What is Python?
Python is an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level programming language with dynamic semantics developed by Guido van Rossum. It was originally released in 1991. Designed to be easy as well as fun, the name "Python" is a nod to the British comedy group Monty Python. Python has a reputation as a beginner-friendly language, replacing Java as the most widely used introductory language because it handles much of the complexity for the user, allowing beginners to focus on fully grasping programming concepts rather than minute details.
Python is used for server-side web development, software development, mathematics, and system scripting, and is popular for Rapid Application Development and as a scripting or glue language to tie existing components because of its high-level, built-in data structures, dynamic typing, and dynamic binding. Program maintenance costs are reduced with Python due to the easily learned syntax and emphasis on readability. Additionally, Python's support of modules and packages facilitates modular programs and reuse of code. Python is an open source community language, so numerous independent programmers are continually building libraries and functionality for it.
Python Use Cases
- Creating web applications on a server
- Building workflows that can be used in conjunction with software
- Connecting to database systems
- Reading and modifying files
- Performing complex mathematics
- Processing big data
- Fast prototyping
- Developing production-ready software
Professionally, Python is great for backend web development, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and scientific computing. Developers also use Python to build productivity tools, games, and desktop apps.
Features and Benefits of Python
- Compatible with a variety of platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and others
- Uses a simple syntax comparable to the English language that lets developers use fewer lines than other programming languages
- Operates on an interpreter system that allows code to be executed immediately, fast-tracking prototyping
- Can be handled in a procedural, object-orientated, or functional way
- Somewhat similar to the English language, with a mathematical influence, Python is built for readability
- Unlike other languages that use semicolons and/or parentheses to complete a command, Python uses new lines for the same function
- Defines scope (i.e., loops, functions, classes) by relying indentation, using whitespace, rather than braces (aka curly brackets)
Python, a dynamically typed language, is especially flexible, eliminating hard rules for building features and offering more problem-solving flexibility with a variety of methods. It also allows uses to compile and run programs right up to a problematic area because it uses run-time type checking rather than compile-time checking.
The Less Great Parts of Python
On the down side, Python isn’t easy to maintain. One command can have multiple meanings depending on context because Python is a dynamically typed language. And, maintaining a Python app as it grows in size and complexity can be increasingly difficult, especially finding and fixing errors. Users will need experience to design code or write unit tests that make maintenance easier.
Speed is another weakness in Python. Its flexibility, because it is dynamically typed, requires a significant amount of referencing to land on a correct definition, slowing performance. This can be mitigated by using alternative implementation of Python (e.g. PyPy).
Python and AI
AI researchers are fans of Python. Google TensorFlow, as well as other libraries (scikit-learn, Keras), establish a foundation for AI development because of the usability and flexibility it offers Python users. These libraries, and their availability, are critical because they enable developers to focus on growth and building.
Good to Know
The Python Package Index (PyPI) is a repository of software for the Python programming language. PyPI helps users find and install software developed and shared by the Python community.