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Python is an interpreted programming language created by Guido van Rossum in 1990. Python is fully dynamically typed and uses automatic memory management; it is thus similar to Perl, Ruby, Scheme, Smalltalk, and Tcl. Python is developed as an open source project, managed by the non-profit Python Software Foundation.

see: The tutorial and scripts for examples and NumPy for tips on using this module.


  • 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).

Reserved words / keywords (native to Python)

Note: Keywords define the language’s rules and structure, and they cannot be used as variable names.

and      as     assert  break   class   continue
def      del    elif    else    except  exec
finally  for    from    global  if      import
in       is     lambda  not     or      pass
print    raise  return  try     while   with

Array slicing

If you have a list

nums = [1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 13, 20]

then the first 3 elements, middle 3 elements, and last 3 elements would be:

nums[:3]  #equals [1, 3, 5]
nums[2:5] #equals [5, 7, 8]
nums[-3:] #equals [8, 13, 20]

Note that Python allows negative list indices. The index -1 represents the last element, -2 the penultimate element, etc. Python also has more advanced slicing operators using the double colon (::) index operator. For example, the code:

nums[3::]  #equals [7, 8, 13, 20] (starting at index 3 going to the end)
nums[::3]  #equals [1, 7, 20] (starting at index 0 and getting every third element afterward)
nums[1::2] #equals [3, 7, 13] (starting at index 1 and getting every second element afterward)

Here document

Python supports heredocs delimited by single or double quotes repeated three times (i.e. ''' or """).

A simple example with variable interpolation is:

sender = 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
recipient = 'Spike'

Dear %(recipient)s,

I wish you to leave Sunnydale and never return.

Not Quite Love,
""" % locals())

The Template class described in PEP 292 (Simpler String Substitutions) provides similar functionality for variable interpolation and may be used in combination with the Python triple-quotes syntax.

Variadic functions

Python supports very flexible variadic functions. By marking variables with one asterisk (e.g. *var) the given variable is defined to be a tuple of all the extra arguments. By marking variables with two asterisks (e.g. **var) the given variable is a dictionary of all extra keyword arguments; the keys are strings, which are the names that were. Conventionally these are called "args" and "kwargs" respectively, but they may be something else, and packages often make good use of this ability to improve readability (e.g. BeautifulSoup). If they exist, these arguments must be the last one in the list.

def f(*args, **kwargs):
    print args
    print kwargs

>>> f(1, 2, "cow", "kitty")
(1, 2, "cow", "kitty")

>>> f(arg1=1, sample=2, name="cow", hero="kitty")
{"arg1": 1, "sample": 2, "name": "cow", "hero": "kitty"}

>>> f(1, 2, name="cow", hero="kitty")
(1, 2)
{"name": "cow", "hero": "kitty"}

>>> f(arg1=1, sample=2, name="cow", "kitty")
SyntaxError "Non-keyword arg after keyword arg"

Conversely you may also pass in a tuple or dictionary using the same asterisk-notation and have it automatically expand to fill.

def g(a, b, c):
    print a, b, c

>>> mytuple = 1,2,3
>>> mydict = {"a": "first", "b": "second", "c": "third"}
>>> g(*mytuple)
1 2 3
>>> g(**mydict)
first second third
>>> g(**{"a": "first"})
TypeError "g() takes exactly 3 non-keyword arguments (got 1)"
>>> g(**{"a": "first", "b": "second", "c": "third", "d": "fourth"})
TypeError "g() got an unexpected keyword argument 'd'"

Version history

  • 3.x
    • Python 3.2.3 — 2012-04-10
    • Python 3.0.1 — 2009-02-13
  • 2.x
    • Python 2.7.3 — 2012-04-09
    • Python 2.6.1 — 2008-12-04
    • Python 2.5.4 — 2008-12-23
    • Python 2.5.2 — 2008-02-22
    • Python 2.5.1 — 2007-04-18
    • Python 2.4.4 — 2006-10-18
    • Python 2.4.2 — 2005-09-28

See also

Science / mathematics

  • SciPy
  • NumPy
  • sympy — a Python library for symbolic mathematics (aka a computer algebra system (CAS))
  • pandas — a Python Data Analysis Library



  • PyMedia — module for wav, mp3, ogg, avi, divx, dvd, cdda, etc. file manipulations.
  • ID3 — ID3 tagging in Python




External links

Online books/tutorials