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Python Essential Reference (New Riders Professional Library) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – November 1999

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Every so often a book comes along that makes you ask yourself, "Gee, when was the last time I had my eyes checked?" David M. Beazley's Python: Essential Reference is just such a book. Condensing thousands of pages of Python online documentation into a compact 319-page softcover, Beazley and his editors used the old-college trick (often performed in reverse) of dickering with the font size to meet a putative page-limit requirement. The result is a truly condensed product fit for the occularly well-adjusted (nota bene).

Beazley's subject is Python, a full-featured, freely-redistributable, POSIX-compliant (platforms include Linux, Unix, Macintosh, and Windows) scripting language that is based on object-oriented design principles. As advertised, Beazley's source release (1.5.2) is available from an unfortunately slow server at www.python.org. The installation under Linux (Redhat 5.2) proceeded without incident.

Beazley holds true to his catalogic purpose: fully 230 pages are formatted as technical appendices and indices covering the standard litany: built-in function syntax, database features, OS-level interfaces, Internet interfaces, and compiling/profiling/debugging. All references are fully annotated and illustrated with example source code that runs from a couple of lines to a couple of pages. In lock step with competing scripting languages, Python is extensible and embeddable in C and C++, and with blitzkrieg efficiency, Beazley summarizes these crucial practical issues in the final 30 pages. Python users who are tired of chasing questions through hyperlinked online documents will benefit from the expansive random-access index.

Python the book captures the orderliness of Python the language. Beazley begins with an 86-page précis of Python in the fashion of Kernighan and Ritchie: too brief for a newbie tutorial but enough to propel old hands into a scripting language that aspires to the elegance of a compiled language.

Indeed, it is a byte-compiling language. The line bytecode=compile("some_python_script",'','exec')) creates 'bytecode' as a token executed by exec bytecode. But a five-minute investigation through Beazley's book does not describe how 'bytecode' can be written into a separate executable file. If writing the byte-compiled code to a file is not possible, Python suffers from the limitations of other scripting languages: the executable is the source and cannot be hidden from the user, at least not without some difficulty. Despite its extensibility, embeddability, and pleasing architecture, Python is like other scripting languages: appropriate for solving small nonproprietary problems.

Those familiar with more established scriptors like Perl may ask, "Why Python?" Unlike Perl, Python is a product of the fully object-oriented (OO) era, and its constructs reflect design principles that aspire beyond keystroke shortcuts of the succinct-but-often-arcane Perl. Python creator Guido van Rossum cleansed Perl's idiosyncracies and objectified basic data structure, data manipulations, and I/O. With Python, OO is so intrinsic that learning Python is equivalent to learning OO. The same cannot be said of Perl.

Unfortunately, comparisons with other languages are missing from Beazley's book. Van Rossum, in an embarrassingly self-serving foreword, preemptively asserts that we readers need "neither evangelizing nor proselytizing"--after all, we already own the book--but we do need galvanizing and we don't find it. Specifically, we need a response to the oft-repeated wisdom that new computer languages are only worth learning if they teach us to organize our thinking along new lines.

Scripting languages, however, are for quick and dirty projects: quick to write, easy to hack, and ultimately disposable. The essential tension created by van Rossum and friends is between the elegance of object-oriented principles and the utility of a quick-hacked script. Sadly, the tension remains unresolved in Beazley's reference. There is little to convince us that Python has earned its place in the firmament by changing our thinking. But Beazley has given us much to get us going if we have already taken the leap of faith. --Peter Leopold

Synopsis

For courses in UNIX Programming (Tc/Tk, Shells, and Perl). Python Essential Reference is a definitive guide to the Python programming language. Designed for programmers and students, it covers the core language, more than 100 modules in the standard library, and the extension building techniques used to integrate Python with programs written in C and C++. Coverage expands upon and clarifies existing Python documentation-especially for advanced topics including operating system interfaces, threads, and network programming. Concise, to the point, and extensively indexed, students will find this volume packed with information not previously available in any other single reference source.

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Format: Taschenbuch
We were instructed to use python for a Junior level programming project at the University of Kansas. So, that gave us a semester in which to learn the language AND complete the project.
The first book I picked up was Learning Python, which although targeted more towards first-time programmers, didn't really meet my needs of a source that would provide rapid instruction. Python: Essential Ref to the rescue!
If you've programmed in other languages before, you probably don't really need 20 pages explaing the value of "control statements" or applications using "for" loops. Beazley's book lays down syntax, covers some of the more obscure "features" of the language, and gets you writing Python quickly.
Once we picked up the language, it was the only book we kept around because it also filled the role of reference manual. My one complaint in this area was that for some reason we happen to use a few of the modules that are not outlined in the book. They're included in the section "Undocumented Modules". This shouldn't get in your way too much, most of the excluded modules are either obsolete, too obscure, or too specialized.
Buy whatever books you feel like, or just save yourself the trouble and get this one.
BTW, although totally irrelevant, it also has one of the most convenient form factors. Important if you carry a lot of books around. :)
Oh, and we finished the project..... in case anyone was worried about me.
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Let me put it this way - I carry this book to work everyday in my bag, because I don't want to be at home or at work without it.
This is an excellent specimen of a technical reference. Its organization and content are both superb. I have not yet found any errata.
Of course, the Amazon reviewer isn't sure that Python is a good language to work in, and if you agree, then this probably isn't the book for you. The little search box can help you find books about other languages that you do like. I don't recall a similar judgement about Lee et al's Java library reference, and find its inclusion here odd and unharmonious.
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Von Ein Kunde am 18. Februar 2000
Format: Taschenbuch
Firstly, ignore the review by Mr. Leopold. Despite the fact that that book is not intended as an introduction to the Python language, and mind you, this is stated repeatedly within the foreward and introduction, he seems to insist on treating it as such. Further, he can't seem to decide if he's reviewing the language or the book... All in all, a very poorly written review.
In any case, this is an excellent reference manual, suitable for Python hackers of all experience levels aside from complete newbie. As the sort that hates having a web browser open to sift through documentation, this reference is a godsend. The information presented is often terse, but quite clear.
The first 86 pages are a handy reference for the language itself. Being fairly familiar with Python already, I only skimmed over this section, but it seemed nicely organized.
The next big chunk of the book, the library reference, is nicely done as well. The modules are organized into sections based on general function (Math, OS Services). Each module name is listed in bold, and is followed by a quick list of platforms it is available on and a short description. After that, the authors rattle off the relevant details (classes, functions, variables, and so on) for each module. The classes and functions generally get the bold header with short paragraph description treatment. Everything else is typically listed in tables. This approach works surprisingly well, and though there are some cases where modules with large numbers of functions have them listed in a table, this is only done when it makes sense. A good example of this would be the math module, and its many (not surprisingly) math related functions such as sin, sqrt, and log.
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Intending to familiarize myself with Python, I picked up a copy of O'Reilly's Programming Python a couple of years ago. After an initial attempt at going through the book, it has been on my book shelf since. It was simply not organized in a fashion that allowed me to quickly pick up the essentials of the language.
As someone who was already familiar with C/C++ and Perl, but wanting to learn Python, the Python Essential Reference was exactly what I was looking for. Yes, most of the information contained in the book is available in the Python reference documents, but not collected in one place.
In addition to adding examples from his own experience, David Beazley has done an excellent job in concisely summarizing the built-in features of the language as well as providing a nicely indexed library reference.
While this book may not be immediately useful for someone looking specifically for a language tutorial, beginning or advanced Python programmers will get useful information from this book for much longer than most tutorial style books.
Highly recommended.
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Beazly has written the perfect reference for Python. This book has every important function *concisely* described and with excellent real code examples (as opposed to the ubiquitous `desktop calculator' ones that many books use).
Whether you are experienced with Python or are just starting out, this is THE python reference.
I'd put it up with Kernighan and Ritchie's "The C Programming Language" and Guy Steele's "Commmon Lisp: The Language (1st ed)". There's no higher praise than that.
--Pat / zippy@cs.brandeis.edu
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