Originally created by Guido van Rossum in 1991, Python is a versatile programming language used by makers on the Raspberry Pi, system administrators in the data center, and even by Industrial Light and Magic to bring our movies to life.
Python is a great language to learn, and thanks to the Raspberry Pi for the past decade there have been countless tutorials covering the gamut of programming projects.
Whether you are a Python veteran, a “pythonista” or a complete newcomer to the language, installing Python on Windows is an easy task. In this how to we will walk you through installing Python 3 on Windows and show two editors, one for beginners and the other for intermediate and advanced users, and how you can get coding with this fantastic language.
Installing Python 3 on Windows 10 and 11
The installation process for Python 3 on Windows is simple, with only a couple of extra steps that we have to follow. These steps enable us to access Python from anywhere on our system and install software using its built-in package manager. Installing Python in this manner enables the creation of projects that work with the operating system, for example notifications and automated system tasks.
1. Open a browser to the Python website and download the Windows installer.
2. Double click on the downloaded file and install Python for all users, and ensure that Python is added to your path. Click on Install now to begin. Adding Python to the path will enable us to use the Python interpreter from any part of the filesystem.
3. After the installation is complete, click Disable path length limit and then Close. Disabling the path length limit means we can use more than 260 characters in a file path.
4. Click Close to end the installation.
Running Python in Windows
1. Open a Command Prompt and type “python” then press Enter.
2. Create a short Python script that uses a for loop to print a message to the Python shell ten times. Press space four times to indent the second line, otherwise Python will produce an error. Press Enter to run the code.
for i in range(10): print(“Python in the command prompt”)
Python comes with its own package manager, pip, that is used to install, update and remove modules of pre-written Python code. These modules provide us with extra functionality. To demonstrate we will use pip to install the pyjokes module, a collection of programmer jokes.
1. Open a Command Prompt and use pip to install pyjokes then press Enter.
pip install pyjokes
2. Open the Python interpreter.
3. Import the pyjokes module and then print a joke from the module. In our case, we got a “hip hip hurray” take on an array containing two hips.
import pyjokes print(pyjokes.get_joke())
4. More modules can be found using the PyPi Package Index.
Beginning Python With Mu
If you have never written a line of Python code, then Mu is for you. Created by Nicholas Tollervey, Mu is designed with beginners in mind. The simple interface means we can focus on our code. But don’t underestimate Mu as under the hood we have tools to validate our code and to work with a diverse range of boards such as Raspberry Pi Pico, Adafruit CircuitPython and many MicroPython boards, including those from Lego.
1. Open a browser to the Mu website and download the Windows installer.
2. Go to the Downloads folder and double click the Mu file to begin installation.
3. Accept the license agreement and click Install. The install process will take a few moments to complete.
4. Click on Launch Mu Editor and then click Finish. This will close the installer and start Mu.
5. Wait for Mu to start. Mu’s first launch can take some time to complete, subsequent boots will be much faster.
The Mu Editor Interface
Mu was designed with beginners in mind and this is reflected in the user interface. It is uncluttered and easy to understand.
The user interface is broken down into three areas.
- The menu bar. Large icons and clear text identify the function of each button. We can create, save and load files. We can also run and stop our code. The Python Shell (REPL, Read, Eval, Print, Loop) is available to test ideas. A plotter can be used to visualize data via a graph. We can zoom in and out of the code, useful when presenting to large groups. A builtin checker and tidy application will check and format your code using Python style guidelines.
- The coding area. Here we write the code for our projects.
- The Python shell. It can output the results of our code and it can be used to access the REPL.
We can easily write Python code in Mu. The default is to write Python 3 code, to be run on our machine. This is where the ease of Mu works against it, as there is no means to install Python modules. Modules are libraries of code that can be used to add new features, for example RPi.GPIO and GPIO Zero are modules that enable Python to talk to the Raspberry Pi GPIO.
If you are starting out with Python, Mu is an excellent choice to introduce the language.
Mu has one feature that elevates it above other beginner editors. Mu has a “Mode” button which can be used to write Python, MicroPython and CircuitPython.
2. Select the Mode from the list. Mu comes with a plethora of modes. We can write Python 3, make games using PyGame Zero or build websites/apps using Flask. Write MicroPython for the Raspberry Pi Pico, micro:bit. ESP, Pyboard and Lego Spike. Or we can use Adafruit’s CircuitPython to create physical computing projects.
Connecting a Raspberry Pi Pico, MicroPython or CircuitPython board will trigger Mu to ask if we would like to change the mode to match the board. To demonstrate this we’ll write a short project to blink the Pcio’s onboard LED.
To follow this part of the how to you will need a Raspberry Pi Pico.
1. With Mu open, connect a Raspberry Pi Pico to your computer.
2. Using the pop-up, change the mode for the Raspberry Pi Pico (RP2040).
3. The Mu editor is now in RP2040 mode, so click on REPL to open the MicroPython shell (REPL) on the Pico.
4. In the editor import two modules, first to enable access to the GPIO, the second to add pauses to the code.
import machine from time import sleep
5. Create an object, led and use it to set the onboard LED as an output. For the Raspberry Pi Pico W use the line of code with ‘LED’, for the original Pico use the line of code with 25. The Pico has the LED connected to GPIO 25, but the Pico W does not.
Raspberry Pi Pico W
led = machine.Pin('LED', machine.Pin.OUT)
Raspberry Pi Pico
led = machine.Pin(25, machine.Pin.OUT)
6. Create a for loop that iterates 10 times, each time the loop runs it will toggle the LED on / off, print a message to the REPL and sleep for 0.1 seconds.
for i in range(10): led.toggle() print("BLINK") sleep(0.1)
7. Click Save and save the file as blink.py to your computer.
8. Click Run to start the code on the Pico. The LED on the Pico will blink on and off and the REPL will show the “BLINK” message.
Intermediate Python with Notepad++
You know your stuff, and you need a lightweight editor to get your Python code done. Sure you can install Visual Studio Code, PyCharm etc. But if you just need to edit a few project files, Notepad++ is for you. Notepad++ is a Swiss Army Knife of an editor, and it works exceptionally well with Python. Here we will install Notepad++ and set it up to run our Python code at the press of a button.
Note that you will need to install the Python 3 interpreter, the steps for which are at the start of this how to.
1. Open a browser to the Notepad++ website and download the latest Windows installer.
2. In the your Downloads folder, double click on the file to start the installer.
3. Set your preferred language and click OK.
4. Select Next.
5. Select “I Agree”.
6. Click Next.
7. Click Next.
8. Click Install to begin the process.
9. Check “Run Notepad++” and click Finish to end the installation and open Notepad++.
The Notepad++ Interface
Notepad++ has a more involved user interface than Mu, and this reflects the flexibility of the editor. Notepad++ is much more than a Python editor, we can use it to write PHP, Perl, JSON etc.
- Menus. Here we can load projects, save, create macros and install plugins for specific languages.
- Editor. The code for our project is created here.
- Workspace. If we are working on a large project with multiple project files, we can load the folder as a workspace and have quick access to the files.
Running Python code in Notepad++
1. Create a simple Python project that uses a for loop to print a message to the Python shell.
for i in range(10): print("Writing Python in Notepad++")
2. Save the code as for_loop.py.
3. Click on Run >> Run..
4. Click on … and navigate to the Python executable file. Select the file and the path will be added to the dialog box. At the end of the path, add -i "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)" to force Notepad++ to open the file. Click Save.
Example path to Python C:\Users\LattePanda\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python310\python.exe -i "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)"
5. Create a shortcut called Python3.10 to launch the Python interpreter then click OK. We chose ALT + SHIFT + P as it didn’t conflict with other shortcuts on our system.
6. Use your shortcut to run the Python code.
Want better editor than Idle for python? Use VS Code (again it's on the store)
It’s also the language used to write plug-ins for my favorite editor, sublime text. It isn’t that slow and it’s extremely useful and that’s why it’s popular.
That said, I wouldn’t use it to write a whole application
but think of it this way, it’s a tool in your toolbox. You don’t always want to use a hammer. you want to use other tools when they fit the job