Python in 24 Hours, Sams Teach Yourself

Katie Cunningham  
Sams Publishing
Total pages
October 2013
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In just 24 sessions of one hour or less, Sams Teach Yourself Python in 24 Hours will help you get started fast, master all the core concepts of programming, and build anything from websites to games. Using this book’s straightforward, step-by-step approach, you’ll move from the absolute basics through functions, objects, classes, modules, database integration, and more. Every lesson and case study application builds on what you’ve already learned, giving you a rock-solid foundation for real-world success!


Step-by-step instructions carefully walk you through the most common Python development tasks.


Quizzes and Exercises at the end of each chapter help you test your knowledge.


Notes present interesting information related to the discussion.


Tips offer advice or show you easier ways to perform tasks.


Warnings alert you to possible problems and give you advice on how to avoid them.


Learn how to…

  • Install and run the right version of Python for your operating system
  • Store, manipulate, reformat, combine, and organize information
  • Create logic to control how programs run and what they do
  • Interact with users or other programs, wherever they are
  • Save time and improve reliability by creating reusable functions
  • Master Python data types: numbers, text, lists, and dictionaries
  • Write object-oriented programs that work better and are easier to improve
  • Expand Python classes to make them even more powerful
  • Use third-party modules to perform complex tasks without writing new code
  • Split programs to make them more maintainable and reusable
  • Clearly document your code so others can work with it
  • Store data in SQLite databases, write queries, and share data via JSON
  • Simplify Python web development with the Flask framework
  • Quickly program Python games with PyGame
  • Avoid, troubleshoot, and fix problems with your code



New to this Edition

A complete rewrite of the first edition by a different author, this book reflects the latest stable versions of Python.

Table of Contents

Preface xiv

Who This Book Is For xiv

How This Book Is Organized xiv

Introduction 1

Learning to Program 1

Why Python? 2

Getting Started 2

How This Book Works 3

What to Do If You Get Stuck 3

HOUR 1  Installing and Running Python 5

Discovering Your Operating System 5

Setting Up Python on Windows 7

Setting Up Python on a Mac 11

Summary 15

Q&A 15

Workshop 16

HOUR 2  Putting Numbers to Work in Python 17

Storing Information with Variables 17

Doing Math in Python 20

Comparing Numbers 23

Applying Python Math in the Real World 24

Summary 25

Q&A 26

Workshop 26

HOUR 3  Logic in Programming 27

Using a Basic if Statement 27

Creating Blocks 28

Adding an else to an if 29

Testing Many Things with elif 30

True and False Variables. 31

Using try/except to Avoid Errors 32

Applying Logic to Real-World Problems 34

Summary 35

Q&A 35

Workshop 36

HOUR 4  Storing Text in Strings 37

Creating Strings 37

Printing Strings 38

Getting Information About a String 38

Math and Comparison 40

Formatting Strings. 42

Using Strings in the Real World 46

Summary 47

Q&A 47

Workshop 48

HOUR 5  Processing Input and Output    49

Getting Information from the Command Line 49

Getting a Password 53

Cleaning Up User Input 54

Formatting Output 55

Managing Input and Output in the Real World 57

Summary 58

Q&A 58

Workshop 58

HOUR 6  Grouping Items in Lists 61

Creating a List 61

Getting Information About a List 63

Manipulating Lists 64

Using Math in Lists 65

Ordering Lists 66

Comparing Lists 67

Using Lists in the Real World 67

Summary 68

Q&A 68

Workshop 69

HOUR 7  Using Loops to Repeat Code 71

Repeating a Set Number of Times 71

Repeating Only When True 76

Using Loops in the Real World 77

Summary 79

Q&A 79

Workshop 80

HOUR 8  Using Functions to Create Reusable Code 81

Creating a Basic Function 81

Passing Values to Functions 82

Variables in Functions: Scope 86

Grouping Functions Within a Function 88

Sending a Varying Number of Parameters 88

Using Functions in the Real World 89

Summary 92

Q&A 92

Workshop 93

HOUR 9  Using Dictionaries to Pair Keys with Values 95

Creating a Dictionary 95

Getting Information About a Dictionary 97

Comparing Dictionaries. 98

Using Dictionaries in the Real World 99

Summary 101

Q&A 101

Workshop 101

HOUR 10  Making Objects 103

Object-Oriented Programming 103

Planning an Object 107

Making Objects Out of Objects 108

Using Objects in the Real World 110

Summary 111

Q&A 111

Workshop 111

HOUR 11  Making Classes 113

Making a Basic Class Statement 113

Adding Methods to Classes 114

Setting Up Class Instances 116

Using Classes in the Real World 119

Summary 122

Q&A 122

Workshop 122

HOUR 12  Expanding Classes to Add Functionality 125

Built-in Extras 125

Class Inheritance 130

When to Expand Classes in the Real World 134

Summary 136

Q&A 136

Workshop 137

HOUR 13  Using Python’s Modules to Add Functionality 139

Python Packages 139

Using the random Module 140

Using the datetime Module 143

Finding More Modules 145

Using Modules in the Real World 146

Summary 147

Q&A 147

Workshop 148

HOUR 14  Splitting Up a Program 149

Why Split Up a Program? 149

Deciding How to Break Up Code 150

How Python Finds a Program’s Code 152

Splitting Up Code in the Real World 155

Summary 157

Q&A 157

Workshop 158

HOUR 15  Providing Documentation for Code 159

The Need for Good Documentation 159

Embedding Comments in Code 160

Explaining Code with Docstrings 162

Including README and INSTALL 164

Providing Documentation in the Real World 167

Summary 168

Q&A 168

Workshop 169

HOUR 16  Working with Program Files 171

Reading to and Writing from Files 171

Creating Files 174

Getting Information About a Directory 175

Getting Information About a File 178

Using Files in the Real World 180

Summary 181

Q&A 181

Workshop 181

HOUR 17  Sharing Information with JSON 183

The JSON Format 183

Working with JSON Files 185

Saving Objects as JSON 188

Creating Custom Dictionaries 189

Using JSON in the Real World 191

Summary 194

Q&A 194

Workshop 195

HOUR 18  Storing Information in Databases 197

Why Use Databases? 197

Talking to Databases with SQL. 198

Creating a Database 200

Querying the Database 203

Using Databases in the Real World 205

Summary 207

Q&A 207

Workshop 208

HOUR 19  Using SQL to Get More out of Databases 209

Filtering with WHERE 210

Sorting with ORDER BY 214

Getting Unique Items with DISTINCT 215

Updating Records with UPDATE 215

Deleting Records with DELETE 216

Using SQL in the Real World 217

Summary 220

Q&A 220

Workshop 221

HOUR 20  Developing for the Web with Flask 223

What Is Flask? 223

Installing Flask 225

Making Your First Flask App 228

Adding Templates 231

Using Frameworks in the Real World 237

Summary 238

Q&A 238

Workshop 239

HOUR 21  Making Games with PyGame 241

What Is PyGame? 241

Installing PyGame 242

Creating Screens 243

Creating Shapes 245

Moving Things Around on the Screen 248

Getting Input from the User 250

Drawing Text. 252

Using PyGame in the Real World 253

Summary 257

Q&A 257

Workshop 258

HOUR 22  Saving Your Code Properly Through Versioning 259

What Is Versioning? 259

Versioning with Git and GitHub 261

Managing Code in a Repository 263

Experimental Changes with Branches 267

Determining What Not to Push 270

Summary 271

Q&A 271

Workshop 271

HOUR 23  Fixing Problem Code 273

When Your Code Has a Bug 273

Locating Errors with a Traceback 274

Finding Errors with the pdb Debugger 275

Searching the Internet for Solutions 278

Trying a Fix 279

Finding Outside Support 280

Summary 282

Q&A 282

Workshop 283

HOUR 24  Taking the Next Steps with Python 285

Interesting Projects 285

Attending Conferences 288

Working with Linux 288

Contributing to Python 290

Contributing to Other Projects 290

Learning Another Language 290

Looking Forward to Python 3 291

Recommended Reading 292

Recommended Websites. 292

Summary 293

Q&A 293

Workshop 293

Index 295




Katie Cunningham is a Python developer at Cox Media Group. She’s a fervent advocate for Python, open source software, and teaching people how to program. She’s a frequent speaker at open source conferences, such as PyCon and DjangoCon, speaking on beginners’ topics such as someone’s first site in the cloud and making a site that is accessible to everyone.


She also helps organize PyLadies in the DC area, a program designed to increase diversity in the Python community. She has taught classes for the organization, bringing novices from installation to writing their first app in 48 hours.


Katie is an active blogger at her website ( ), covering issues such as Python, accessibility, and the trials and tribulations of working from home.


Katie lives in the DC area with her husband and two children.