Like its namesake, the Python programming language has deployed its clean syntax, usability, and suite of powerful third party libraries to gradually crush its competition and rise to the apex of the software engineering jungle.
If you’ve even casually thought about learning to program, you’ve no doubt encountered Python. It’s widely regarded as one of the best programming languages for beginners. With Python-based libraries for everything from astronomy to web scraping, it’s also often considered one of the better languages for professionals.
Choosing an Environment
It’s possible to write simple Python code in the command line. This isn’t something you could hope to do on a large scale, but it’s a great way to sketch ideas and troubleshoot larger programs. There are plenty of guides for this, and it’s a skill everyone should acquire.
To do any serious programming you’ll need to choose a suitable Integrated Development Environment, or IDE. Programmers use IDEs because they have features like syntax highlighting, auto-completion, and debugging tools, which make it easier to write good code. IDEs fall into two broad categories: IDEs built specifically for Python and general-purpose IDEs.
PyCharm is one of the most popular Python IDEs and has both free and professional versions. Spyder is another, optimized for data science by integrating cleanly with libraries like Numpy and Matplotlib. Thonny is a younger IDE targeted at beginners. It contains its own bundled version of Python so you don’t have to worry about doing your own installations.
Speaking from experience, this can definitely save you headaches when you’re just getting started!
But there’s no reason you can’t do Python work in a generic IDE if you’d rather. I’ve personally used Atom, Sublime Text, TextWrangler, and Visual Studio for programming in multiple languages. Each has all the standard features you want in an IDE.
Of course, you could also climb the mountain that is Emacs. Emacs is an old IDE famous for almost being its own operating system. I haven’t ever used it, but every professional coder I know who has says that, once you get over the enormous learning curve, it gives you control that’s hard to get anywhere else.
Choosing A Project
If you’re at a bootcamp or on the job, I’m going to assume that you already have something to work on. If not, you’ll need to pick a place to begin learning.
Ultimately, this will depend on what you’re personally interested in and whether you’re new to coding or just new to programming, but there are a few ideas that are applicable to almost everyone.
We all like games, so coding a simple game is a popular first project. You can find detailed guides and books aimed at teaching children to code games.
With data science being on everyone’s minds, you could also use Python to study finance, do analysis, or learn probability.
If you’re a bit more advanced, consider contributing to an open source project, and (possibly) getting paid for it!
Between choosing the right tools and choosing the right projects, you should be well on your way to learning how to code in Python.
How do you code in Python? Leave us a comment below!
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