July 17, 2012

Python Introduction and Installation

    Reviewed by Miriam Posner , Jim Clifford and Amanda Morton

Lesson Goals

This first lesson in our section on dealing with Online Sources is designed to get you and your computer set up to start programming. We will focus on installing the relevant software – all free and reputable – and finally we will help you to get your toes wet with some simple programming that provides immediate results.

In this opening module you will install the Python programming language, the Beautiful Soup HTML/XML parser, and a text editor. Screencaps provided here come from Komodo Edit, but you can use any text editor capable of working with Python. Here’s a list of other options: Python Editors. Once everything is installed, you will write your first programs, “Hello World” in Python and HTML.

the Python Programming Language

The first programming language we will introduce in the Programming Historian is Python, a free, open source language. Unless otherwise noted, we will be using Python v.2 throughout. Version 3 is available but we have elected to stick with version 2 for now because it’s the most widely used version and it is the one that ships preinstalled on new Macs. Python 3 has different syntax (think grammar rules) and if you are trying to use Python 3 with the Programming Historian, you may run into difficulties. We welcome version 3 translations of any of our lessons.

Backup Your Work!

Before you download or install any new software, it is crucial that you make backups of your work. Each day before you do any programming, make sure to back up your Zotero database. At the end of a day’s work, make another backup of the Zotero database and of any programs that you’ve written that day. You should back up your whole computer at least weekly, and preferably more frequently. It is also a good idea to make off-site backups of your work, so that you don’t lose everything if something happens to your computer or to your home or office. Sites like Jungle Disk and Dropbox provide easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive online backup options.

Choose Your Operating System

Step 1 – Install and Set Up Software

In order to work through the techniques in this website, you will need to download and install some freely available software. We have provided instructions for Mac, Windows and Linux. Once you have installed the software for your operating system, move on to ‘Viewing HTML Files’. If you run into trouble with our instructions or find something that doesn’t work on your platform, please let us know.

About the authors

William J. Turkel is Professor of History at the University of Western Ontario.   Adam Crymble is a lecturer of digital history at the University of Hertfordshire.  

Suggested Citation

William J. Turkel and Adam Crymble , "Python Introduction and Installation," Programming Historian (17 July 2012), http://programminghistorian.org/lessons/introduction-and-installation