Getting started in Python

Recently I’ve had an enquiry or two about resources for learning Python and applying those to testing. Well luckily for people who want to know, I was not born knowing Python and I’ve amassed quite a collection of resources relating to python and a few ideas of my own that I hope can help.

First up, there’s the basic courses on Python.
Codecademy – £Free
This is a basic, and free, grounding in python and programming that takes you through several projects and quizzes to get you started in programming and python, definitely recommended for the more traditional starter who wants to learn about programming more than instant practical applications. This can easily be done in a couple of work days or a couple of weeks of evening, or a weekend. It’s a very accessible and aside from the final project you can do it all in the browser so it’s perfect for those who want to dabble.

Automate the boring things with Python – £31
Another course for absolute beginners, longer than Codecademy’s offering and with a lot more practical examples, but less structured towards general programming concepts and more towards getting things done. Yes it costs money, but you’ll be productive with it right off the bat.

Google Python lessons – +£Free
How I learnt Python. This assumes that you know at least one other programming language and the basics of programming, it’s teaching you Python and not how to write a program. As such it doesn’t go through a lot of things like basic program flow, algorithm design or the like. It teaches you how Python does things and gives a great basic understanding of the Python standard library. Doesn’t touch much on 3rd party libraries.

EDIT: Hat tip to Sorina for this Computer science 101 from Udemy. As she suggests it’s an excellent companion to the Google course as it fills in the gap in that course.

Next up there’s podcasts:
Talk Python to Me
Talk Python to me is a general python podcast, its level is definitely beyond beginner, so I’d recommend doing some python programming first to see if you like it. It’s very much focussed on Python development but it includes interviews with people doing quite fascinating things with Python. Expect to hear about massive Python suites being developed, python running at speeds you mightn’t have expected from an interpreted language and library development. I recommend the episodes on Requests and Fluent Python especially, once you’ve spent some time writing Python. Both are very revealing and Fluent Python is in my reading list later on.

Python Testing
This is probably the best match to what I’m writing about when I talk about testing with Python. It’s a little drier and more technical than Talk Python To Me, but it’s definitely worth the listen. Lots of interesting tit-bits about testing with Python, the frameworks, the practicalities. The presenter’s somewhat lubrugious delivery might require some adjustment to, but well worth the effort.

Code Newbie
Less Python focussed, this is just a series of interviews with people talking about their experiences learning to program. Personally I didn’t find this podcast to my taste, a little too general and rambling for me, but useful if you want some inspiration from other people’s experiences.

Finally, a reading list:
Learning Python
Great book with oodles of information about Python and probably life itself. Very comprehensive and a very good reference for anyone learning Python. Expect it to sprout post-its like mushrooms after the rain. If I could only have one Python book, it would be this book. It’s not really a book about learning by example, I recommend it in parallel with the courses above and as a reference book.

Fluent Python
Another brilliant O’Reilly book but definitely for the more advanced user. Lots of excellent information about the more advanced and deep aspects of Python. Very strongly recommended, but definitely not a first book

Black Hat Python
In the vein of Automate the Boring Things With Python, this lets you hit the ground running on security testing and some useful network testing scripts.

As previously stated however, the absolute best way to learn is to keep writing programs! Find something you are passionate about and write it!

4 thoughts on “Getting started in Python

  1. sorina

    Great you put these resources online! Since you gave me your recommendations on the Slack channel I realized I had forgotten quite a lot from what I learned before and we all know the feeling that we want to take something up, but don’t want to go through the old free courses we took the year before :))).
    I find the Google Python lessons you recommend &–cs101 quite a good combination


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