What Is the Python Programming Language?
Python is what is known as a high-level, general-purpose, dynamically typed, and interpreted programming language. The interpreted portion of that definition means that Python (and other interpreted languages) do not get compiled directly into machine language or instructions before execution by the computer. Instead, Python is read and executed by another program – or an interpreter – that then translates the code into “machine language” which the computer’s processor can understand.
There are some advantages and disadvantages to a programming language falling under the interpreted category. Most notably, interpreted programming languages like Python are platform-independent, meaning they can run on any operating machine, system, or platform. These types of coding languages are also generally smaller in size and have features such as dynamic typing.
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Editor’s note: Without getting too deep into the topic, dynamic typing means that data types are checked at runtime and, therefore, the type of the variable can change over the course of its lifetime. For example, an int type – or integer – which holds only numeric values, can be changed to a string type, where all of the data stored inside are considered characters or text-based.
The high-level part of Python’s makeup refers to the way that Python uses natural language elements – or, rather, its syntax is easy to read and is English-like in nature. It is not difficult to look at a line of Pythonic code and know exactly what it was meant to do, versus other languages, such as C, where the intent is not always easily known. High-level programming languages like Python are easier to understand, automate tasks such as memory management and other low-level computer processes, and generally have a lot of abstraction from the computer system. Abstraction essentially refers to how to the level at which a programmer can interact with the computer architecture. For example, a Python programmer cannot fully optimize their programs using specific computer hardware. This lack of control is known as abstraction penalty and is the price a high-level programmer pays for the convenience the language offers (such as code reusability, common functions, high-level code debugging, and platform independence).
What Can Python Be Used For?
You may be wondering what types of software you can develop with Python and the simple answer is: nearly anything. Despite its simplicity and low learning curve, Python is extremely powerful and versatile in terms of the types of applications you can create. Here are just a few examples of software created using Python:
- Desktop applications
- Mobile applications
- Video games, including text-based, 2D side-scrollers, and 3D
- Database-driven software
- Web apps and cloud-based apps
- Operating Systems
- Programming languages
- Web frameworks
- Enterprise applications
- Business and finance applications
- Graphical User Interface (GUI) based software
- Data science and data analyst apps</li?
- Software that relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning (DL)
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
More specifically, here are some examples of Python in the wild and applications that were either built completely using the Python programming language or partially:
- Parts of Google’s search engine and crawler
- Yahoo Maps
- Facebook and Instagram
- Battlefield 2
- Disney’s Toontown Online
- Eve Online
- World of Tanks
Read: Python Uses for Web Development
What are the Benefits of Python?
There are a plethora of benefits to developing software in the Python programming language. We will highlight the major benefits below, with a brief explanation of the advantages of choosing Python for each one.
Python is Extensible
Python on its own is a powerful programming language, but there is always room for improvement. That being said, Python is highly extensible, meaning that you can extend Python to other languages and write C#, C, C++, Java, and other programming languages within your Python codebase to add functionality or blend it with other software.
Speaking of adding functionality to Python – one of the major benefits of choosing Python as your programming language of choice (or even adding it as a second or third language) is the large amount of libraries you can incorporate into your code. A library is basically a piece of reusable code that can be used for common functions such as manipulating images, performing equations, database administration, regular expressions, and so forth.
Libraries help reduce coding errors, make programmers more efficient, and make software smaller in size (and lines of code). Instead of writing long lines of code to accomplish a common task, coders can simply call upon a library – often with a single line of code – to perform that task instead.
Note, when we use the phrase “library” here, we are using it interchangeably with modules and packages.
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Without a doubt, one of the most important benefits of Python is its vast community of developers and software engineers. This community helps support Python – and thus Python developers – in numerous ways. For starters, they help the language grow and expand, as new iterations of the programming language rely on community support to add functionality and find flaws in new versions. They also actively contribute to learning resources, like Python tutorials, guides, books, forum discussions, and video content.
In addition, the Python community creates libraries and plugins that expand what can be achieved with the language. Since the Python community is so large, it also ensures the language continues to exist and that companies continue to adapt Python into their developer stacks and technologies. That means more Python jobs and more users to purchase the Python software you develop.
Python Is Easy to Learn
Python is incredibly easy to learn, regardless of your age or experience level. It is part of the reason I wrote a book about programming in the language for teenagers – it is a great entry into programming software as a whole. Since the language is so simple to read and write in, it also makes a great second or third language to add to your developer resume.
Even if a programmer plans on coding in a different language further down the line, Python is a good place to start. You can learn basic programming philosophies and concepts that overlap no matter what language you use. For example, pretty much every programming language uses the concepts of variables, data types, loops and iterations, and control statements like if and else.
Read more Python programming tutorials and guides.