12 April 2014

An official tutorial (and a gentleman).

I have fond memories of The Python Tutorial on python.org. My first Python textbook was Learn Python The Hard Way, but as you might have gathered, around the tenth chapter of printing text I was a bit dispirited. So I went for something that sounded short, to the point, and a bit official, even dry.

The Python Tutorial was a great help. I read (more on this "read") it, I found what I wanted to know: that's the way you write a while loop, this is the way you define a function, classes are written according to this syntax. Then I moved on, keeping the website as a go-to reference for my little doubts.

I've just gone through it again, and I realise that I was saved by my worst flaws. No, not from, by.

First of all, I can be restless: I got to Defining Functions I enjoyed it, then I peeked into the next chapter and I saw Data Structures, I thought that was useful and quite easy to understand, and that section on Lambda Expressions in the middle of the two left my radar.

Then there's the fact that I knew something about programming. It was in Java, it was very little, but it was more than zero. This means that I knew the names of the topics: if I wanted to write was a while, I knew to look for "loops." (Actually, the while is covered in an example in the chapter before loops. The organisation of the topics is not the strong point of The Python Tutorial.)

Even how I didn't know very much played in my favour: it that the scope of my quest to do what I already knew wasn't so wide to get myself lost in small(ish) details.

So I found The Python Tutorial a great tool, under these two conditions: some (even very basic) background in code, some tendency (ability?) to skim and overlook topics that you'll get back to at a second reading. Also, the topics are many but the pace is quick, and the examples are simple: it's a perfect complement to Dive Into Python 3.

Looking again at The Python Tutorial after using it as a "beginners' text" was a bit a "Princess and the Frog" story: you think that you're over what's in there, then you find out that there's a lot more. The most important thing is in the URL: it's the official tutorial on the PSF website, so it's a gateway for the official documentation.

And there are many other good reasons why The Python Tutorial should always be there in your bookmarks: that drop-down menu (on the upper left of each page) that takes you from the page in Python 2.x to the same page in Python 3.x; the glossary (again, both in the 2.x and 3.x flavour).

So: this official tutorial can sound (or even be) a bit aloof sometimes. But you can (and shall) become fond of the company of this gentleman.