Python XOR and Bitwise Operators Tutorial


In Python, bitwise operators are used to perform operations on individual bits of binary numbers. These operators include AND, OR, NOT, XOR, left shift, and right shift. In this tutorial, we will focus on the XOR operator and its usage in Python programming.

XOR (exclusive OR) is a binary operator that compares two binary digits and returns 1 if they are different, otherwise it returns 0. The XOR operator is represented by the symbol “^”. For example, the expression “110 ^ 101” returns 011 because the first and third bits differ.

The XOR operator can be used for a variety of tasks such as encryption, error detection and correction, and data compression. It can also be used to swap two variables without using a third variable.

In Python, the XOR operator can be used on integers by converting them to binary form using the “bin()” function. Here’s an example:

a = 5
b = 3
c = a ^ b
print(c) # Output: 6

In this example, we first assign the values 5 and 3 to variables “a” and “b”, respectively. We then use the XOR operator “^” to compare the binary digits of these two numbers and assign the result to variable “c”. Finally, we print the value of “c”, which is 6.

It’s important to note that when using bitwise operators in Python, we need to keep track of the number of bits being operated on. If we’re working with integers that are larger than a byte (8 bits), we need to convert them into longer binary strings using the “format()” function or similar methods.

In conclusion, understanding how to use bitwise operators such as XOR in Python can greatly enhance your programming skills and open up new possibilities for solving problems in various fields.

Table of Contents

What is XOR Operator?

XOR (Exclusive OR) is a bitwise operator used in digital circuits and computer programming. It takes two binary numbers and performs the XOR operation on each pair of corresponding bits. The result is a new binary number where each bit represents the result of the XOR operation.

XOR Truth Table

The truth table for XOR can be represented as follows:

Input A Input B Output
0 0 0
0 1 1
1 0 1
1 1 0

As you can see from the table, the output of the XOR operation is only true when one of the inputs is true and the other input is false. If both inputs are either true or false, then the output will be false.

Using XOR in Python

In Python, the XOR operator is represented by the caret symbol (^). We can use this operator to perform bitwise XOR operations on integers. For example:

a = 10 # Binary representation: 1010
b = 6 # Binary representation: 0110

c = a ^ b # Binary representation: 1100
print(c) # Output: 12

In this example, we perform an XOR operation on `a` and `b`, which results in `c`. The binary representation of `c` is `1100`, which is equal to `12` in decimal notation.

We can also use the XOR operator to toggle (flip) individual bits in an integer. For example:

x = 15 # Binary representation: 1111

# Toggle bit at position 2 (counting from right)
y = x ^ (1 << 2) # Binary representation: 1101
print(y) # Output: 13

In this example, we toggle the bit at position 2 (counting from right) in `x` by using the XOR operator with a mask that has a `1` in the relevant bit position and `0` everywhere else. The result is `y`, which has the bit at position 2 flipped to `0`.

Applications of XOR and Bitwise Operators in Python

Applications of XOR and Bitwise Operators in Python

XOR and bitwise operators are powerful tools in Python programming that can be used in a variety of applications. In this section, we will discuss two common applications of XOR and bitwise operators: data encryption and decryption, and image processing.

Data Encryption and Decryption

Data encryption is the process of converting plain text into cipher text to protect its confidentiality. Decryption is the reverse process of converting cipher text back into plain text. XOR operator can be used for simple encryption and decryption of data.

The basic idea behind XOR encryption is to use a key to perform an exclusive or operation on each character of the plain text. The same key is used to decrypt the cipher text back into plain text by performing the same exclusive or operation.

Here’s an example code snippet that demonstrates how to use XOR operator for data encryption and decryption:

# Encryption function using XOR operator
def encrypt(key, plaintext):
    ciphertext = ""
    for i in range(len(plaintext)):
        ciphertext += chr(ord(plaintext[i]) ^ ord(key[i % len(key)]))
    return ciphertext

# Decryption function using XOR operator
def decrypt(key, ciphertext):
    plaintext = ""
    for i in range(len(ciphertext)):
        plaintext += chr(ord(ciphertext[i]) ^ ord(key[i % len(key)]))
    return plaintext

# Example usage
key = "secret"
plaintext = "Hello World!"
ciphertext = encrypt(key, plaintext)
print("Cipher Text:", ciphertext)
decrypted_text = decrypt(key, ciphertext)
print("Decrypted Text:", decrypted_text)

Image Processing

Bitwise operators can be used in image processing for various operations such as masking, blending, and thresholding. Masking is the process of removing or highlighting specific parts of an image based on their color values. Blending involves merging two images together to create a new image. Thresholding is the process of converting a grayscale image into a binary image by setting a threshold value.

Here’s an example code snippet that demonstrates how to use bitwise operators for image processing:

import cv2

# Load two images
img1 = cv2.imread('image1.jpg')
img2 = cv2.imread('image2.jpg')

# Resize the images to the same size
img1 = cv2.resize(img1, (640, 480))
img2 = cv2.resize(img2, (640, 480))

# Create a mask using bitwise AND operator
mask = cv2.bitwise_and(img1, img2)

# Blend the images using bitwise OR operator
blended_img = cv2.bitwise_or(img1, img2)

# Convert grayscale image into binary image using bitwise NOT operator
gray_img = cv2.cvtColor(img1, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)
ret, thresh_img = cv2.threshold(gray_img, 127, 255, cv2.THRESH_BINARY_INV)

In this example code snippet, we use OpenCV library to load and manipulate images. We first load two images and resize them to the same size. We then create a mask of the two images using bitwise AND operator, blend the images using bitwise OR operator, and convert a grayscale image into a binary image using bitwise NOT operator.

In conclusion, XOR and bitwise operators are powerful tools in Python programming that can be used in various applications such as data encryption and decryption and image processing. Understanding how these operators work can help you write more efficient and effective code.


In this tutorial, we have learned about the XOR and bitwise operators in Python. We have seen how to use these operators to manipulate binary numbers and perform logical operations on them.

The XOR operator is a useful tool when working with binary numbers, as it allows us to flip certain bits without affecting others. This can be useful for tasks such as error correction or encryption.

The bitwise operators, on the other hand, allow us to perform logical operations on individual bits of a number. This can be useful for tasks such as setting or clearing specific bits in a number.

Overall, understanding these operators is an important part of working with binary data in Python. By mastering these concepts, you will be better equipped to work with low-level data and build more complex programs.
Interested in learning more? Check out our Introduction to Python course!

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Pierian Training
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