This page explains how to set up Python on a machine so you can run and edit Python programs, and links to the exercise code to download. You can do this before starting the class, or you can leave it until you've gotten far enough in the class that you want to write some code. The Google Python Class uses a simple, standard Python installation, although more complex strategies are possible. Python is free and open source, available for all operating systems from python.org. In particular we want a Python install where you can do two things:
- Run an existing python program, such as hello.py
- Run the Python interpreter interactively, so you can type code right at it
Both of the above are done quite a lot in the lecture videos, and it's definitely something you need to be able to do to solve the exercises.
Download Google Python Exercises
As a first step, download the google-python-exercises.zip file and unzip it someplace where you can work on it. The resulting google-python-exercises directory contains many different python code exercises you can work on. In particular, google-python-exercises contains a simple hello.py file you can use in the next step to check that Python is working on your machine. Below are instructions for Windows and other operating systems.
Python on Linux, Mac OS X, and other OS
Most operating systems other than Windows already have Python installed by default. To check that Python is installed, open a command line (typically by running the "Terminal" program), and cd to the google-python-exercises directory. Try the following to run the hello.py program (what you type is shown in bold):
~/google-python-exercises$ python3 hello.py Hello World ~/google-python-exercises$ python3 hello.py Alice Hello Alice
If python is not installed, see the Python.org download
page. To run the Python interpreter interactively, just type
python3 in the
~/google-python-exercises$ python3 Python 3.X.X (XXX, XXX XX XXXX, XX:XX:XX) [XXX] on XXX Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information. >>> 1 + 1 2 >>> you can type expressions here .. use ctrl-d to exit
The two lines python prints after you type
python3 and before the >>> prompt tells you about
the version of python you're using and where it was built. As long as the first thing printed is
"Python 3.", these examples should work for you. This course is designed for Python 3.X or later.
Execute Bit (optional)
The commands above are the simplest way to run python programs. If the "execute bit" is set on a
.py file, it can be run by name without having to type
python first. Set the execute
bit with the
chmod command like this:
~/google-python-exercises$ chmod +x hello.py ~/google-python-exercises$ ./hello.py ## now can run it as ./hello.py Hello World
Python on Windows
To install Python on Windows, go to the python.org download page and download Python 3.X.X. Run the Python installer and accept all the defaults. This will install Python in the root directory and set up some file associations.
With Python installed, open a command prompt (Accessories > Command Prompt, or type
cmd into the run dialog). Cd to the google-python-exercises directory (from unzipping
google-python-exercises.zip). You should be able to run the hello.py python program by typing
python hello.py (what you type is shown in bold):
C:\google-python-exercises> python hello.py Hello World C:\google-python-exercises> python hello.py Alice Hello Alice
If this works, Python is installed. Otherwise, see Python Windows FAQ for help.
To run the Python interpreter interactively, select the Run... command from the Start menu,
python -- this will launch Python interactively in its own window. On Windows,
use Ctrl-Z to exit (on all other operating systems it's Ctrl-D to
In the lecture videos, we generally run the Python programs with commands like
./hello.py. On Windows, it's simplest to use the
python hello.py form.
Editing Python (all operating systems)
A Python program is just a text file that you edit directly. As above, you should have a command
line open, where you can type
python3 hello.py Alice to run whatever exercise you are
working on. At the command line prompt, just hit the up-arrow key to recall previously typed
commands, so it's easy to run previous commands without retyping them.
You want a text editor with a little understanding of code and indentation. There are many good free ones:
- Windows -- do not use Notepad or Wordpad. Try the free and open source Notepad++ or the free and open source JEdit
- Mac -- The built in TextEdit works, but not very well. Try the free BBEdit or the free and open source JEdit
- Linux -- any unix text editor is fine, or try the above JEdit.
Following are some recommended settings for your text editor:
- When you press Tab, it's best if your editor inserts spaces instead of a real tab character. All of the tutorial files use 2-spaces as the indent, and 4-spaces is another popular choice.
- It's helpful if the editor will "auto indent" so when you press Enter, the new line starts with the same indentation as the previous line.
- When you save your files, use the unix line-ending convention, since that's how the various starter files are set up. If running hello.py gives the error "Unknown option: -", the file may have the wrong line-ending.
Here are the preferences to set for common editors to treat tabs and line-endings correctly for Python:
- Windows Notepad++ -- Tabs: Settings > Preferences > Edit Components > Tab settings, and Settings > Preferences > MISC for auto-indent. Line endings: Format > Convert, set to Unix.
- JEdit (any OS) -- Line endings: Little 'U' 'W' 'M' on status bar, set it to 'U' (for Unix line-endings).
- Windows Notepad or Wordpad -- do not use.
- Mac BBEdit -- Tabs: At the top, BBEdit > Preferences (or Cmd + , shortcut). Go to Editor Defaults section and make sure Auto-indent and Auto-expand tabs are checked. Line endings: In Preferences go to Text Files section and make sure Unix (LF) is selected under Line breaks.
- Mac TextEdit -- do not use.
- Unix pico -- Tabs: Esc-q toggles tab mode, Esc-i to turns on auto-indent mode.
Unix emacs -- Tabs: manually set tabs-inserts-spaces mode:
M-x set-variable(return) indent-tabs-mode(return) nil.
To try out your editor, edit the hello.py program. Change the word "Hello" in the code to the
word "Howdy" (you don't need to understand all the other Python code in there - we'll explain it all
in class). Save your edits and run the program to see its new output. Try adding a
print('yay!') just below the existing print and with the same indentation. Try running the program,
to see that your edits work correctly. For class we want an edit/run workflow that allows you to
switch between editing and running easily.
Quick Python Style
One of the advantages of Python is that it makes it easy to type a little code and quickly see what it does. In class, we want a work setup that matches that: a text editor working on the current file.py, and a separate command line window where you can just press the up-arrow key to run file.py and see what it does.
Teaching philosophy aside: the interpreter is great for little experiments, as shown throughout the lectures. However, the exercises are structured as Python files that students edit. Since being able to write Python programs is the ultimate goal, it's best to be in that mode the whole time and use the interpreter just for little experiments.