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python -- Notes on the Python programming Language

If you're an experienced programmer new to Python then I recommend Python Tips by Muhammad Yasoob Ullah Khalid.

Implementations of Fundamental Types



  • e.g. (0,1,2)
  • is a sequence
  • are immutable


  • e.g. set([0,1,2])
  • e.g. {0,1,2}
  • is a sequence


  • e.g. { 'a':1 , 'b':2 }
  • implemented with resizable hash tables
  • any immutable object can be used as a dictionary key
  • python exposes its hash function as the global hash() (32-bit)

Built-in functions

Use range(a) for loops. Note that range(a,b) returns an empty array if a and b are equal.

slice(start, stop) but use a[start:stop] instead


  • int(x[, base]): constructor that can also be used to change base
  • chr: character from integer as ASCII code
  • ord: ASCII code to integer
  • divmod(a,b): return (a // b, a % b) for integers
  • bin, oct and hex
  • abs
  • pow: but use x**y instead


  • ord: return n


  • len for length
  • next(iterator[, default]), e.g. next(i, None)
  • all and any: returns true if all/any element are true
  • sorted
  • reversed
  • min and max
  • map(function, iterable) and reduce(function, iterable[, initializer])
  • filter(function, iterable) but use list comprehensions instead
  • tuple to create a tuple from iterable
  • zip([iterable, ...]): return list of tuples by "zippering" multiple lists
  • enumerate: return list of numbered tuples
  • Unfortunately, there is no some


  • from MODULE import NAME1, NAME2, ... to import NAME1 and NAME2 from MODULE
  • from MODULE import * to import everything from MODULE
  • from .MODULE is relative import (?)


  • Python uses reference counting GIL: Global Interpreter Lock.
  • There is only one lock!


Functions can return multiple values:

def return_both(a,b):
  return a,b
x,y = return_both(1,2)

You can put multiple statements on one line by using a semi-colon, e.g. i += 1; j += 1 but this is discouraged. Perhaps only do this on a whiteboard or doc to save space.

Get an object's reference count: sys.getrefcount(obj)



pip is the python package manager

  • sudo easy_install pip to install pip
  • pip will show you available commands
    • pip search <keyword>
    • pip install <package>
    • pip freeze prints installed packages in "requirements" format
      • These are usually saved to requirements.txt
  • pip help <command> will show you extended --help for a command

setuptools is the fundamental pip dependency


virtualenv creates a virtual environment for each program with:

  • its own python
  • its own pip


  • pip install virtualenv
  • pip install virtualenvwrapper
  • mkvirtualenv <name_of_env> to create a virtual env
  • workon <name_of_env> to source (use) a virtual env

Virtual environments are not saved in you application folder. They are located in ~/.virtualenvs/name_of_env When you pip install a package that contains global binary then it is isntall in ~/.virtualenvs/name_of_env/bin


A Byte of Python. Swaroop Chitlur.

A non-magical introduction to Pip and Virtualenv for Python beginners. Jamie Matthews. 2013-04-18.

Design and History FAQ. Python Documentation.

The Mighty Dictionary. Brandon Craig Rhodes. PyCon 2010. An optimized explanation of Python's Dictionary implementation using a hash table.