Python: Programming Language for Beginners - Learn In A Day! (2015)
Chapter 1. Understanding Python
The advent of sophisticated hardware technology and a rise in the demand for software systems, led to the invention and development of programming languages on a large scale. Even now, new languages are being developed and released every year. But, most of the new languages that have emerged are not entirely new; they have been inspired and influenced by the languages that have been released before them. They can be thought of as the improved versions of the older languages. Python is one such language, which derives its design and features from other languages like ABC, ALGOL-68, C++ and UNIX shell.
What is Python?
As you might have already known, Python is basically a high level programming language. A programming language is considered high level if it is machine independent and uses human languages like English to specify its syntax, so that it can be easily understood by a human. The programmers just need to deal with the English-like syntax and does not have to worry about the underlying machine code. Although there are many high level languages available in the market, Python has become widely popular among software developers for its clear-cut syntax and easy readability. The lines of actual code in Python have the look of a pseudo-code and hence are easily understandable.
Why is the readability of a programming language so important in software development? It is because; more time is spent by the programmers in reading the lines of code than writing it. Python makes this task easier by laying huge emphasis on code readability. Also, Python can perform a given task using lesser number of lines of code when compared to other high level languages like Java or C++.
Now, as for the precise description, Python can be described as follows:
Python is a free, open source, general purpose, object oriented programming language.
Since Python is a free and open source software, its source code can be freely accessed, modified and reused. It is object oriented, which means it involves the usage of classes and objects in programming. It is used for developing applications in a wide variety of domains, making it a ‘general-purpose’ programming language. It has a potential number of users in the software community.
Python was initially developed by Guido Van Rossum, from 1985-1995. Python reduced many complexities of application development because it used English key words which are easily understood unlike other languages which require a lot of punctuations. Adding to it is the minimum requirement of syntaxes to be developed.
The following can be said about Python:
Python is interpreted: This indicates that the processing is done by interpreter at run time and one need not compile one’s program before it being executed. This is closely related to the various languages like PHP and PERL.
Python is Interactive: This means, you can directly interact with the Python prompt and execute the programs.
Python is Object-Oriented: This indicates that Python deals with the object oriented programming i.e. we can encapsulate the code within the created objects.
Language for beginners: Python is a good language to start off with for beginners and programmers who have just started with coding. It also extends its support to developing variety of games related to both text and web.
Easy-to-learn: Python has simple structure, lesser keywords and a well-defined syntax which allows the learner to understand it in a lesser period of time.
Easy-to-read: The code is well-defined as it requires minimum syntax build.
Easy-to-maintain: Its source code is easy-to-maintain when compared to other languages.
Standard library: One of its biggest strengths is that it has got a bulk library that is portable and is compatible on various Operating Systems like UNIX, Macintosh and Windows.
Interactive Mode: Python supports an interactive mode where results can be entered from a terminal system and can debug the code using this mode.
Portable: Python gives the same User Interface when it is run on various hardware platforms.
Extendable: Adding up of lower level sections to the Python interpreter is possible.
These low-level modules help programmers to use customized tools to increase their efficiency.
Databases: It provides connection with major databases available in market.
GUI Programming: Python supports graphical user interface that can be developed and for different libraries, system calls, and Operating Systems, like Macintosh, Windows MFC, and X Window system of Unix.
Scalable: Python provides a simple and a better structure and supports larger programs than other scripting languages like Shell.
Python as a Scripting Language
Python’s robust features as a programming language helped it to prove its versatility by standing out as a scripting language too.
Scripting Languages are nothing but programming languages which are mostly used for controlling software applications. They support scripts or programs that are only written for runtime operations. ‘Scripts’ do not get compiled but get interpreted; whereas the applications controlled by them are usually compiled. Thus, scripts are different from the core application programs. Scripts and application programs are usually written using different languages. Usually, controlling of the application program by the script occurs by embedding the script into the application program.
Benefits of using Python
Being a dynamic programming language, Python can exhibit certain behaviours during runtime, which the static programming languages can exhibit only during the compile time.
The variable type in Python can be quickly changed without any fuss or errors. It is not possible to do the same in case of static programming languages as the variable type cannot be changed during the progression of the program. It can be easily integrated with other technologies. Python has been designed such that it can be easily embedded into other technologies. The productivity of the programmers greatly increases while working with Python, because of its simplicity, readability and support libraries which are easy to use.
Web services can be easily developed using Python. Python is an ideal programming language to work with, if the projects undertaken are big or complex, whose requirements change often. Scientific applications make use of tools like numeric Python and Scientific Python.
In general, an ideal programming language for scientific research is the one that allows notepad or paper scribbling to be directly translated into a piece of code. Python does the job with much élan as it looks more like an easy to read pseudo code. Python is free software and can be freely used for commercial purposes too.