Python is on a bit of a high right now. Data from StackOverflow shows that this popular object orientated language has been climbing the ranks, claiming to be the fastest growing and the 6th most popular language overall.
If you’re a developer looking to enhance your skills, or a wannabe programmer looking for a language to dive right in, Python could be the answer. Here’s what you need to know.
So what is Python?
According to Pythonforbeginners.com, Python is “an object-oriented, high-level programming language with integrated dynamic semantics primarily for web and app development”.
It’s particularly useful in rapid Application development, a software development methodology that focuses on prototyping and testing over planning. Because the syntax closely resembles English, developers can read and translate code easier than other languages, reducing barriers to collaboration. Python also supports the use of modules and packages, meaning that once one piece of the project is developed, it can be re-used, imported/exported and scaled. Python runs anywhere, including Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and Unix, with builds also available for Android and iOS.
Where is Python used?
Originally used (mainly) as a scripting language, the most basic application of Python has been to automate repetitive operational tasks, including interactions with web browsers. But this only scratches the surface of what Python can do as a general programming language. A big reason for its popularity surge has been its application in data science, big data, and artificial intelligence/machine learning, fields that are currently booming. Industry-wise, Python is versatile, having been used across a wide range of sectors including mapping, financial services, games development, web development and academic research.
Why is it so popular?
Python is great for beginners, as the syntax is easy to learn, which means developers can quickly start being productive without the need for a steep learning curve. It can also be easily integrated with other languages through add-ons and frameworks. As its applications are wide, Python is a sought-after skill, and can open up job opportunities and higher salaries (the average salary for a Python developer in the UK is around £74,000).
Developers also love Python because it's free – it doesn’t cost anything to download or use Python, or to use it in your application. Python is available under an open source license, and can be modified and re-distributed. There’s no exclusivity either, as Python and all the necessary tools are available on all major platforms. Plus, it has a great user community.
What are the drawbacks?
As with any programming languages, Python has its drawbacks. As a dynamically typed language, it’s not one of the fastest: its flexibility means the machine needs to do a lot of referencing to determine definitions, which can slow performance. Furthermore, code written in Python can have different meaning depending on the context, which means as apps made in Python get bigger, errors become more difficult to track down and fix, requiring experience and insight to design scalable code. It’s also not optimised for mobile developments: very few mobile programmes are written in Python.
What is the future of Python?
Despite its drawbacks, Python slows no sign of slowing down, especially with the fields of data science and artificial intelligence becoming more popular. If you’re looking to future-proof your career in the tech sector, learning Python probably couldn’t hurt.
Where can I learn more?
Codecademy has a free Python course, or a paid Python-focused Pro Intensive course. There’s plenty of useful info on Python.org, (see their Wiki here) or Tutorials Point also has a free Python course. The best way to learn is by practice, so get stuck in!
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