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The First Steps - Python

Ready to take your first steps in Python? This three-part article series walks you through the basics, introducing important concepts such as strings. In this first part, you'll learn how programming is different from using a computer, how to install Python, and how to start using the Python shell. It is excerpted from the book Beginning Python: Using Python 2.6 and Python 3.1,, written by James Payne, Developer Shed Editor-in-Chief (Wrox, 2010; ISBN: 0470414634).

  1. Python 3.1: Programming Basics and Strings
  2. Programming is Control
  3. The First Steps
  4. Using the Python Shell
By: James Payne
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May 10, 2010

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The absolute first step you need to take before you can begin programming in Python is to download and install Python version 3.1. Navigate to www.python.org/download and choose the newest version of Python. You will be taken to a page with instructions on how to download the appropriate version for your computer. For instance, if you are running Windows, it may say Windows x86 MSI Installer (3.0). Programs are written in a form called source code. Source code contains the instructions that the language follows, and when the source code is read and processed, the instructions that you’ve put in there become the actions that the computer takes.

Just as authors and editors have specialized tools for writing for magazines, books, or online publications, programmers also need specialized tools. As a starting Python programmer, the right tool for the job is the Python IDLE GUI (graphical user interface).

Once the download is finished, double - click it to run the program. Your best bet is to accept the default prompts Python offers you. This process may take a few minutes, depending on your system. After setup is complete, you will want to test to make sure it is installed properly. Click the Windows Start menu and go to All Programs. You will see Python 3.0 in the menu. Choose IDLE (Python GUI) and wait for the program to load.

Once IDLE launches, type in “ Test, test, testing ” and press the Enter key. If Python is running correctly, it should return the value ‘Test, test, testing’ in blue letters and with single quotes (I’ll get more into this soon). Congratulations — you have successfully installed Python and are well on your way to becoming a programming guru.

Installing Python 3.1 on Non - Windows Systems

If you are the proud owner of a Mac and are running Mac OS X, you are in luck; it comes with Python installed. Unfortunately, it may not be the most up - to - date version. For security and compatibility purposes, I would suggest logging on to www.python.org/download/mac . Check to see that your Mac OS X version is the right version for the Python you are installing.

If you have a Linux computer, you may also already have Python installed, but again, it may be an earlier version. I would once more suggest you go to the Python website to find the latest version (and of course, the one appropriate to your system). The website www.python.org/download should have instructions on how to download the right version for your computer.

>>> More Python Articles          >>> More By James Payne

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