What Is A Programming Language?
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about Python specifically.
What Is Python?
It is an object-oriented, high-level programming language, which means that:
- The language is organised around “objects’ rather than “actions” (focuses on the things you want to manipulate rather than how you manipulate them), meaning you define an object and just select that object for use. Example: If you are writing a program for shapes (triangle, circle, square), you could write the code for a triangle once, and then just select triangle for every subsequent instance rather than writing the code again.
- The language hides or automates significant areas of computing systems (like memory management). Automating memory management means that you don’t have to worry about assigning RAM when writing your code, because Python will automatically manage it for you.
The high-level part also means that Python is not a good fit for system level programming, like creating a device driver or operating system kernels, but it also makes things much easier for beginners.
4 Great Things About Python:
- Readability: Python’s syntax is simple compared to other programming languages, and the required punctuation includes lots of whitespace so the code is highly readable and understandable. The language is very similar to English, so it is perfect for first time programmers.
- Free: There is absolutely no cost associated with downloading Python, its interpreters, or most libraries. The software is copyrighted, but it’s still open source, so no licensing fees. Yay!
- Community: Python has been around for over 20 years, and it is an open source software, so there is a huge community of users. If you have a question, there are tons of people in any given forum who are able (and willing!) to help you. If you have some experience programming, you realize just how important having an active community can be.
- Libraries: Another great thing about Python is that it has been around so long that there a ton of libraries already created that you can use for free. Libraries are a way you can access previously created code for common tasks. Example: The BeautifulSoup library is a toolbox for scraping HTML and extracting data from the results. Anyone can access these libraries, and there are thousands developed already. This saves programmers from re-coding something since they can take what someone else has already made from the library.
2 Less Great Things About Python:
- Speed: Python is considered slow for a programming language, sometimes by an order of magnitude or more. Realistically this might be the difference between Python taking 6 seconds to execute something vs half a second a different language might use to execute the same task. However, it is usually much faster to code in Python than other languages, so what time you lose in the execution, you would save on the development side.
- High-level: Like we mentioned earlier, Python is a high-level programming language, so it is not efficient for system-level programming. As a beginner programmer, you likely won’t need to worry about this anyways.
What Can You Do With Python?
Python is particularly great for:
- Data science and analytics
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence
- Systems automation
- Web and API development
- Prototyping new software quickly
How To Start Learning Python
There are a few different versions of Python still in use, and anything from version 2.7 to 3.4 is well supported. The newest version currently is 3.5 and is still in development, so you might be safer starting with a slightly lower version until there is more support available from the Python community.
As with any programming course, it is more effective to learn by doing, and you definitely want to learn on a computer. You can get a really decent foundation in Python with a free course on the basics. If you are looking for something more in depth, or a certification to help boost your resume, then a mastery course might be a better fit for you.
You might just be taking a programming course for personal interest, but chances are you are interested in using Python in your career. Let’s talk about some of the different career paths you might take if you’re a Python user.
Top 4 Fields That Require Python:
- Web development: This could be anything from coding an interactive website to creating a new web application, or even mobile application development.
- Data analytics: Python is widely used in Big Data, as well as data visualisation, so researchers, marketers and others can make sense of huge amounts of data in an easily viewed format (like a graph).
- Game development: There are several existing libraries dedicated to helping programmers create video games, and Python is widely used for most web-based games.
- Multimedia entertainment: Movie effects can be created using Python, Netflix and Spotify both use Python to power their streaming service.
Even though new programming languages are coming being made all the time, Python has stood the test of time and is still gaining popularity today. What better way to break into the IT field than learning Python?