First steps with Python

This pages outlines what you need to do to get started with Python.  Thankfully, Python is easy to learn and by following these steps, you should become a productive Pythonista in no time.

Download and install EPD

For scientific computing applications, the best way to get Python is to download and install the Enthought Python Distribution (EPD).  Most importantly, the academic version of EPD is free.

Install the IPython notebook

Once EPD is installed on your system, you can install the IPython notebook, which is the recommended environment for working with Python.  To install the notebook, run the following commands at the command prompt:

easy_install tornado
easy_install http://github.com/ipython/ipython/tarball/master

 

To run the notebook, open the command prompt, change directories to the location you want to store notebook files and run:

ipython notebook --pylab=inline

 

Now point your web browser to the location http://127.0.0.1:8888 and you are ready to start learning Python. On recent versions of IPython, starting the notebook will automatically open your web browser to the correct location.

Learn Python

Next, it is time to learn Python itself.  Here are the best introductory books out there:

Also of great use is the documentation on Python’s website.

Second steps with Python

Once you have some experience in using Python, you can start to take the next steps.

Download and install a text editor

For editing longer scripts, you will want to use a full blown, plain text editor such as:

Learn more about specific Python packages

Download Git and create a GitHub account

Git is magic.  It lets you write code with large groups of people who are distributed over the surface of the planet.

  • Download Git from here.
  • Next get a GitHub account.
  • Start to save your scripts on Gist
  • Finally, learn about Git using Pro Git.
 

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