More about Python

The tutorials earlier in this section showed basic ways to work with Python. In this tutorial we’ll use the interactive interpreter to find out more about the language and library of tools that it contains.

Doing many things

You can use the Python interpreter to do many things.

Simple math like addition looks like this:

>>> 2 + 2

Exponentiation looks like this:

>>> 2 ** 38

Interacting with the Python interpreter means typing something as input that Python then evaluates and prints as output.

As you learn more about Abjad you’ll work more with Python files than with the Python interpreter. But the Python interpreter’s input-output loop makes it easy to see what Python is all about.

Looking around

Use dir() to see the things the Python interpreter knows about:

>>> dir()
['__builtins__', '__doc__', '__name__', '__package__']

These four things are the only elements that Python loads into the so-called global namespace when you start the interpreter.

Now let’s define the variable x:

>>> x = 10

Which lets us do things with x:

>>> x ** 2

When we call dir() now we see that the global namespace has changed:

>>> dir()
['__builtins__', '__doc__', '__name__', '__package__', 'x']

Using dir() is a good way to check the variables Python knows about when it runs.

Now type __builtins__ at the prompt:

>>> __builtins__
<module '__builtin__' (built-in)>

Python responds and tells us that __builtins__ is the name of a module.

A module is a file full of Python code that somebody has written to provide new functionality.

Use dir() to inspect the contents of __builtins__:

>>> dir(__builtins__)
['ArithmeticError', 'AssertionError', 'AttributeError', 'BaseException', 'BufferError', 'BytesWarning',
'DeprecationWarning', 'EOFError', 'Ellipsis', 'EnvironmentError', 'Exception', 'False', 'FloatingPointError',
'FutureWarning', 'GeneratorExit', 'IOError', 'ImportError', 'ImportWarning', 'IndentationError',
'IndexError', 'KeyError', 'KeyboardInterrupt', 'LookupError', 'MemoryError', 'NameError', 'None',
'NotImplemented', 'NotImplementedError', 'OSError', 'OverflowError', 'PendingDeprecationWarning',
'ReferenceError', 'RuntimeError', 'RuntimeWarning', 'StandardError', 'StopIteration', 'SyntaxError',
'SyntaxWarning', 'SystemError', 'SystemExit', 'TabError', 'True', 'TypeError', 'UnboundLocalError',
'UnicodeDecodeError', 'UnicodeEncodeError', 'UnicodeError', 'UnicodeTranslateError', 'UnicodeWarning',
'UserWarning', 'ValueError', 'Warning', 'ZeroDivisionError', '_', '__debug__', '__doc__', '__import__',
'__name__', '__package__', 'abs', 'all', 'any', 'apply', 'basestring', 'bin', 'bool', 'buffer',
'bytearray', 'bytes', 'callable', 'chr', 'classmethod', 'cmp', 'coerce', 'compile', 'complex', 'copyright',
'credits', 'delattr', 'dict', 'dir', 'divmod', 'enumerate', 'eval', 'execfile', 'exit', 'file', 'filter',
'float', 'format', 'frozenset', 'getattr', 'globals', 'hasattr', 'hash', 'help', 'hex', 'id', 'input', 'int',
'intern', 'isinstance', 'issubclass', 'iter', 'len', 'license', 'list', 'locals', 'long', 'map', 'max',
'memoryview', 'min', 'next', 'object', 'oct', 'open', 'ord', 'pow', 'print', 'property', 'quit', 'range',
'raw_input', 'reduce', 'reload', 'repr', 'reversed', 'round', 'set', 'setattr', 'slice', 'sorted',
'staticmethod', 'str', 'sum', 'super', 'tuple', 'type', 'unichr', 'unicode', 'vars', 'range', 'zip']

Python responds with a list of many names.

Use Python’s len() command together with the last-output character _ to find out how many names __builtins__ contains:

>>> len(_)

These names make up the core of the Python programming language.

As you learn Abjad you’ll use some Python built-ins all the time and others less often.

Before moving on, notice that both dir() and len() appear in the list above. This explains why we’ve been able to use these commands in this tutorial.

Abjad extends Python

Python is an open-source programming language invented by Guido van Rossum and further developed by a team of programmers working in many countries around the world. Python is used to provision servers, process text, develop distributed systems and do much more besides. The dynamic language and interpreter features of Python are similar to Ruby while the syntax of Python resembles C, C++ and Java.

To get the most out of Abjad you need to know (or learn) the basics of programming in Python. Abjad extends Python because it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel modern programming languages have developed to find, sort, store, model and encapsulate information. Abjad simply piggy-backs on the ways of doing these things that Python provides. So to use Abjad effectively you need to know the way these things are done in Python.

Start with the Python tutorial. The tutorial is structured in 15 chapters and you should work through the first 12. This will take a day or two and you’ll be able to use all the information you read in the Python tutorial in Abjad. If you’re an experienced programmer you should skip chapters 1 - 3 but read 4 - 12. When you’re done you can give yourself the equivalent of the chorale test suggested above. First open a file and define a couple of classes and functions in it. Then open a second file and write some code to first import and then do stuff with the classes and functions you defined in the first file. Once you can easily do this without looking at the Python docs you’ll be in a much better position to work with Abjad.