The IDLE Development Environment

The full installation of Python includes IDLE, a basic but very useful integrated development environment. When IDLE is launched (click Start—>All Programs—Python 2.x—IDLE on Windows, or click Finder—Applications—MacPython 2.x—IDLE on Mac OS X, or run idle & in a console on Linux), it presents its Python Shell window.

As the screenshot in Figure 1.1 shows, IDLE has a rather retro Windows 95 look. This is because it is written in Tkinter rather than in PyQt. We've chosen to use IDLE because IDLE comes as standard with Python and is very simple to learn and use. If you want to use a much more powerful and modern-looking IDE, you might prefer Eric4 which is written in PyQt, or one of the other Python IDEs that are available. However, if you are new to Python, we recommend that you start out with the simpler IDLE, and once you are more experienced with PyQt, then trying the other IDEs to see if you prefer one of them. And of course, you could simply use a plain text editor and debug using print statements and not use an IDE at all.

IDLE provides three key facilities: the ability to enter Python expressions and code and to see the results directly in the Python Shell; a code editor that provides Python-specific color syntax highlighting; and a debugger that can be used to step through code to help identify and kill bugs. The Python Shell is especially useful for trying out simple algorithms, snippets of code, and regular expressions, and can also be used as a very powerful and flexible calculator.

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