Lesson 1.1: Installing Python

Python Language

Python is a modern, high-level, interpreted programming language. It was first released in 1991. Despite the fact that Python logo features two snakes, the name is actually derived from Monty Python, the British comedy group.

Python is one of the most popular languages in the world. In fact, it was voted the most popular programming language in 2007 and 2010. It is simple enough to be used in introductory programming classes, yet powerful enough that the world’s biggest tech firms like Facebook and Google use it for implementing their core systems.

For additional info on Python, please refer to this Wikipedia article or python.org website.

Python IDLE

Python is a high-level programming language; as such, it cannot be directly understood by computers. To write and execute Python programs, we need at least a Python source code editor and a Python interpreter. And there are other tools (a debugger, a package manager, etc.) that also come in handy.

Instead of installing and using each tool separately, software developers usually use an IDE, an Integrated Development Environment that combines all the individual tools into one application. One of the most popular IDEs for Python is IDLE, a Python Integrated Development and Learning Environment.

IDLE is included as part of Python distribution from python.org. If you have a Mac OS or Linux computer, chances are that IDLE is already installed on your system. To find out for sure, please follow the instructions at the beginning of the next lesson and try to start the IDLE application. If you have IDLE for Python 3.x installed, you can ignore the rest of this lesson and jump right to Lesson 2.

Before we discuss how to install Python on your computer, a word of caution. There are currently 2 major versions of Python – Python 2.x and Python 3.x. Please make sure that you install and run a 3.x version, preferably the most recent one. The support for Python 2 will end very soon plus the programs on this website may not run at all with Python 2.x!

Below are detail instructions for installing Python on Windows computers. For other platforms, please download and install the latest version of Python (currently 3.7.1) directly from https://python.org/downloads/.


Installing Python on Windows

  1. Navigate to https://python.org/downloads/.
  2. Click on the “Download Python 3.7.1” button. Python 3.7.1 is the most current Python distribution as of December 2018. It’s OK to install a newer version when it’s available.
    1. If you are using Chrome browser, look for the downloaded file at the bottom of your window, click it, and then click “Run” button in the download dialog.
    2. For Edge or IE, click “Run” button in the download dialog at the bottom of your browser window.
  3. You should now see a Python 3.7.1 installer window.
  4. Make sure to check the “Add Python 3.7 to PATH” checkbox. This will be important later, when we try to integrate the Python Interpreter with Visual Studio Code IDE.
  5. Leave the rest of the options as is and click on the “Install Now” region.
  6. Once the set up completes, you can just hit the Close button. Or you can take a look at the online tutorial and documentation. Unless you know that you will be creating really long paths, you can ignore the “Disable path length limit” region.

That’s it. You are done with the most boring lesson of the class! In the next lesson, you will learn how to start IDLE and how to use it.

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