Python: First time setup and configuration

By | November 3, 2015

The zen of Python.

Why Python?

I won’t make a persuasive speech here, since you should already have decided on using Python at this point, but just to review what is commonly said: Python is flexible. You can run your code in the debugger or from the command line as soon as you save it, make quick edits, and run it again without having to compile. It is easy to write and nice to look at, meaning you won’t have to squint your eyes to count curly brackets or read through variable type declarations. Finally, it is diverse. It is able to take on the role of a variety of programming paradigms.

Which Python? 2.7 or 3.0+?

Short answer: If you’re new to programming as a whole, just go with whatever your book or class is using. The education material will be the bottleneck in this instance.

You should try thinking as far ahead as you can about what kind of project you want to start. If you are taking part in some sort of guided or instructed learning, your instructors will be able to tell you which version to use.

Otherwise, find out what modules and tools you will be using – sometimes they are only available for a certain version. They can make your life a lot easier, too. So plan ahead as far as you can and try to find that out before you get started. You’ll be running into problems along the way, so aim to have some decent guides, tutorials, and reference material lined up. At the very least you should know of an active community that can help answer any questions you might have. Bookmark whatever you find and take notes of any tools/modules/frameworks that are used. Now you should know what version of Python to download and install.

Download, unzip and install.

Official page here. Run the installer you might be able to avoid the next step (depending on the version) by checking environment variables at one of the steps during the installation. The default path for windows is:


Add environment variables.

How to start working

Python comes with an integrated development environment called IDLE, you should be able to launch it from your Windows search bar.┬áBut you might want something more complete to do your work in. I visited /r/python to get an idea of what people preferred: PyCharm, Eclipse (setup might be longer), and Spyder are the frequently selected IDEs. If you’re not satisfied with how those appear, here is the Wikipedia comparison table. For something lightweight and simple, a text editor can get the job done as well. Notepad++ and Atom are two solid choices. That wraps things up, you now have all you need to write a program in Python. Though I suppose you could even code in a vanilla text file and add a .py extension when you’re done. Heck, why limit yourself? Just get in there and start writing in machine code, or better yet, binary. Just kidding.

3 thoughts on “Python: First time setup and configuration

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