This book provides a quick introduction to the Python programming language. Python is a popular object-oriented language used for both standalone programs and scripting applications in a variety of domains. It's free, portable, powerful, and remarkably easy to use. Whether you're new to programming or a professional developer, this book's goal is to bring you up to speed on the core Python language in a hurry. Before we jump into details, we'd like to use this preface to say a few words about the book's design.
Although this text covers the essentials of the Python language, we've kept its scope narrow in the interest of speed and size. Put another way, the presentation is focused on core concepts and is sometimes deliberately simplistic. Because of that, this book is probably best described as both an introduction and a stepping stone to more advanced and complete texts.
For example, we won't say anything about Python/C integration—a big, complicated topic, with lots of big, complicated examples, which is nevertheless central to many Python-based systems. We also won't talk much about the Python community, Python's history, or some of the philosophies underlying Python development. And popular Python applications such as GUIs, system tools, network scripting, and numeric programming get only a short survey at the end (if they are mentioned at all). Naturally, this misses some of the big picture.
By and large, Python is about raising the quality bar a few notches in the scripting world. Some of its ideas require more context than can be provided here, and we'd be remiss if we didn't recommend further study after you finish this text. We hope that most readers of this book will eventually go on to gain a deeper and more complete understanding, from texts such as O'Reilly's Programming Python. The rest of the Python story requires studying examples that are more realistic than there is space for here.