Chapter 10. First Steps with Python for Excel Users

Created in 1991 by Guido van Rossum, Python is a programming language that, like R, is free and open source. At the time, van Rossum was reading the scripts from Monty Python’s Flying Circus and decided to name the language after the British comedy. Unlike R, which was designed explicitly for data analysis, Python was developed as a general-purpose language meant to do things like interact with operating systems, handle processing errors, and so forth. This has some important implications for how Python “thinks” and works with data. For example, you saw in Chapter 7 that R has a built-in tabular data structure. This isn’t the case in Python; we’ll need to rely more heavily on external packages to work with data.

That’s not necessarily a problem: Python, like R, has thousands of packages maintained by a thriving contributor community. You’ll find Python used for everything from mobile app development to embedded devices to, yes, data analytics. Its diverse user base is growing rapidly, and Python has become one of the most popular programming languages not just for analytics but for computing generally.


Python was conceived as a general-purpose programming language, while R was bred specifically with statistical analysis in mind.

Downloading Python

The Python Software Foundation maintains the “official” Python source code. Because Python is open source, anyone is available to take, add to, and redistribute ...

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