Getting started with Python is easy, you just need to download the python installation package and install onto your computer.
As of this writing, Python 3.1 is the latest version, though I won’t be using the latest bleeding-edge build for my exercises. There’s nothing wrong with 3.1, but third party package support for the packages I use can trail the latest release by a version or two. If you plan on installing third party libraries not provided in the standard Python release, you will want to use a slightly older version. My exercises will be based on the latest Python 2.6.
Which Python foundation should I use?
There are different ways to obtain Python for the Windows platform. Two of the most popular distributions are from the Python foundation and Activestate Software.
The site http://www.python.org, maintained by the Python Software Foundation, is the main portal for information on Python. Python.org contains news, documentation, information on the latest releases, download source for current and previous versions of Python, and binary install files for Windows. The latest version, as well as older versions of Python, can be found at http://www.python.org/download. This is the Python foundation that I typically use, the examples that follow will be based on Python 2.6.
ActiveState Software provides software solutions for individuals and businesses, including a complete download package containing Python executables and documentation called ActivePython. The package is non open source and available with an OEM license, which can be important in some corporate environments. Please refer tohttp://www.activestate.com/activepython for more information. Python luminary Alex Martelli offers a concise description of Why ActiveState in this StackOverflow post.
Build from Source
Source code for Python is available at http://www.python.org/download, and while it is possible to create a working Python installation for Windows by compiling from source, it’s beyond the scope of these exercises.
One of the wonderful things about Python is the excellent library support for the language. Python is “batteries included”: a large number of libraries are provided out-of-the-box, right in the standard distribution. Other modules are available from a variety of sources, chances are you can find a module that helps you solve a problem with a simple web search. I’ll use a variety of third party modules for the exercises that follow, but you’ll at least need to start with the pywin module. You can find the appropriate pywin for your Python 2.6 installation at http://sourceforge.net/projects/pywin32/files
I won’t be covering the basics of Python, I suggest you check one of the many other resources. The links listed on http://www.python.org/doc are an excellent starting point, many people also like the Dive into Python book at http://diveintopython.org. You can also find a number of other resources by searching for learn python.
Thanks — Dan