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Python / Software Development / Software Testing

What Is Python?

When compared to other programming languages, such as Java or C, Python is easy to learn. One aspect of the language that makes Python easy to learn is that its syntax mimics human-readable language.
Feb 7th, 2024 6:58am by
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Learning to code isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s a lot easier to understand Python…


than Java…


Python’s clear, concise syntax is one of the reasons why Python is one of the most popular coding languages.

Python was created by Guido van Rossum and was first released on Feb. 20, 1991. Python wasn’t immediately popular, but in the years to come, the language’s use and growth followed a steady upward trend.

Image credit: Flatiron School

Van Rossum created Python as the successor to the ABC programming language. He needed a language capable of exception handling and interfacing with the Amoeba operating system, and that language did not exist until Python was created.

Though one person created Python, the nonprofit organization Python Software Foundation maintains it. The Python Software Foundation is a membership organization and community focused on developing, improving, expanding and popularizing the Python language and its environment.

How Easy Is It to Learn Python?

Is Python easy to learn? Yes and no. When compared to other programming languages, such as Java or C, Python is easy to learn. One aspect of the language that makes Python easy to learn is that its syntax mimics human-readable language. The fact that its syntax is designed to be clear, concise and easy to read eliminates many errors and softens the learning curve.

Python also has a large standard library with prewritten code, which reduces the need to write every line of code. Python’s supportive community and abundance of learning resources also help make the language more friendly to newcomers.

But while many coders consider Python easy to learn, becoming proficient in any programming language is challenging. Software development takes time, patience and problem-solving skills. The further along anyone gets with a language, the more challenging it becomes. But impossible? No!

Python Is a Scripting Language

A scripting language is a programming language that’s designed for automating tasks. Scripting languages, such as Python, are interpreted and executed directly by an interpreter or runtime environment. Scripting languages are not compiled into machine code before being run, whereas traditional programming languages like C++ or Java are compiled at runtime. Because Python is a scripting language, it excels at tasks such as file operations, system administration, web scraping, network programming and network automation, as well as big data operations such as data processing, scientific computing and data analysis.

What Is Python Used for?

Python is a popular language choice for web and software development. Frameworks like Django and Flask make it easier to create robust and scalable web applications. But in many cases, other tools can work as a replacement for Python.

Where Python really stands out is in the big data ecosystem. Python is often used for data science and analytics, scientific computing, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Because of this, Python’s ecosystem is rich with libraries such as Pandas, NumPy and Matplotlib that enable data manipulation and analysis. Tools such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, scikit-learn and Keras dominate the ML/AI space.

Introduction to Python Programming

The Python language is dynamically typed, meaning the variable types don’t have to be explicitly specified. However, variables do have types and their types matter. The Python interpreter checks variable types at runtime: this makes the language also strongly typed. The Python interpreter is a program that reads and executes Python code. The interpreter interprets the developer-written source code into computer hardware readable form. There are several implementations of the Python interpreter, the standard-bearer and most popular being CPython.

Python is a single-threaded language. The Global Interpreter Lock (GIL) is essentially a lock that keeps one thread of Python in a state of execution at a time. Since the GIL is specific to CPython, there are interpretations of Python that don’t include the GIL.

Macs now include the Python language with every operating system. To confirm whether a Mac has Python included, open the Terminal and type “python –version”. Either a version number or “file not found” will appear. To install Python on a Mac, visit the Python website at python.org.

Introduction to Python Coding Fundamentals

Variables and Data Types

Python stores data in variables.


Python programming fundamentals include several different data types and data structures. Python’s primitive data types are basic data types that represent single values with no methods or attributes. They are:

Python’s data structures organize complex information and store varied types of data.

Lists are ordered collections of data and can include data of any type. The list’s “order” refers to the list’s indices, not the arrangement of elements inside the list.


Tuples are immutable lists. Tuples can’t be changed after they’re created.

Dictionaries store data in key-value pairs.

Sets are collections of unique elements. Sets automatically remove repeated terms if they were previously included in the set. Try copying and pasting the following code into an IDE to see how duplicate items are removed.

Operators

Python code can perform mathematical operations such as arithmetic or multiplication using operators (+, -, *, /, %). Python programs can also perform comparisons using logical operators (and, or, not, ==, !=, <, <=, >, >=).

Control Flow

Python’s if , elif and else statements allow for conditional code execution based on specified conditions. The first condition, the if condition, checks to see whether the statement is true. If the statement is true, the code is executed; if the statement is False, Python moves to the second condition, the elif condition. The word elif is a blend of else and if If the elif condition is true the code executes; if the elif condition is False, then the execution thread moves down to the else condition. The else condition runs no matter what, provided that no other conditions have been met. The else condition is there to basically run as a backup. The only condition that’s always necessary in this thread is the if condition.

But of course, many statements are often necessary in control flow logic.

Functions

In Python programming, a function is a reusable block of code that performs a task. Functions help make code modular, improve organization and promote readability. They also make code easier to maintain and debug. Python functions share the following organizational structure:

The function definition keyword is def. The function name is required. Parameters are optional, but the parentheses are not. The colon lets the Python execution thread know where the code block begins. The return keyword sends the function’s results to the main execution outside of the function. If the function doesn’t include areturn keyword, then the default return value is None.

There are multiple ways to call this function.

Lambda Functions

Python’s lambda functions — also known as “anonymous functions” or “lambda expressions” — are small, nameless functions. Lambda functions are simple one-line functions. They’re useful when a small one-line function is required and the developer doesn’t need to define a separate function using the def keyword. The syntax is as follows:


In the instance of the lambda function, “lambda” is the equivalent to the def keyword.

Loops

When coding in Python, loops repeatedly execute a block of code if specific conditions are met. As long as there are elements in the list, numbers to add, or etc., the code block will execute.



The for keyword initializes the for loop. In this example, season is the item in the sequence and the iterable is the list, seasons.

Python Coding Examples

This was just a brief introduction to Python. For more on how to get started, check out this Python coding example and tutorial that will teach you how to build a tic-tac-toe game. The tutorial includes sample Python code as well as step-by-step instructions. Other great resources include python.org and Google’s free Python class.

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