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Python is strongly typed (i.e. types are enforced), dynamically, implicitly typed (i.e. you don't have to declare variables), case sensitive (i.e. var and VAR are two different variables) and object-oriented (i.e. everything is an object).
Help in Python is always available right in the interpreter. If you want to know how an object works, all you have to do is call
help(<object>)! Also useful are
dir(), which shows you all the object's methods, and
<object>.__doc__, which shows you its documentation string:
Python has no mandatory statement termination characters and blocks are specified by indentation. Indent to begin a block, dedent to end one. Statements that expect an indentation level end in a colon (:). Comments start with the pound (#) sign and are single-line, multi-line strings are used for multi-line comments. Values are assigned (in fact, objects are bound to names) with the equals sign ("="), and equality testing is done using two equals signs ("=="). You can increment/decrement values using the += and -= operators respectively by the right-hand amount. This works on many datatypes, strings included. You can also use multiple variables on one line. For example:
The data structures available in python are lists, tuples and dictionaries. Sets are available in the
sets library (but are built-in in Python 2.5 and later). Lists are like one-dimensional arrays (but you can also have lists of other lists), dictionaries are associative arrays (a.k.a. hash tables) and tuples are immutable one-dimensional arrays (Python "arrays" can be of any type, so you can mix e.g. integers, strings, etc in lists/dictionaries/tuples). The index of the first item in all array types is 0. Negative numbers count from the end towards the beginning, -1 is the last item. Variables can point to functions. The usage is as follows:
You can access array ranges using a colon (:). Leaving the start index empty assumes the first item, leaving the end index assumes the last item. Negative indexes count from the last item backwards (thus -1 is the last item) like so:
Its strings can use either single or double quotation marks, and you can have quotation marks of one kind inside a string that uses the other kind (i.e. "He said 'hello'." is valid). Multiline strings are enclosed in triple double (or single) quotes ("""). Python supports Unicode out of the box, using the syntax u"This is a unicode string". To fill a string with values, you use the % (modulo) operator and a tuple. Each %s gets replaced with an item from the tuple, left to right, and you can also use dictionary substitutions, like so:
Flow control statements
Flow control statements are
while. There is no
switch; instead, use if. Use for to enumerate through members of a list. To obtain a list of numbers, use
range(<number>). These statements' syntax is thus:
Functions are declared with the "def" keyword. Optional arguments are set in the function declaration after the mandatory arguments by being assigned a default value. For named arguments, the name of the argument is assigned a value. Functions can return a tuple (and using tuple unpacking you can effectively return multiple values). Lambda functions are ad hoc functions that are comprised of a single statement. Parameters are passed by reference, but immutable types (tuples, ints, strings, etc) *cannot be changed*. This is because only the memory location of the item is passed, and binding another object to a variable discards the old one, so immutable types are replaced. For example:
Python supports a limited form of multiple inheritance in classes. Private variables and methods can be declared (by convention, this is not enforced by the language) by adding at least two leading underscores and at most one trailing one (e.g. "__spam"). We can also bind arbitrary names to class instances. An example follows:
Exceptions in Python are handled with try-except [exceptionname] blocks:
External libraries are used with the
import [libname] keyword. You can also use
from [libname] import [funcname] for individual functions. Here is an example:
Python has a wide array of libraries built in. As an example, here is how serializing (converting data structures to strings using the
pickle library) with file I/O is used:
- Conditions can be chained.
1 < a < 3checks that a is both less than 3 and greater than 1.
- You can use
delto delete variables or items in arrays.
- List comprehensions provide a powerful way to create and manipulate lists. They consist of an expression followed by a
forclause followed by zero or more
forclauses, like so:
Global variables are declared outside of functions and can be read without any special declarations, but if you want to write to them you must declare them at the beginning of the function with the "global" keyword, otherwise Python will bind that object to a new local variable (be careful of that, it's a small catch that can get you if you don't know it). For example:
This tutorial is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all (or even a subset) of Python. Python has a vast array of libraries and much much more functionality which you will have to discover through other means, such as the excellent book Dive into Python.