PyTorch is an extensible framework. We see that because many new things grow on PyTorch.

For instance, and probable the most obvious one:, took PyTorch as a foundation.

What kind of new functionality we can build in PyTorch:

  • New modules
  • New functions

I will provide some vanilla nn.Module first:

class Vanilla(nn.Module):
    def __init__(self, f): super().__init__(); self.f=f
    def forward(self, x): return self.f(x)

We created with the last lines the new class Lambda (doing almost nothing) with the default constructor __init__ and with the forward method. This is all we need to create a new module:

  • a constructor __init__()
  • a forward() method

Inside PyTorch modules we can club our parameters, layers, functions or even other modules. All modules live under torch.nn such as: torch.nn.Conv2d, torch.nn.Linear etc.

– Functions are another way to create new things in PyTorch. We have several types of functions:

  • common mathematical functions are implemented under torch such as torch.log or torch.sum
  • neural network related functions under torch.nn.functional
  • autograd operators under torch.autograd.Function implementing the forward and backward functions.

The last kind of functions mentioned (autograd) allow us to customize PyTorch, introducing the new autograd functionality. Here is the example creating the new autograd:

class VanillaAG(torch.autograd.Function):
  def forward(...):    
    return tensor

  def backward(...):    
    return gradient

Note how we defined both forward() and backward() functions being part of the VanillaAG class inherited from torch.autograd.Function.

Each autograd operator is really two functions that operate on Tensors. The forward() function computes output Tensors from input Tensors.

The backward() function receives the gradient of the output Tensors with respect to some scalar value, and computes the gradient of the input Tensors with respect to that same scalar value.

nn package, and what is a module?

We mentioned previously the torch.nn package in PyTorch. The nn package defines a set of Modules, which are roughly equivalent to neural network layers.

A Module is a unit that receives input tensors and computes output tensors.

Module also may hold ld internal state which are tensors containing learnable parameters.

In PyTorch the nn defines a set of useful loss functions that are commonly used when training neural networks. The Mean Squared Error (MSE) as probable the most used/common loss function.

Check here all the loss functions available. Every new PyTorch version some new loss function my be added.

Note: By definition every loss function is also a module in PyTorch.


If you don’t plan to manually set the tensor operations, and update the weights of your PyTorch model, you need simple optimization algorithms or optimizers such as:

  • AdaGrad
  • RMSProp
  • Adam
  • SGD …

The torch.optim package in PyTorch abstracts the idea of an optimization algorithm.

Most commonly optim methods are already there but you may add the custom optim algorithms.