When a programmer sets out to learn a new programming language they usually have a set of reasons. Maybe it is required for a job or is a popular language in a particular market sector. Perhaps they are trying to get ahead of the curve and keep their skills sharp or they read about it online and wanted to give it a shot. Usually there are several reasons that prompt you to begin your learning adventure.
If you are new to programming and Python would be your first language, I am going to give you several reasons why it is a good one to choose as your first. If you have been programming for awhile, I am going to be able to give you several reasons why it is worth your time to learn Python. Either way, it is important for you to learn some advantages of disadvantages of the language and understand when it can be useful.
Python is Easy to Learn
For beginners especially, Python can be a very easy language to learn and you will soon be able to produce productive and complicated scripts in a matter of minutes. Python was created with the idea that languages should have a clear and easy structure to learn while still being high-level and powerful for the tasks you need it for. This is why Python becomes the language for choice for many developers since it is easy to complete advanced tasks without a lot of effort.
Easy to Read
Some programmers may not think that readability is important in a scripting language but coming from other languages such as Perl, it is a blessing. Python’s syntax was thought out with this specific requirement in mind and they did such a great job that Python has been called “runnable pseudocode”. Not only does this make your scripts easier to document but it allows you to read your work down the road when you have forgotten what it does. For developers that are looking to get involved with open source projects, Python projects are an excellent place to start since the language is so user-friendly.
Piles of Documentation
Having a large and reliable library of documentation for a language is essential for beginning programmers and Python delivers. Python incorporates module, class, function and method documentation directly into the language so it is almost impossible not to document your code. There are also a great amount of modules that have been designed to do just about everything you may want. Finding references and help when you are stuck should never be a problem.
Many programmers can be finicky about their operating system environment and will not learn a programming language at the expense of their OS. Since Python will run on pretty much any machine you are almost guaranteed compatibility even with obscure environments. You can even use GUIs such as GTK or Qt to make sure you have nice looking interfaces in other operating systems.
Programmers that have been using Python for some time often call it “programming glue” due to the high level of interoperability it allows. Python is very good at gluing other languages together to make things work when you have different tools or libraries in different languages. It is easy to create wrappers, make translations and call libraries from other languages such as C, C++, FORTRAN, R and a host of other programming languages.
For programmers that are used to modular programming systems that organize functions and classes into namespaces, you will easily be able to adjust to the similar system in Python. For developers that have not used this system before, you will quickly see how it makes your life easier to have a hierarchal structure for your code.
Each Python file you create will define a module that works like a namespace. Inside of the namespace resides the classes, functions and variables that are declared. If you import a module you can create a local dictionary that holds the module’s object or you can pull some of the module’s objects into the local namespace. This modular system promotes code reusability since the programmer does not have to do any extra work keeping disparate program components separate. It is easy to extract and reuse specific functionality.
A good programming language will have the correct data structures for your program’s needs. Python has a large amount of data structures such as: lists, tuples, sets, dictionaries, strings, threadsafe queues, and many other built-in types. If you should find that the built-in set does not contain a data structure that you need, you may just need to import an operation library such as NumPy for n-dimensional array and matrix operations or SciPy so you can have image objects, time-series and much more.
Python comes packaged with a large set of standard libraries, which was a major concern for the authors since they felt that their philosophy was “batteries-included” when it came to using the language. The standard distribution comes with built-in database functionality, data features, interfacing with the OS or a website, email and networking tool, data compression, cryptography, SML support, regular expression, unit testing, multithreading and much, much more. The idea is that no matter what task you have at hand, Python should be able to get you working quickly without having to struggle with your tools and hunt down additional libraries or functionality. This is also great if you often have to complete multiple tasks during your day such as report writing and automation of OS tasks: you don’t have to switch languages every time your task changes.
One of the key points in defining a programmer as better than their peers is in their testing ability. A good programmer should want to produce code that is reusable, dependable and guaranteed to function a certain way. There is a strong connection between code quality and the amount of testing the author has committed to. This is why Python provides a built-in, no-boilerplate, practical and solid testing framework that doesn’t require a lot of setup or headache to use. This testing framework encourages good testing habits and speeds up your debugging and delivery time due to its usefulness.
I have given you the most important points in favor of Python to show you what a great choice it is. Python is a complete programming solution and if you are still doubtful about Python’s usefulness, maybe it is time for you to try it out yourself! There are many resources available for you to start your learning with as well as our tutorial on Getting Started with Python if you are unsure how to begin. Take my word for it, it is one of the best choices you can make to keep moving forward with your professional training!