Just like the snake it’s named after, Python has wrapped itself around the programming world, becoming a deeply entrenched teaching and practical tool since its 1991 introduction. It’s one of the world’s most used programming languages, with Statista claiming that 48.07% of programmers use it, making it as essential as SQL, C, and even HTML to computer scientists.
This article serves as an introduction to Python programming for beginners. You’ll learn Python basics, such as how to install it and the concepts that underpin the language. Plus, we’ll show you some basic Python code you can use to have a little play around with the language.
It stands to reason that you need to download and install Python onto your system before you can start using it. The latest version of Python is always available at Python.org. Different versions are available for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and several other machines and operating systems.
Installing Python is a universal process across operating systems. Download the installer for your OS from Python.org and open its executable. Follow the instructions and you should have Python up and running, and ready for you to play around with some Python language basics, in no time.
Python IDEs and Text Editors
Before you can start coding in your newly-installed version of Python, you need to install an integrated development environment (IDE) to your system. These applications are like a bridge between the language you write in and the visual representation of that language on your screen. But beyond being solely source code editors, many IDEs serve as debuggers, compilers, and even feature automation that can complete code (or at least offer suggestions) on your behalf.
Some of the best Python IDEs include:
- Visual Studio
- Komodo IDE
But there are plenty more besides. Before choosing an IDE, ask yourself the following questions to determine if the IDE you’re considering is right for your Python project:
- How much does it cost?
- Is it easy to use?
- What are its debugging and compiling features?
- How fast is the IDE?
- Does this IDE give me access to the libraries I’ll need for my programs?
Basic Python Concepts
Getting to grips with the Python basics for beginners starts with learning the concepts that underpin the language. Each of these concepts defines actions you can take in the language, meaning they’re essentially for writing even the simplest of programs.
Variables and Data Types
Variables in Python work much like they do for other programming languages – they’re containers in which you store a data value. The difference between Python and other languages is that Python doesn’t have a specific command used to declare a variable. Instead, you create a variable the moment you assign a value to a data type.
As for data types, they’re split into several categories, with most having multiple sub-types you can use to define different variables:
- String – “str”
- Numeric – “int,” “complex,” “float”
- Sequence – “list,” “range,” “tuple”
- Boolean – “bool”
- Binary – “memoryview,” “bytes,” “bytearray”
There are more, though the above should be enough for your Python basics notes. Each of these data types serves a different function. For example, on the numerical side, “int” allows you to store signed integers of no defined length, while “float” lets you assign decimals up to 15 points.
When you have your variables and values, you’ll use operators to perform actions using them. These actions range from the simple (adding and subtracting numbers) to the complex (comparing values to each other). Though there are many types of operators you’ll learn as you venture beyond the Python language basics, the following three are some of the most important for basic programs:
- Arithmetic operators – These operators allow you to handle most aspects of basic math, including addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. There are also arithmetic operators for more complex operations, including floor division and exponentiation.
- Comparison operators – If you want to know which value is bigger, comparison operators are what you use. They take two values, compare them, and give you a result based on the operator’s function.
- Logical operators – “And,” “Or,” and “Not” are your logical operators and they combine to form conditional statements that give “True” or “False”
As soon as you start introducing different types of inputs into your code, you need control structures to keep everything organized. Think of them as the foundations of your code, directing variables to where they need to go while keeping everything, as the name implies, under control. Two of the most important control structures are:
- Conditional Statements – “If,” “Else,” and “elif” fall into this category. These statements basically allow you to determine what the code does “if” something is the case (such as a variable equaling a certain number) and what “else” to do if the condition isn’t met.
- Loops – “For” and “while” are your loop commands, with the former being used to create an iterative sequence, with the latter setting the condition for that sequence to occur.
You likely don’t want every scrap of code you write to run as soon as you start your program. Some chunks (called functions) should only run when they’re called by other parts of the code. Think of it like giving commands to a dog. A function will only sit, stay, or roll over when another part of the code tells it to do what it does.
You need to define and call functions.
Use the “def” keyword to define a function, as you see in the following example:
print (“This is my first function”)
When you need to call that function, you simply type the function’s name followed by the appropriate parenthesis:
That “call” tells your program to print out the words “This is my first function” on the screen whenever you use it.
Interestingly, Python has a collection of built-in functions, which are functions included in the language that anybody can call without having to first define the function. Many relate to the data types discussed earlier, with functions like “str()” and “int()” allowing you to define strings and integers respectively.
Python – Basic Programs
Now that you’ve gotten to grips with some of the Python basics for beginners, let’s look at a few simple programs that almost anybody can run.
Hello, World! Program
The starting point for any new coder in almost any new language is to get the screen to print out the words “Hello, World!”. This one is as simple as you can get, as you’ll use the print command to get a piece of text to appear on screen:
print(‘Hello, World! ‘)
Click what “Run” button in your IDE of choice and you’ll see the words in your print command pop up on your monitor. Though this is all simple enough, make sure you make note of the use of the apostrophes/speech mark around the text. If you don’t have them, your message doesn’t print.
Basic Calculator Program
Let’s step things up with one of the Python basic programs for beginners that helps you to get to grips with functions. You can create a basic calculator using the language by defining functions for each of your arithmetic operators and using conditional statements to tell the calculator what to do when presented with different options.
The following example comes from Programiz.com:
# This function adds two numbers
def add(x, y):
return x + y
# This function subtracts two numbers
def subtract(x, y):
return x – y
# This function multiplies two numbers
def multiply(x, y):
return x * y
# This function divides two numbers
def divide(x, y):
return x / y
# Take input from the user
choice = input(“Enter choice(1/2/3/4): “)
# Check if choice is one of the four options
if choice in (‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’):
num1 = float(input(“Enter first number: “))
num2 = float(input(“Enter second number: “))
print(“Invalid input. Please enter a number.”)
if choice == ‘1’:
print(num1, “+”, num2, “=”, add(num1, num2))
elif choice == ‘2’:
print(num1, “-“, num2, “=”, subtract(num1, num2))
elif choice == ‘3’:
print(num1, “*”, num2, “=”, multiply(num1, num2))
elif choice == ‘4’:
print(num1, “/”, num2, “=”, divide(num1, num2))
# Check if user wants another calculation
# Break the while loop if answer is no
next_calculation = input(“Let’s do next calculation? (yes/no): “)
if next_calculation == “no”:
When you run this code, your executable asks you to choose a number between 1 and 4, with your choice denoting which mathematical operator you wish to use. Then, you enter your values for “x” and “y”, with the program running a calculation between those two values based on the operation choice. There’s even a clever piece at the end that asks you if you want to run another calculation or cancel out of the program.
Simple Number Guessing Game
Next up is a simple guessing game that takes advantage of the “random” module built into Python. You use this module to generate a number between 1 and 99, with the program asking you to guess which number it’s chosen. But unlike when you play this game with your sibling, the number doesn’t keep changing whenever you guess the right answer.
This code comes from Python for Beginners:
n = random.randint(1, 99)
guess = int(input(“Enter an integer from 1 to 99: “))
if guess < n:
print (“guess is low”)
guess = int(input(“Enter an integer from 1 to 99: “))
elif guess > n:
print (“guess is high”)
guess = int(input(“Enter an integer from 1 to 99: “))
print (“you guessed it right! Bye!”)
Upon running the code, your program uses the imported “random” module to pick its number and then asks you to enter an integer (i.e., a whole number) between 1 and 99. You keep guessing until you get it right and the program delivers a “Bye” message.
Python Libraries and Modules
As you move beyond the basic Python language introduction and start to develop more complex code, you’ll find your program getting a bit on the heavy side. That’s where modules come in. You can save chunks of your code into a module, which is a file with the “.py” extension, allowing you to call that module into another piece of code.
Typically, these modules contain functions, variables, and classes that you want to use at multiple points in your main program. Retyping those things at every instance where they’re called takes too much time and leaves you with code that’s bogged down in repeated processes.
Libraries take things a step further by offering you a collection of modules that you can call from as needed, similar to how you can borrow any book from a physical library. Examples include the “Mayplotlib” library, which features a bunch of modules for data visualization, and “Beautiful Soup,” which allows you to extract data from XML and HTML files.
Best Practices and Tips for Basic Python Programs for Beginners
Though we’ve focused primarily on the code aspect of the language in these Python basic notes so far, there are a few tips that will help you create better programs that aren’t directly related to learning the language:
- Write clean code – Imagine that you’re trying to find something you need in a messy and cluttered room. It’s a nightmare to find what you’re looking for because you’re constantly tripping over stuff you don’t need. That’s what happens in a Python program if you create bloated code or repeat functions constantly. Keep it clean and your code is easier to use.
- Debugging and error handling – Buggy code is frustrating to users, especially if that code just dumps them out of a program when it hits an error. Beyond debugging (which everybody should do as standard) you must build error responses into your Python code to let users know what’s happening when something goes wrong.
- Use online communities and resources – Python is one of the most established programming languages in the world, and there’s a massive community built up around it. Take advantage of those resources. Try your hand at a program first, then take it to the community to see if they can point you in the right direction.
Get to Grips With the Basic Concepts of Python
With these Python introduction notes, you have everything you need to understand some of the more basic aspects of the language, as well as run a few programs. Experimentation is your friend, so try taking what you’ve learned here and writing a few other simple programs for yourself. Remember – the Python community (along with stacks of online resources) are available to help you when you’re struggling.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.