Ready to learn programming with Python? This beginner’s guide will take you through the basics of coding with python and get you started on your coding journey.
Whether you’re interested in web development, data analysis, data science or game design, learning Python is a great place to startas it is easy to learn and widely used. It’s a high-level, interpreted language. This means that instead of compiling the entire program into machine code before running it, the interpreter reads each line of code, interprets its meaning, and executes it immediately. Python is versatile enough to be used for a variety of applications. Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python, developed the language in 1991 with the goal of making programming more accessible and intuitive. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced programmer, learning Python can be a valuable skill to have in today’s technology-driven world. The rapid growth in AI technologies recently such as ChatGPT y Bard is hard to miss. Believe it or not, these are all programmed in Python. Learning Python can open up many opportunities in the tech industry and beyond. And the good news is that there are many resources available online to support you with your learning journey to program in Python, including tutorials, courses, and books.
This beginner’s guide will introduce you to the basics of Python programming and help you get started on your coding journey. We’ll cover the following topics:
- What is Python and What exactly is it used for
- How to set up your development area
- Learn the basic syntax and data types
- Get to grips with control structures and functions
- Take on object-oriented programming and advanced topics
What is Python and what exactly is it used for
When starting out with learning to code, you might ask yourself – what language should I learn to code in? The answer depends on where you want to apply your coding skills. If there’s a particular job that you’re interested in and which requires you to code, it’s good to understand what others in this job use.
However, if you don’t have a specific job in mind, python is a great language to start learning how to code.
But first, what is Python?
Python is a high-level programming language that is widely used in a variety of applications. It was first released in 1991 and has since become one of the most popular programming languages in the world.
Here’s a fun fact for you: the language was named Python by its developer because when he began implementing the language, he was also reading the published scripts from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, a BBC comedy series from the 1970s. He thought he needed a name that was short, unique, and slightly mysterious, so he decided to call the language Python.
Unlike other languages like Java or C++, Python is often referred to as a scripting language, which means it’s great for automating tasks and working with data. It is known for its simplicity, readability, and ease of use, making it a great choice if you’re a beginner and just starting to learn programming.
Python is also popular because of the mature and supportive user base developing and using it. Python is developed under an open source licence which makes it freely usable and distributable, even for commercial use. The community at large develops and maintains the language. This shows what is achievable when people with a strong common interest come together to build something! Python is versatile, efficient and fast. It can be used for a wide range of applications, including web development, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and game design. This shows how flexible the language can be and adds to the list of reasons why many new learners start with Python today as their first programming language.
How to set up your development environment
Before you can start programming with Python, you need to set up your development environment. Now this will depend on the operating system (OS) you use as the setup would be different, say, between a Windows or a Mac machine. Depending on your OS, you can download and install Python from Python’s official website. There are ample resources online that can guide you through the setup process. For example, this tutorial shows you how to install Python on a Windows machine.
Once you have installed Python, the next step is to choose a code editor or integrated development environment (IDE) to write your code in. An IDE is a software application that provides a comprehensive platform for programmers to write and develop computer programs. It combines various tools and features that are essential for software development, such as code editing, debugging (the process of identifying and removing errors from computer code), and building executables (files that contain programs). IDEs are designed to streamline the programming process and increase productivity by providing a centralised workspace for developers to work on their projects.
There are many options available; one popular choice is the IDLE IDE that comes with Python, Visual Studio Code, and PyCharm. Once you have your environment set up, you’re ready to start coding!
Learn the basic syntax and data types
Firstly, let’s define what we mean by Syntax. Programming syntax is the set of rules that dictate the structure of a programming language. It controls the use of symbols, punctuation, and words in a way that gives meaning to the code. Without syntax, it would be impossible to understand what the code means. For instance, a string of words like “need subject sentence verb does a” would be meaningless without proper syntax. By applying the correct syntax, the sentence becomes “Does a sentence need a subject and verb?” which is a clear and understandable statement. Programming languages function on the same principles.
Python has a simple and easy-to-learn syntax, making it a great language for beginners.The basic building blocks of Python code are variables, data types, and operators.
These are used to store data.They are a placeholder for information you want Python to recall later in the coding process when you need to complete an action. In programming, variables serve a similar purpose to the variables used in algebra. They allow programmers to write code that can process information without having all the values upfront. However, programming variables are more versatile than algebraic variables, as they can represent a wide range of information beyond just numerical values.
A data type is a classification of data which tells the programming language how the programmer intends to use the data in the program. In Python, this includes integers, floats, strings, and booleans among others.
These data types are used to classify data and determine what kind of values a variable can hold. This classification also dictates which mathematical, relational, or logical operations can be performed on the variable without causing any errors. Essentially, data types help ensure that the code runs smoothly and accurately.
These are used to perform operations on variables and values, such as addition, subtraction, and comparison depending on the data type on which the operators work on.
Here’s a helpful blog for beginners to learn Python variables and data types in some more detail. Understanding these basic concepts will get you well on your way to writing Python code.
Get to grips with control structures and functions.
Once you have a grasp on the syntax and the basics of Python, it’s time to dive into control structures and functions. Control structures allow you to control the flow of your code i.e the order in which the program’s code executes. The control flow of a Python program is regulated by conditional statements and loops. Python has three types of control structures:
These are used to run code one after the other (default mode). Sequential statements, as a name suggests, are a set of statements whose execution process happens in a sequence.
These are used for code where a decision or branch needs to be made. Selection statements allow a code to test one or more conditions and execute the code to spit out the output based on which condition is true. The general structure includes an ‘if-else’ statement.
These are used for looping, i.e., repeating a piece of code multiple times. Repetition statements are used to repeat a set of coding instructions. In Python, we generally have two repetitive statements – a ‘for’ loop and a ‘while’ loop.
The figure below shows the logic followed by selection and repetition statements when executing code.
These are reusable blocks of code that perform a specific task, and they can greatly simplify your code and make it more efficient. Imagine you’re programming a computer game. Confetti covers the screen when a player scores, and celebratory trumpets are played. Let’s say the celebration function is called, for example,CelebrateScore. Then, every time you want the confetti to rain and trumpets to roar, you can call upon the ‘CelebrateScore’ function. That means you don’t have to write the same steps down and over again, saving yourself valuable time. Learning how to use control structures and functions is essential for writing more complex programs in Python. This YouTube video goes into more depth explaining what a function is in Python.
Take on object-oriented programming and other advanced topics
Once you have a solid foundation in Python, you can start exploring more advanced topics such as object-oriented programming (OOP). OOP is a programming framework that allows you to create objects that have properties and methods. To put it more simply, in OOP, an object could represent a human with attributes like a name, age, and address and methods such as walking, talking and sending email.
By breaking down a program into objects, OOP allows for more adaptive and flexible code that can be easily reused and maintained. If this has piqued your curiosity then you might find this YouTube video, which provides an introduction to OOP, helpful.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Other advanced topics include working with databases, web development, and data analysis. Keep in mind that these topics require more specialised knowledge and may require additional learning resources. But if you have made it this far, you are 100% capable of going onto the next steps and picking these topics up to explore on your own!
Python has become one of the fastest-growing programming languages in recent years, with its popularity skyrocketing. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced programmer, learning Python can be a valuable skill to have in today’s tech-driven world. With its simple syntax and versatility, Python is used in a wide range of applications, from web development to data analysis and machine learning. If you’re keen to start learning to program with Python, here’s a cheeky plug for our very ownData Science bootcamp!
1. Why is Python so popular?
Answer: Python’s popularity can be attributed to its simplicity, versatility, and community support. It is easy to learn and use, making it accessible to beginners, but also has advanced features for more experienced programmers. Its versatility allows it to be used in a variety of industries and applications, from web development to data analysis. Additionally, Python has a large and active community of developers on platforms such as StackOverflow y Kaggle who contribute to its development and provide support to others.
2. Can you teach yourself to code in Python?
Answer: Yes, you can absolutely teach yourself to code in Python! There are many resources available online, including free tutorials, videos, and interactive coding platforms. It may take some time and effort, but with dedication and practice, anyone can learn to code in Python.
3. Is Python easy to learn for beginners?
Answer: Yes, Python is considered to be one of the easiest programming languages to learn for beginners. Its syntax is simple and easy to understand, and it has a large community of developers who are willing to help and provide resources for learning. Additionally, Python is used in a wide range of applications, from web development to data analysis, making it a versatile language to learn.
4. How do I start learning Python programming?
Answer: There are many resources available for learning Python, including online courses, books, and tutorials. It’s important to start with the basics, such as understanding variables, data types, and control structures. From there, you can move on to more advanced topics like object-oriented programming and web development. Practice is key, so be sure to work on coding projects and exercises to reinforce your learning.