metrics to get the precision/recall/F1 scores. PyText ships with a few common metric calculation methods, but you can easily incorporate other libraries, such as sklearn.

Note that we also have to override the get_model_select_metric method to tell the Trainer, how to select best model.

In the __init__ method, we can pass a list of Channel to report the results to any output stream. We use a simple ConsoleChannel that prints everything to stdout and a TensorBoardChannel that outputs metrics to TensorBoard:

class WordTaggingTask(Task):
    # ... rest of the code
    def create_metric_reporter(self):
        return WordTaggingMetricReporter(
            channels=[ConsoleChannel(), TensorBoardChannel()],
  , # metadata is processed in DataHandler

6. Implement the predict method

With the code above, we can train and test the model. Next, we need to add one more method in our Trainer to format the prediction results. The base Task comes with a generic batch predict function that gets predictions and scores from model and restores the order of input examples. By default it only returns the raw numeric predictions, so we will override the format_prediction method and make it more human readable:

def format_prediction(cls, predictions, scores, context, target_meta):
    label_names = target_meta.vocab.itos
    for prediction, score, token_ranges in zip(
        predictions, scores, context[BatchContext.TOKEN_RANGE]
        yield [
                "prediction": label_names[],
                "score": {n: s for n, s in zip(label_names, word_score.tolist())},
                "token_range": token_range,
            for word_pred, word_score, token_range in zip(
                prediction, score, token_ranges

Note that we had created the context[BatchContext.TOKEN_RANGE] earlier as an extra field.

7. Implement Exporter

The predict method is only used when experimenting with the model in PyTorch. If we wish to run our model in the production-optimized Caffe2 environment, we’ll have to create an Exporter.

An Exporter uses ONNX to translate a PyTorch model to a Caffe2 net. After that, we prepend/append any additional Caffe2 operators to the exported net. The default behavior in the base Exporter class is to prepend a string-to-vector operator for vocabulary lookup and appending a operator from model’s output layer to format prediction results. In this exercise, that is all we need, so we don’t have to create a new Exporter here.

All that we need to do is implement the export_to_caffe2 method in the output layer:

class WordTaggingOutputLayer(OutputLayerBase):
  def export_to_caffe2(
      self, workspace, init_net, predict_net, model_out, output_name
  ) -> List[core.BlobReference]:
      scores = predict_net.Log(predict_net.Softmax(output_name, axis=2))
      label_scores = predict_net.Split(scores, self.target_names, axis=2)
      return [
          predict_net.Copy(label_score, "{}:{}".format(output_name, name))
          for name, label_score in zip(self.target_names, label_scores)

8. Generate sample config and run the task

Now that we have a fully functional class:~Task, we can generate a default JSON config for it by using the pytext cli tool

(pytext) $ pytext gen_default_config WordTaggingTask > task_config.json

Tweak the config as you like, and then train the model via

(pytext) $ pytext train < task_config.json

Run predictions using the trained PyTorch model

(pytext) $ pytext predict_py --model-file="YOUR_PY_MODEL_FILE" < test.json

Run predictions using the exported Caffe2 model

(pytext) $ pytext --config-file="task_config.json" predict --exported-model="YOUR_C2_MODEL_FILE" < test.json

Please refer to other tutorials in PyText Documentation for end to end working examples of training/predicting. The full code of this example is also available in pytext.task