Python is a general-purpose programming language that can be used to develop applications, analyze and visualize data, create machine learning algorithms, automate tasks, and much more. Initially released in 1991 by Guido van Rossum, Python is open-source and emphasizes readable and efficient code, while being flexible and scalable.
Through various frameworks and libraries, Python has extensive applications in areas such as data science, software development, machine learning, and scripting. Due to its flexibility and efficiency, Python is the “most wanted” programming language for the second year running, according to the most recent survey by Stack Overflow.
Python for Data Science
Python is the most commonly used programming language in data science—with almost 70% of data scientists reporting that they use it. It has surpassed R for the number one spot and has maintained this position due to its ease of use, powerful libraries and packages, clear and user-friendly documentation, and abundant community support.
Python is easier to read and write than most other general-purpose languages, especially for analytical computing and quantitative data analysis. Data scientists are already handling complex analysis of data, so they don’t need their programming language to be complicated, too. Python is known for its simple syntax and ease of use—even for beginners.
Python is open sourced and has numerous libraries and packages available for data science. While some other languages (like Ruby) have clean and simple syntaxes, they don’t offer the same variety of scientific computing and machine learning libraries as Python.
There are thousands of libraries in the Python Package Index. Some of the most useful libraries and packages are Pandas, NumPy, Matplotlib, and Sci-Kit Learn.
NumPy is a powerful linear algebra package for Python. It is primarily used for scientific computing. Many other libraries (Pandas, Matplotlib, and Sci-Kit Learn, for example) are dependent on NumPy. NumPy has extensive documentation and can be installed quickly and easily.
NumPy works with multi-dimensional arrays in Python. Lists can be converted into arrays, random arrays can be created, and numerous operations can be performed on these arrays. This is a crucial feature because operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, for example) cannot be performed on standalone Python lists, but they can easily be performed on NumPy arrays. Since data scientists often need to perform operations on data sets, NumPy is an invaluable tool.
NumPy allows you to find the min, max, standard deviation, and variance on an array. It allows you to combine different arrays to form a single array.
Overall, NumPy arrays are faster, easier to use, and use less memory than Python lists. When working with massive data sets, convenience and ease of use are two big selling points.
Because arbitrary data types can be defined with NumPy, the package is able to connect with a variety of different databases. This adds to its versatility and makes it an important component of any data scientist’s technical repertoire.
Pandas is an open-source library that provides high-performing, user-friendly data analysis tools for Python. It is one of the most popular libraries and, as such, has excellent documentation.
Pandas essentially takes data (from a CSV file or a SQL database, for example) and creates a Python object called a data frame. A data frame organizes data in a format that resembles a table, so it is easy to read, easy to analyze, and easy to work with.
Pandas is dependent on NumPy, and can optionally be used with Matplotlib for data plotting and visualization. Because of this, it can be installed on its own, or it can be installed through a package like Anacondas, which will install all required dependencies.
Pandas is usually used in one of three ways:
- To convert a list, dictionary, or array into a data frame
- To open a local CSV file or a related data file
- To open a remote file (CSV, JSON, SQL database, etc.)
After opening the file that you’d like to work with, you can perform a number of different commands to analyze the data. You can perform statistical analysis (mean, median, standard deviation, and so on), you can retrieve specific data points, and you can file, sort, or group data as you see fit.
Another important feature is the ability to clean data by checking for null values within the data set. It is difficult to work with data that has not been cleaned; unintentional null values within data sets can skew your results or make the results difficult to analyze. Pandas addresses this concern by identifying pieces of data that might be missing, incomplete, or otherwise incorrect so that you can get the most accurate results from your analysis.
Matplotlib is another popular library that allows data scientists to visualize data. Data visualization is a crucial step in making data accessible. It allows you to identify outliers and patterns quickly, while making data interpretation easier overall. Research shows that people in general are very receptive to visual representations of data, making Matplotlib an invaluable resource in data science.
Matplotlib is free, easy to install, and has robust features. Data can be rendered as a histogram, a pie chart, a line graph, a box plot, and so on. There are enough features to satisfy advanced users, but even entry-level users can create powerful visualizations of data.
Consider an enormous data set that encompasses countless data points over a long period of time. While this data can be displayed in an array or in another numerical format, it would take awhile to read and analyze. There is a potential for human error when manually reading and interpreting massive lists of data. Naturally, human error is something that data scientists try to avoid.
Matplotlib allows you to choose the specific data that you’d like to work with and arrange it in any visual format that you can imagine. Data can be rendered and displayed in almost any format with a few quick commands. Because Matplotlib is so easy to use and works seamlessly with other Python libraries and packages, it is a top choice for data scientists who use Python.
Many data scientists begin their analysis and evaluation of data with Pandas before moving over to Sci-Kit Learn for machine learning. Sci-Kit Learn is a machine learning library for Python that works with NumPy arrays and focuses on modeling data, not operating on it (NumPy and Pandas handle this).
Some modeling options include clustering, data sets, parameter tuning, and cross-validation. Sci-Kit Learn comes with standard data sets (for classification and regression of data, for example). Sci-Kit Learn is used in conjunction with stats and linear regression to make predictions based on data sets.
Other Libraries and Packages
These libraries and packages, among others, are one of the main reasons that Python is so popular in data science. The options to import, manipulate, operate on, clean up, visualize, and model data are unmatched by any other programming language’s libraries.
In our Python for Data Science Bootcamp, we cover Python in depth, and we hone in on NumPy, Pandas, Matplotlib, and Sci-Kit Learn to help you make the most of your data.
Python for Machine Learning
One of the most powerful tools of Python is its machine learning capabilities. Machine learning is a subsection of artificial intelligence that creates programs to automate data analysis and learn from the data. This is a remarkably powerful tool because as data continues to grow and become more complex, machine learning algorithms will be able to produce full-scale automated models that are efficient and reliable.
Python is the number one language used in machine learning projects due to its simplicity, wide-usage, and open source packages, like scikit-learn. Scikit-learn is a machine learning library built for Python that allows programmers to cluster data and run various forms of modeling algorithms on the data.
Sci-kit learn has much to offer when it comes to machine learning due to its simplicity and flexibility. In as few as two-lines of code, an analyst can run a decision tree model on a massive data frame in seconds!
However, the main reason scikit-learn is the gold standard for machine learning is that it’s built on top of several common Python libraries, which allows programmers to input Numpy arrays and Pandas data frames into scikit-learn. Additionally, scikit-learn provides programmers with a full suite of data modeling tools such as Regression, Decision trees, Neural Networks, SVMs, and Naive Bayes.
Python for Software Development
As the number of websites, daily active users, and applications grows, programmers are increasingly turning to Python for software development. Python was designed for server-side web applications for its easy integration with other languages and its flexible frameworks,
One of Python’s benefits is its easy integration with other web languages. Python has third-party packages that enable collaboration with other languages such as C, Java, Ruby, and Objective-C. This allows for quick development and deployment of particular parts of tools and applications.
Python’s web frameworks, namely Django and Flask, allow programmers to create and scale projects efficiently.
Flask is a relatively new framework, and is now the most commonly used web framework for new Python coders. Flask is simple and easy to learn due to its lack of syntax and need for boilerplate code. This minimalistic language allows for a great deal of control and is the ideal choice for websites that provide live updates, for example, a stock ticker, due to its speed and live data fetching abilities.
Django is a “batteries included” framework, which means that Django makes it easy for Python developers to dive into web applications without worrying about the infrastructure upfront. Django is a well-established platform that supports many plug-ins, but it unfortunately has a steep learning curve and can feel overwhelming for new programmers.
Web Development is another vertical that displays Python’s flexibility and power. Whether you want to create software, websites, web applications or just learn how to code, Python is the perfect language to choose!
Python for Automation
Python’s power extends beyond data science, machine learning, and web development, and makes its way into automation. With the power of Python, programmers can automate tasks that, for decades, had to be manually completed. Python scripts are capable of automating countless types of tasks due to the extensive libraries that are available in the language.
One of the most popular automated tasks in Python is called web scraping. Using Beautifulsoup, programmers are able to write a Python script that will “scrape” the data off a webpage and store it into a CSV file. This allows researchers to gain all the information they are seeking in a clean, easy-to-analyze format within seconds!
Python can be used to automate hundreds of additional tasks such as inputting data into a form, searching for files, updating data in Excel, and much more. Through the power of automation, Python enables programmers to complete tens of hours’ worth of tedious tasks in just a few seconds.
Why Learn Python?
Easy to Build & Test
Python code is very similar to English and can, therefore, be learned quickly. We are therefore witnessing an increase in start-up technology companies using Python as their preferred language.
Unlike Java or C++, Python’s syntax is very simple which allows programmers to focus on the product they are trying to build and not the syntax they need to follow. All this and more leads to products in Python being launched faster and smarter. Programmers can launch minimal viable products into the market for customer testing. The result is the creation of more technology products that have a proven and tested market. This ultimately prompts an increase in the flow of venture capital money into products built on Python.
The Language of the People
A language is only as strong and as useful as the number of people who are using it. Python has just surpassed 35 million downloads per year and an estimated 5 million programmers worldwide are using Python as their preferred language. The massive adoption of Python by programmers is a testament to its strength and speed. This also creates a highly valuable social network of Python developers. From searching for debugging answers on Stack Overflow to finding a job in a new city, the Python social network reigns supreme.
With Python, programmers can build software for NASA, create data science models for Fortune 500 companies, and scrape data from websites and academic journals. In other words, there is an endlessly diverse group of people who use Python for very different reasons: the traditional programmers use it to build software and foster technological innovation, the data scientists will use it to build models to see which marketing strategy is most effective, and the academics use it to retrieve data autonomously using Python web scraping extension such as Beautiful Soup.
Prominent Companies Are Using Python
Instagram, Spotify, Amazon, Facebook are all examples of companies who currently use Python as their coding language of choice.
Instagram uses Python because it fits with their company philosophy to “do the simple thing first.” Instagram uses Django web framework which is written in Python. Another reason engineers at Instagram opted to use Python is because it is simple and effective which allows them to launch new features with little downtime.
Spotify uses Python mostly for data analysis and backend services, but programmers at Spotify said, “Python has a habit of turning up in other random places, as most of our developers are happy programming in it.” Amazon and Facebook also use Python for features including recommended friends and products.
Frameworks & Environments & Libraries
Python's frameworks and environments all it to be used for a variety of tasks.
- Django is a full-stack Python web framework that is open source and free to all. Django is widely popular amongst developers because it provides programmers with templates that simplify complex code.
- Flask is a Python web framework that allows the use of Python in web development.
- Beautiful Soup is a library for pulling data off of the internet.
- Jupyter is an open-source web application that allows programmers to input, analyze, and visualize data.