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Programming Python

Mark Lutz
Published by O'Reilly Media
1596 pages
£ 42.50
Published: 5th September 2006
reviewed by Roger Whittaker
   in the December 2006 issue (pdf), (html)

This book has grown over the years, from a large book (First Edition) to a tome (Second Edition) to a doorstep (this time round).

It has gained weight to the extent of 300 pages since the second edition, and has three more chapters than previously. The structure of the book has changed significantly, and though much of the new edition consists of the same text as before, parts have been rewritten and some parts of the older book have been left out or incorporated into new chapters. It does of course also reflect the changes in the language as it has reached version 2.4 and now 2.5 (which appeared just after the book's publishing date).

The book itself stresses that it is to be regarded as a tutorial (or perhaps a set of tutorials) rather than a reference book -- for that see ``Python in a Nutshell'' reviewed elsewhere in this issue by Graham Lee. For information in smaller sized chunks about how to do useful stuff with Python, there is also the ``Python Cookbook''.

This book's approach is to explain by doing. Some of the sections are fairly small self-contained descriptions of how particular modules can be used in practice. Other examples develop solid projects in which the author leads you through (among others) creating a Python GUI mail client, a Python webmail server and several fully functional GUI programs. This approach necessarily means building on top of a lot of preparatory work in which the author creates the infrastructure for his project first in the form of various classes and modules. As a result you cannot expect to just quickly grab something useful from any part of the book: you have to follow the author's way of achieving his results.

Unlike the second edition, this book does not come with a CD, but all the code examples are available from the O'Reilly web site. The examples come with a launcher which at the same time runs a simple editor written in Python (as one of the book's projects) allowing you to view and edit the code.

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