Learning Python from scratch, for absolute beginners

Are you keen to learn Python programming, for absolute beginners? In case you are learning Python from scratch, have a read through our comprehensive guide.

Python is officially the most popular programming language in the world. From web development to making games and designing cutting-edge data science models, the language is arguably the swiss knife of programming languages. It pervades in our day-to-day life, with apps like Instagram, the world’s most ubiquitous search-engine and the entertainment company with largest subscribers worldwide using it.

Python's TIOBE rating over the years, vis-a-vis its counterparts

Credit: TIOBE

Python is praised for its intuitive syntax and myriad libraries, which are among the main reasons that have allowed it to become so useful despite being over two decades old. However, it has been difficult pursuing Python for absolute beginners, who inevitably have a hard time wondering how to start with the language and make it their own.

There are various obstacles that hinder those who are just starting out. The sheer confusion caused by a deluge of contrasting opinions returned by a simple web query on the lines of “Python programming for the absolute beginner” or “Python programming absolute beginner” suffices to throw one off.

There are raging debates on what to learn, where to learn and how to learn. The number of choices available make it impossible to ascertain where to start. This is known as the paradox of choice and has plagued many would-be Pythonistas. 

We believe that learning Python does not need to be so daunting! Therefore, if you seek to start learning Python for absolute beginners, you are at the right place. Also, if you aren’t a newbie and already know a bit of Python, you can consider heading over to the article on Learning Python Programming Language for Beginners.

Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner – Table of Contents

Python for absolute beginners – Before you begin

Python programming for the absolute beginner – Pep talk

The domain of applied computer science stands in stark contrast to other specializations. One is free to make mistakes, correct them and carry on with this process until the end product is ready. Can you imagine a civil engineer doing so for the apartment you are living in?

One does not need to hold a certification to build and launch a new software; think about a practicing lawyer or a heart surgeon on the other hand. There is no “unsuitable” learning resource, neither is there a suitable one. Every individual can learn at their own pace without worrying about a looming examination!

One size does not need to fit all (Credit: HBS)

This makes tech highly domain-agnostic and a breeding ground for unprecedented innovation. This, however, calls for a persistent zeal to not give in and being unafraid of making mistakes. The Internet corresponds to one giant repository of learning, where autodidacts shine the most. A brave new world awaits you if you can break free from your inhibitions.

Python programming for the absolute beginner – Decide your calling

Python finds numerous uses around multifarious domains. Therefore, the ability to answer the why behind learning Python can prove to be extremely helpful when you find yourself feeling low. While it might not be necessary to ask yourself the question right now, it is inevitable once you have finished learning the basics.

This is not to say that you cannot switch to machine learning after building a dozen websites, for instance. Experienced professionals change their career paths all the time. Nonetheless, being cognizant of your goals can increase your probability of success by upto 42%. Therefore, do your research; read blogs, watch videos and ensure that you have a concrete goal in your head. Some options include:

  • Leveraging Python for data science, machine learning and its various subdomains
  • Developing websites with the help of libraries like Django and Flask
  • Using Python for problem-solving
  • Building GUI apps using modules like PyQt, TKinter and Kivy

Python programming for the absolute beginner – Installation

Depending upon your inclination, there are different ways of setting up your device. The prerequisites are to have an interpreter and an integrated development environment (IDE).

  • Install Python from the official website. This program, stated simply, allows the execution of code you write.
  • You may write code in Notepad. Alternatively, you can use Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code for the purpose by following this link. Anaconda is very popular among data enthusiasts and can be installed from here. PyCharm is another famous option.

Note that the second step encompasses the first one.

Python for absolute beginners – Learning the basics

Python programming absolute beginner – Say hello

If you are not acquainted with a programming language yet, this step will be an absolute eyeopener! You will get a chance to view programming minus its complexities, because of Python’s superb readability. As a rite of induction into the world of programming, you should start with:

print (“Hello, World!”)

You will see the sentence enclosed within quotes displayed on the console (the window where the output of your code is displayed). In fact, we are said to have printed a string. You can ditch the quotation marks if you use a number (whole/decimal) between the parentheses. You just ended up learning about int and float!

Repeat the exercise with whatever you desire Python to display for you. Feeling powerful?

Python programming absolute beginner – Variables and operators

The next step is to learn about Python variables. Think of them as containers where you can store values (strings/ints/floats etc). In computing jargon, a value is said to be assigned to a variable when it follows an assignment (the = symbol). Thus, for the code snippet below, the output would be 63.

num = 63
print (num)

You can now execute simple math operations using operators. These are equivalents of what you would have read in arithmetics. An example is shown below.

a = 4
b = 3
print (a + b)

You can assign the addition’s result to a variable as well, rather than displaying it directly. In due course, you’ll also get to know about the modulus operator, which is used for deriving remainders, and other kinds of operators like assignment, logical, comparison, identity etc.

A key point to note is that unlike variables in programming languages like C, C++, Java etc, one does not need to declare the type of a Python variable. That is, you do not need to say beforehand whether your variable shall store an integer, int, boolean etc. This is known as dynamic typing and can lead to interesting results which cannot be observed in aforementioned languages.

val = 32
val = “I’m loving Python!” # does not lead to an error
print (val)

Python programming absolute beginner – Conditional statements

As you get to know about truthy and falsy values, along with conditional and logical operators, the next obvious step is to learn about if and else. This allows you to control the flow of execution, which refers to the sequence in which code is executed.

You also get to know about Python’s use of indentation and how it replaces the curly braces in other languages. This allows us to envisage and answer some unique scenarios.

pandemic_has_ended = False

if pandemic_has_ended:
                print (“Let’s party!”)
else:
                print (“Please no, not another lockdown!”)

Subsequently, you’ll get to know about else if and the if-else ladder, and how that allows you to make very difficult decisions. Trust your code to make good decisions for you.

Can you make a good decision? (Source)

Python programming absolute beginner – Loops

Next, how would you like it if you could repeat some code until a condition is satisfied? The iterative constructs for and while help us to this end. Take a look at the following demonstration.

# find and display number of digits in a positive integer
some_number = int(input()) # taking input from user
num_digits = 0

while some_number > 0:
                num_digits = num_digits + 1
                some_number = some_number // 10 # continuous integer division

print (num_digits)

How about displaying the sum of integers between 1 and 100? We can do so using a while loop, doubtlessly. Though, it is a rule-of-thumb to use a for loop in such a situation.

sum = 0

for i in range(1, 101, 1): # range(start, end+1, increment)
                sum = sum + i

print (sum)

These were just a couple of things we can do using loops.

Python programming absolute beginner – Functions

Writing all your code line-by-line does not seem bothersome until you realize that such an approach would not be scalable. By this, we mean debugging (the act of going through the code to understand what’s happening) is rendered extremely difficult.

Further, you may need to use a piece of code at various places in your codebase. Copying and pasting would theoretically work until there’s a change to make. And that’s where you’d see the redundancy and futility of it all. This is where functions step in!

Its chief aim is to compartmentalize code so that reusability and modularity is achieved. You may find the attached video useful for this purpose.

Python programming absolute beginner – Inbuilt data structures

All that you have learnt till now might seem to be useful but petty, for there seems to be no large practical utility. Mimicking the complexities of the real world employs bringing large amounts of data into the fold, which requires the use of data structures.

Starting with a very trivial example, envisage that you wanted to store the examination scores of fifty students in your program. Having fifty variables (n1 through n50, you may) is simply not feasible. This is where you’d find lists useful.

scores = [] # an empty list

for i in range(1, 51): # inputting for fifty students
                i = int(input())
                scores.append(i) # attaches the input to the list’s end

Now you can calculate the average score obtained, sort the scores by their magnitude and perform various other actions. It is intriguing to know that we can store different kinds of value-types in a list together. Storing a string with numbers is allowed; this would be blasphemous in the languages of yore.

You’ll also get to see tuples, which are the same as lists but do not permit modifying values once stored within them. It is denoted using parentheses and finds use when a set of values is to be kept unchanged. Sets are lists that would not let you enter the same value again.

Dictionaries are Python’s way of having key-value pairs. This way, every value is identified using a unique key. You would find the example of a car model useful.

car = {
“brand”: “Maruti Suzuki”,
“name”: “Baleno”,
“price”: 749000
“colors”: [“Blue”, “Silver”, “Red”, “Gray”, “White”]
}

New key-value pairs can be indicated, while ensuring that the same key isn’t repeated.

Python for absolute beginners – What next?

Depending on your initial goal, you can have staggeringly different trajectories henceforth.

  • As far as data science is concerned, the next steps would be to start off with key libraries like NumPy, Pandas, MatplotLib, Seaborn etc, while building an understanding of Statistics. These would set you up wonderfully for getting to terms with machine learning’s simplest techniques like regression and clustering.
  • Problem solvers delve further into studying OOPS, which is one of the key strengths of Python. Classes and objects are enthralling and lend the programmer a lot of capabilities. You can practically model real-life objects this way. Collections is a useful library in this regard.

In fact, every domain has its own set of libraries that are built for a specific cause. The easiest way to install and keep track of them on your system is via the use of PIP, which is an abbreviation for PIP installs packages.

You can easily install, upgrade and uninstall packages in command-line prompt using PIP. However, there are many other ways to install packages. Anaconda provides users with conda as well, for the exact same purpose.

Effectively, everything you learn enables you to move further on towards dexterity for the tools you have intended to make a part of your knowledge arsenal. The cycle carries on as long as you wish.

Python for absolute beginners – Useful tips

Learning to program can be a terrifying proposition, especially if you are new to it. Following tips can come in handy:

  • Have an appetite for learning. A student’s mindset bodes extremely well in this case.
  • Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Every error you come across has been solved already, quite probably. Google your queries and make StackOverFlow your home!
  • Make something out of what you learn and share it on GitHub. A project is the best way of exhibiting your knowledge; it is also an opportunity to uncover more of the topic you have gone through.
  • Learn from diverse resources. Books, blogs, YouTube videos and MOOCs are all equally important in this pursuit and can complement your journey amazingly.
  • Practice what you learn, especially in the beginning. The topics covered in this article can be practiced anytime on sites like Hackerrank.
  • The documentation is your Bible. Download it and do not hesitate to read it with the section you’re going through. Every package you learn will have its own!

Also, do not underestimate a good start. For Aristotle had said long back, well begun is half done.

Python programming learning from scratch

Python for absolute beginners – Before you go…

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Here’s wishing you the best on your fledgling journey in Python Programming, for absolute beginners!

Ayush Pareek

I am a programmer, who loves all things code. I have been writing about data science and other allied disciplines like machine learning and artificial intelligence ever since June 2021. You can check out my articles at pickl.ai/blog/author/ayushpareek/

I have been doing my undergrad in engineering at Jadavpur University since 2019. When not debugging issues, I can be found reading articles online that concern history, languages, and economics, among other topics. I can be reached on LinkedIn and via my email.