This is a learning experience, not a reference book. We deliberately stripped out everything that might get in the way of learning whatever it is we're working on at that point in the book. And the first time through, you need to begin at the beginning, because the book makes assumptions about what you've already seen and learned.
We use release 3 of the Python programming language throughout this book, but this fact alone does not make this book Head First Python. We chose Python because it's a great programming language to start with and it's also a great programming language to grow with. In fact, Python might be the only programming language you'll ever need to learn and use (although your employer might think otherwise). Of course, you have to start with something, and we can think of no better programming language to use than Python when first learning how to program. That said, this book isn't designed to teach you Python; it's designed to teach you programming, so most of the things we show you are designed to hightlight the programming concept, not the Python feature.
To run the programs in this book, you need to download and install Python 3 on your computer. This isn't as hard as it sounds. Pop on over to the Python download site and select the option that fits best with the computer you are using. Just be sure to select release 3 of Python, not release 2: http://www.python.org/download.
We begin by teaching some basic programming concepts, then we start putting programming to work for you right away.
We cover the fundamentals of programming in Chapter 1. That way, by the time you make it all the way to Chapter 2, you are creating programs that actually do something real, useful, and—gulp!—fun. We are guessing you'll be amazed by how much you can do with less than a dozen lines of code in Chapter 2. The rest of the book then builds on your programming skills turning you from programming newbie to coding ninja master in no time.
The exercises and activities are not add-ons; they're part of the core content of the book. Some of them are to help with memory, some are for understanding, and some will help you apply what you've learned. Don't skip the exercises.
One distinct difference in a Head First book is that we want you to really get it. And we want you to finish the book remembering what you've learned. Most reference books don't have retention and recall as a goal, but this book is about learning, so you'll see some of the same concepts come up more than once.
Our readers tell us that it's frustrating to wade through 200 lines of an example looking for the two lines they need to understand. Most examples in this book are shown within the smallest possible context, so that the part you're trying to learn is clear and simple. Don't expect all of the examples to be robust, or even complete—they are written specifically for learning, and aren't always fully-functional.
We've placed a lot of the code examples on the Web so you can copy and paste them as needed. You'll find them at two locations:
The Brain Power exercises don't have answers.
For some of them, there is no right answer, and for others, part of the learning experience of the Brain Power activities is for you to decide if and when your answers are right. In some of the Brain Power exercises, you will find hints to point you in the right direction.
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