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Getting Started with Python

Updated on July 23, 2013

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It is easy to go with the flow when you have started learning a programming language. However, the hardest part is getting started. Where will you write your code? How will you compile it? How should you go about learning a new language? If you have these question in mind, this article is for you.

Looks like you have decided to learn Python and if you are just entering the world of programming, then it is a very good choice. It is a programming language that beginners can grasp easily. In no time you will be churning out applications and games. Sounds good, doesn't it?

But hold up! All the games and big applications are things of the future. The very first question is “Where and how do I start?”

One other common question is, “Where do I write the code?”

Well, fundamentally, you can write the code for Python in a normal word editor that you find pre-installed in your computers. That is not a problem. But whatever code you write needs to be understood by the computer and this is where the Python interpreter comes in. It is something that converts the code you have written into a language that your computer can understand (binary). When the computer understands what you want, then it does what you want it to do.

Let’s get started by installing the Python interpreter.

INSTALLING PYTHON

Download Python. Head on to http://www.python.org/download/

Click on the link: Python 3.3.2 Windows x86 MSI Installer (Windows binary -- does not include source). [#3.3.2 Version may differ]. You can further read their link list for Mac and Linux installers.

Download Link on Python's Website.
Download Link on Python's Website.

After you have downloaded the installer, click on it and run the installer. Without making any changes click on Next. After that you will be given an option to choose a folder where you want to install python. It is recommended that you don't make any changes here but do make a note of in which directory and folder you are installing Python in. After that click Next. Again click Next when they ask for customization.

Now Python will be installed. This may take several minutes (depending on the speed of your machine).

Installing Python.
Installing Python.

Click on the Finish button after you are done with the installation.


BEGINNING WITH IDLE

People who are running Windows XP operating system can easily access their newly installed Python by Clicking on Start --> All Programs --> Python 3.3 (or whatever version you downloaded) --> IDLE (Python GUI). Similar process can be followed people who are using other operating systems. Locate the directory/folder in which you installed Python and run it.

The start screen of Python IDLE should look something like the below image (may be different for different operating systems).

Note: During the entire run of your program, do not close the IDLE.

Python IDLE Start Screen.
Python IDLE Start Screen.

Congratulations! You are now ready to start programming!

According to convention, whenever you start learning a new programming language, the first program you write is the Hello World! program. It is not necessary that you do, but it certainly helps you identify with the programming community. It is the most basic program and will help you initially grasp the language.

HELLO WORLD PROGRAM

In the IDLE, on the top menu bar, click on File --> New Window.

The New Window Link.
The New Window Link.

This will open a new blank, untitled window. This box is called the File Editor and you will write in it. The File Editor will look something like the below image.

The File Editor Window.
The File Editor Window.

In the file editor, write or copy/paste the below code.

print('Hello world!')
print('What is your name?')
myName = input()
print('That is an interesting name, ' + myName)

Now save the program you have written in your File Editor. Go to File --> Save. It is a good habit to save your program frequently as during an unfortunate situation of system crash or your computer being switched off by someone near you, you can easily recover your saved program without losing any progress.

Before running your program keep an out for your IDLE because this is where your program's output will appear.

To run the program, in the File Editor, click on Run --> Run Module.

Switch back to IDLE and you can see two lines of text saying Hello World and asking your name. Enter your name and watch the next text appear. At the end of the run, your IDLE and File Editor should look something like below.

Final Output of Hello World Program.
Final Output of Hello World Program.

Explanation

print('Hello world!')
print('What is your name?')

The first line begins with the print() function. Functions help us to carry out small tasks within a program. In this case, as the name of the function suggests, it helps us to print text in the output. Whatever you write within the brackets is called parameter. print() function reads the text you wrote in its parameter and displays it on the screen (in the IDLE/interactive shell). In this case it is Hello World. Next print functions display, What is your name?

Note: The long sentences you type are called strings. Whenever you type strings, make sure they are within single inverts, which are further within the brackets.

myName = input()
print('That is an interesting name, ' + myName)

myName is a variable. Variables are like boxes which can store values like integers and characters in them. In this case we are storing a name. myName variable is followed by an equal-to operator, which is further followed by the input() function.

The input() function helps the programmer to get data/information from the user. It gives the user the ability to type in and fill the empty boxes. In this case, whenever the input() function is called and the user types in some characters: it is stored in the myName variable as it is equated to it. Basically, user types in his name and then it is stored in the myName variable.

Next, another print() function is carried out. In this case the parameter is extended. After writing the normal sentence within inverts, we use the addition operator (+) to concatenate the text and the user's name (text stored in the variable).

This will seem to be a bit difficult at first, but believe me, it isn't. I would recommend that you memorize this code. It seems difficult because it is unfamiliar. Become familiar with it, because after that you won't need to memorize code, you will write it yourself.

Coding Schedule

Okay, so you are abode the Python ship and have finally started your programming journey. It is very important to have a nice coding schedule.

Python is a language with which you will get familiar over time, so don't expect to gobble it all up in a day. Read tutorials or learn from a good book, and write each and every code you encounter (You don't need to copy the code. Just see what the output ought to be, and write a code for that. If you are stuck somewhere, then take help). Remember, the more you write your own code, the more you learn. Don't just settle with reading the tutorial until you write the code down for yourself.

Be regular, and you will definitely become a great programmer.

I hope you looted a lot of knowledge.

~ Written by Akashdeep Singh @WnCoder

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    • jabelufiroz profile image

      Firoz 3 years ago from India

      Good for beginners. Voted up.

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