11 Beginner Tips for Learning Python Programming

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We are so excited that you have decided to embark on the journey of learning Python! One of the most common questions we receive from our readers is “What’s the best way to learn Python?”

I believe that the first step in learning any programming language is making sure that you understand how to learn. Learning how to learn is arguably the most critical skill involved in computer programming.

Why is knowing how to learn so important? The answer is simple: as languages evolve, libraries are created, and tools are upgraded. Knowing how to learn will be essential to keeping up with these changes and becoming a successful programmer.

In this article, we will offer several learning strategies that will help jump start your journey of becoming a rockstar Python programmer!

Make It Stick

Here are some tips to help you make the new concepts you are learning as a beginner programmer really stick:

Tip #1: Code Everyday

Consistency is very important when you are learning a new language. We recommend making a commitment to code every day. It may be hard to believe, but muscle memory plays a large part in programming. Committing to coding everyday will really help develop that muscle memory. Though it may seem daunting at first, consider starting small with 25 minutes everyday and working your way up from there.

Check out the First Steps With Python Guide for information on setup as well as exercises to get you started.

Tip #2: Write It Out

As you progress on your journey as a new programmer, you may wonder if you should be taking notes. Yes, you should! In fact, research suggests that taking notes by hand is most beneficial for long-term retention. This will be especially beneficial for those working towards the goal of becoming a full-time developer, as many interviews will involve writing code on a whiteboard.

Once you start working on small projects and programs, writing by hand can also help you plan your code before you move to the computer. You can save a lot of time if you write out which functions and classes you will need, as well as how they will interact. Tip #3: Go Interactive!

Whether you are learning about basic Python data structures (strings, lists, dictionaries, etc.) for the first time, or you are debugging an application, the interactive Python shell will be one of your best learning tools. We use it a lot on this site too!

To use the interactive Python shell (also sometimes called a “Python REPL”), first make sure Python is installed on your computer. We’ve got a step-by-step tutorial to help you do that. To activate the interactive Python shell, simply open your terminal and run python or python3 depending on your installation. You can find more specific directions here.

Now that you know how to start the shell, here are a few examples of how you can use the shell when you are learning:

Learn what operations can be performed on an element by using dir():

>>> my_string = 'I am a string'
>>> dir(my_string)
['__add__', ..., 'upper', 'zfill']  # Truncated for readability

The elements returned from dir() are all of the methods (i.e. actions) that you can apply to the element. For example:

>>> my_string.upper()
>>> 'I AM A STRING'

Notice that we called the upper() method. Can you see what it does? It makes all of the letters in the string uppercase! Learn more about these built-in methods under “Manipulating strings” in this tutorial.

Learn the type of an element:

>>> type(my_string)
>>> str

Use the built-in help system to get full documentation:

>>> help(str)

Import libraries and play with them:

>>> from datetime import datetime
>>> dir(datetime)
['__add__', ..., 'weekday', 'year']  # Truncated for readability
>>> datetime.now()
datetime.datetime(2018, 3, 14, 23, 44, 50, 851904)

Run shell commands:

>>> import os
>>> os.system('ls')
python_hw1.py python_hw2.py README.txt

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