5 Things to Know About Python

My brother-in-law is a recent materials science grad. He knows MATLAB but asked my advice on becoming a better programmer. I suggested he teach himself Python and then sent him this email:

Here’s what you need to know to get started with Python:

  • It’s already on your Mac: open a terminal (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal.app) and type “python”, then keep Terminal pinned to your dock.
  • You’ll want a real text editor. Sublime Text is good but asks you for money (you don’t have to pay). TextWrangler is less good but actually free.
  • The official Python Tutorial is probably the best way to get started.
  • Python is not a strongly typed language (like C++ or Java), which means you get ease-of-use at the cost of performance. If you learn Python, you’ll be able to quickly pick up any scripting language (Ruby, PHP, JavaScript, Perl), and you’ll find Java horribly verbose.
  • The SciPy library effectively gives Python the same scientific capabilities as MATLAB.

Also, FYI, here’s “the” list of programming language dominance.

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