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Python: What is it? What is it used for? What can you do with it?

Articles in Software Development | By Hash Brown

Published 3 months agoSat, 15 Dec 2018 02:25:31 -0800

Python is a general purpose programming language created in the late 1980s, and named after Monty Python, that's used by thousands of people to do things from testing microchips at Intel, to powering Instagram, to building video games with the PyGame library.

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According to the TIOBE index, Python is the third most used language of 2018, with the 2nd highest growth out of the top 10 most used technologies. This growth is fuelling a huge need for Python developers and the ability of write code in Python is something more and more companies are going to need. But every day I am reading questions like:

  • What is Python?
  • What can you do with it?
  • What is it used for in the real world?

These are all questions I hope to answer today in this article, which hopefully acts as a nice intro into the language.

What is Python?

Python is a general purpose and high level programming language. It can be used for anything from Web Apps, to desktop GUI applications. It was developed in the 1980's and names after the popular comedy group, Monty Python.

It's very high level, meaning it's going to handle common programming tasks for you. The syntax is very easy to pick up and read, making it an ideal language for beginners to software development. This has lots of advantages for bigger projects, making code easier to read and follow helping the application become easier to update and maintain.

What can you do with it?

You can do pretty much anything you imagine. Python is extremely flexible and has a huge number of libraries that really allow you to to take Python as far as you can take it.

It's used in Data Science, Machine Learning, Web Development, Building Desktop Programs and much more.

Python is extremely simple to learn and pick up quickly if you come from other programming languages. Libraries such as BeautifulSoup make tasks like web scraping very simple. There seems to be a library for every need, Python has a huge community.

Who uses Python?

Python is widely used in some of the worlds biggest websites, some of these include:

  • Google. Googles web crawler is written in Python and Google actually employ Pythons creator Guido Van Rossum. Python helps them collect and organise the worlds knowledge and is favoured because of it requires relatively low resources but packs huge power.
  • The NSA use Python. They run their cryptography and intelligence analysis programs with Python.
  • Python is used in financial market forecasting by JPMorgan, Getco and UBS.
  • The iRobot Vacuum cleaner is coded in Python.
  • Reddit is a platform written in Python, as is Instagram, Disqus, Quora and Pinterest.
  • DropBox use Python for their hosting service.
  • Disney have been known to use Python for various tasks when animating movies.
  • YouTube is largely written in Python.

As you can see the range of tasks Python is used for. The versatility of this easy to learn language is no joke. It's powering our internet, it's being used to spy on us, it's making our movies and vacuuming our floors.

With that being said, let's look at some more of it's key functions.

Five Reasions You Should Consider Writing Software In Python

1. It's as close to a perfect language you will get for a beginner.

Python is actually being taught in schools right now, children all over the world are learning Python and this will be seen as a "standard" skill for the work force 10-15 years from now as these kids get older and our reliance on computer systems grows.

The reason these kids are picking it up is pretty simple, it's very easy to pick up and read. If you want to program a Hello World app in Python is would look something like this:

print("Hello, World!")

If you want to want to run an if statement, it would look like this:

number = 1

if number == 1:
    print("Number is 1")

This is very simple to follow, within minutes people who have no experience of writing code will beging to get their head around python and enjoy it.

2. It can be used for Web Development

We live in a time where most people want to operate everything they do on a PC through a browser window. Web apps are beginning to dominate over desktop software and this is going to grow with the advances in cloud computing and ease of access to these services thanks to companies like AWS and DigitalOcean.

My background is in Web Development, I learnt PHP nearly 10 years ago and the thought of using anything else to build web apps would have made my ask why. In 2015 PHP was the most in demand skill in the field. In 3 short years Python and Java have both over taken it and the love people had for PHP seems to be disappearing. 

Thanks to frameworks like Django what would have once taken you hours in PHP can be done in minutes.

Lots of the "old" web is still built in PHP, the best example of which is Facebook. But more and more newer apps and platforms are being built in Python.

If you are going to do a head to head of Python Vs PHP, some of the areas Python would win are:

  • Package management. Python has PIP, it's simple to use.
  • Lambdas, these are subroutines or functions that is defined and called without being bound to an identifier. It can be passed around and executed later, PHP doesn't have this.
  • Python is var more versatile, learning this can lead you to developing desktop apps or completing data science projects.
  • Bigger community, Python has grown 27% this year. While PHP is still huge, it seems to be dying.

3. You're going to earn more money.

I like money, do you like money? Do you want more of it?... Learn Python.

Take a look at the average salaries for developers in the US for 2017.

Source: Codementor.io

Second only to Ruby you're going to be earning a lot more money. If you're considering a career in development this might want to be something you think about.

4. It's the fastest growing programming language

Source: StackOverflow

It's very easy to say that Python is just the flavour of the month and things will slow down for it soon... but looking at that graph it's clear to see that's just not the case.

Theres nothing to suggest that Python will drop off. With it's ease of use, extensive and powerful libraries and the rise of Machine Learning and AI (which is done very easily in Python thanks to extensive libraries like SciPy) the demand for Python developers looks to rise.

5. Unlimited resources and testing framework

Everyone gets stuck when writing code and as a python developer you're going to have access to a HUGE library of resources, books, tutorials, YouTube videos and more online.

If you need help this forum has a great Python Community you can post in if you require help.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a language to learn in 2019 Python is a pretty solid choice. It's ability to do anything from Artificial Intelligence to Web Development makes it the true Swiss Army Knife of software languages.

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I'm Hash Brown, I've done "computer stuff" for all my life.

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