What is Python? Only one of the most popular programming languages today. Known for its simple syntax and versatility, Python is both easy to learn and used for high-level applications. Python programs are used throughout the artificial intelligence and machine learning industry as well as for web development.

Today, we’re going to take a deeper look into what Python is, what it’s frequently used for, and how you can start learning Python today.

What is Python? The basics of the Python programming language

Python is a general-purpose object-oriented programming language. Many college computer science majors will learn Python as their first programming language if their first language isn’t Java or C.

Let’s take a look at Python syntax for “Hello World”:

print(“Hello, world!”)
Person in office sitting in front of computer

That’s incredibly simple, isn’t it? The same code in JavaScript would be:

console.log(“Hello, world!”);

In C++, the code would look like this:

#include <iostream>
int main() {
std::cout << “Hello, world!”;
return 0;
}
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Python programs will look similar to anyone who has written in other object-oriented languages. But they will look closer to current programming languages like JavaScript rather than the more complex, compiled languages of C and Java.

Although perceived as simple, Python can achieve anything. It can be modeled in many operating systems using the Python OS module and is therefore highly portable.

Compiled vs interpreted languages

One thing you need to know about Python is that it’s an interpreted rather than compiled language. What does that mean? When you write your code, you then send that code, completely, to the user. The user’s software then interprets that code. If an error occurs, it’s when the user runs the code, occurring as a runtime error.

Compiled code is different. You run your code through a compiler, most errors get caught (although there still may be runtime errors and exceptions), and then the code gets packaged for the user. The user runs the compiled code, not your code directly. 

Let’s say you try to manipulate a substring in Python that you shouldn’t be able to manipulate. The error will get caught when the code is interpreted. If you do the same thing in Java, it will get caught by the compiler before reaching the users.

The advantages of interpreted languages like JavaScript and Python are that they are more flexible, although they are also less efficient.

The history of the Python software foundation 

Python is not a new language! Because it’s so simple and easy to use, some might assume it came about recently. But Python was developed in 1989. While that’s not as old as a language like C, which was developed in 1972, Python still isn’t new by any means.

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Python was initially implemented by programmer Guido van Russom. While its development started in 1989, its first stable release was in 1991. It’s remained such a popular language because of its low barrier to entry and excellent utility. From command line arguments to on-the-fly programming, Python is an easy language to learn and deploy.

Person looking at code on screen

The major benefits of using Python

What are some of the major benefits of using Python? Why are so many people taught Python in college—and why do they continue to use it in their careers? Here are some answers:

But Python has downsides as well:

Python is never going to be the best language to use in terms of resource usage, and it’s difficult to scale. These challenges have given Python the reputation of being “for beginners.” While this reputation isn’t inherently unearned, there are many reasons to use Python. Let’s take a deeper look at the types of software frequently written in Python.

Types of software written in Python

What is Python used for? In recent years, Python has become a popular language for machine learning and data science. Python use cases include:

So, Python has a lot of uses—and Python programmers are very in-demand.

Careers in Python programming

Python is actually one of the “busiest” programming languages in terms of how many job listings are available. There are a multitude of careers in Python programming because the breadth of Python applications is so significant. Data science, machine learning, mobile application development—Python programmers have their pick of specializations.

The average Python programmer makes around $115,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter. This is about on par with other programmers, but the need for Python programmers is also growing very quickly. Python is often cited as the most popular programming language and the fastest-growing language, in large part because of the growing need for data science, AI, and machine learning.

Laptop with code on desk

The most popular Python developer tools

One of the major advantages of using Python is the large number of tools available for Python programmers. Python programmers can avail themselves of an array of development tools, which make it easier and faster to develop applications. Here are some of the most popular Python developer tools:

These tools are usually free and open-source, which is another tremendous advantage. You can find many Python utilities through Github, including source code you can use to learn more about the language. 

How to learn Python

If you’re already a seasoned programmer, learning Python is likely a breeze. Github has many open source projects in a multitude of languages, including Python, that you can use to learn. Create a project in Python to stretch your syntax muscles—and to get to know the internal Python functions and libraries.

Otherwise, if you want to learn Python, you can:

Python is notoriously one of the easier languages to learn—so it’s a great language for a beginner. It’s even easier if you know what specialization you’re interested in, whether it’s web development or game development.

Page Last Updated: March 2022