Python Essential Reference (Developer's Library Series) / Edition 4

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Python Essential Reference is the definitive reference guide to the Python programming language — the one authoritative handbook that reliably untangles and explains both the core Python language and the most essential parts of the Python library.

Designed for the professional programmer, the book is concise, to the point, and highly accessible. It also includes detailed information on the Python library and many advanced subjects that is not available in either the official Python documentation or any other single reference source.

Thoroughly updated to reflect the significant new programming language features and library modules that have been introduced in Python 2.6 and Python 3, the fourth edition of Python Essential Reference is the definitive guide for programmers who need to modernize existing Python code or who are planning an eventual migration to Python 3. Programmers starting a new Python project will find detailed coverage of contemporary Python programming idioms.

This fourth edition of Python Essential Reference features numerous improvements, additions, and updates:

  • Coverage of new language features, libraries, and modules
  • Practical coverage of Python's more advanced features including generators, coroutines, closures, metaclasses, and decorators
  • Expanded coverage of library modules related to concurrent programming including threads, subprocesses, and the new multiprocessing module
  • Up-to-the-minute coverage of how to use Python 2.6’s forward compatibility mode to evaluate code for Python 3 compatibility
  • Improved organization for even faster answers and better usability
  • Updates to reflect modern Python programming style and idioms
  • Updated and improved example code
  • Deep coverage of low-level system and networking library modules — including options not covered in the standard documentation
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Though Python is a relatively new programming language, it has quite a significant audience owing to its sensible syntax. An active user of Python since 1996, Beazley provides ample information on the fundamentals of versions 2.0 and 2.1, including syntax, functions, operators, classes, and libraries. This is first and foremost a reference, so he avoids lengthy discussions of Python's superiority. Peppered with good code samples and featuring a companion web site with more extensive pieces, this title should be on hand in larger libraries. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Written for programmers, this reference guide to the Python programming language covers the core language, some 100 modules in the standard library, and the techniques used to extend Python with procedures in C or C++. Coverage expands on and clarifies existing Python documentation, especially for advanced topics such as operating system interfaces, threads, network programming, and Unicode. Beazley is the developer of a software package for integrating C programs with interpreted languages. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780672329784
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 7/21/2009
  • Series: Developer's Library Series
  • Edition description: Fourth
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 717
  • Sales rank: 326,230
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David M. Beazley has been programming Python since 1996. While working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he helped pioneer the use of Python with scientific computing software. Through his company, Dabeaz LLC, he provides software development, training, and consulting related to the practical use of dynamic programming languages such as Python, Ruby, and Perl, especially in systems programming. He is author of all previous editions of Python Essential Reference, and was contributing author of Steve Holden’s Python Web Programming. He is a member of the Python Software Foundation.

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Table of Contents

Part I: The Python Language

1 A Tutorial Introduction

2 Lexical Conventions and Syntax

3 Types and Objects

4 Operators and Expressions

5 Program Structure and Control Flow

6 Functions and Functional Programming

7 Classes and Object-Oriented Programming

8 Modules, Packages, and Distribution

9 Input and Output

10 Execution Environment

11 Testing, Debugging, Profiling, and Tuning

Part II: The Python Library

12 Built-In Functions

13 Python Runtime Services

14 Mathematics

15 Data Structures, Algorithms, and Utilities

16 String and Text Handling

17 Python Database API

18 File Handling

19 Operating System Services

20 Threads and Concurrency

21 Network Programming and Sockets

22 Internet Application Programming

23 Web Programming

24 Internet Data Handling and Encoding

25 Miscellaneous Library Modules

Part III: Extending and Embedding

26 Extending and Embedding Python


A Python 3

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This book is intended to be a concise reference to the Python programming language. Although an experienced programmer will probably be able to learn Python from this book, it's not intended to be an extended tutorial or a treatise on how to program. Rather, the goal is to present the core Python language, the contents of the Python library, and the Python extension API in a manner that's accurate and succinct. This book assumes that the reader has prior programming experience with Python or other languages such as C or Java. In addition, a general familiarity with systems programming topics (for example, basic operating system concepts, process management, and network programming) may be useful in understanding certain parts of the library reference.

Python is freely available for download at r,ttp:// are available for UNIX, Windows, Macintosh, and Java. In addition, this site includes links to documentation, how-to guides, and a wide assortment of extension modules.

What's Inside?

The contents of this book are based on Python 2.1. However, readers shoed be aware that Python is a constantly evolving language. Most of the topics described herein are likely to be applicable to future versions of Python 2.x. In addition, most topics are applicable to earlier releases. To a lesser extent, the topics in this book also apply to JPython, an implementation of Python entirely in Java. However, that is not the primary focus of this book.

It should be noted that just as Python is an evolving language, the Second Edition of Python Essential Reference has evolved to make use of new language features and new library modules added in Python 2.1. Rather than merely describing new language features as an afterthought, recently added features have been freely used and incorporated throughout the text. Although no distinction is given to new additions, detailed descriptions of language changes can easily be found online.

Finally, note that Python is distributed with hundreds of pages of reference documentation. The contents of this book are largely based on that documentation, but with a number of enhancements, additions, and omissions. First, this reference presents most of the same material in a more compact form, with different examples and alternative descriptions of many topics. Second, a significant number of topics in the library reference have been expanded to include additional outside reference material. This is especially true for lowlevel system and networking modules in which effective use of a module normally relies on a myriad of options listed in UNIX manual pages and outside reference material. In addition, in order to produce a more concise reference, a number of deprecated and relatively obscure library modules have been omitted. Finally, this reference doesn't attempt to cover large frameworks such as Tkinter, XML, or the COM extensions, as these topics are beyond the scope of this book and are described in books of their own.

In writing this book, it has been my goal to produce a reference containing virtually everything I have needed to use Python and its large collection of modules. Although this is by no means a gentle introduction to the Python language, I hope that you find the contents of this book to be a useful addition to your programming reference library for many years to come. I welcome your comments.

David Beazley
Chicago, IL
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As Python's creator, I'm really happy that this book has appeared. It marks a point in time when Python is becoming a mainstream language, with a rapidly growing community of users. If you consider yourself an (established or aspiring) member of this community, you need neither evangelizing nor proselytizing, and you already know Python well enough to have chosen it as an essential element of your personal toolbox.

This book aims to be your guide on the rest of your journey through the Python world. It documents every detail of the language's syntax and semantics, provides reference documentation and examples for most standard library modules, and even contains a quick reference for writing extension modules. All this information is thoroughly indexed and cross-referenced, and where necessary contains pointers to additional online documentation for obscure details.

You might think that all this information is already available for free on the Python Web site ( Sure, it's all there-in fact, I'm certain that the author, my good friend David Beazley, consulted the Web site many times. He would have been a fool not to!

However, with all due respect for the authors of Python's online documentation (myself included!), this book has a huge advantage over the Web site: You can easily take it with you on a trip into the desert. Seriously, David has reorganized and rewritten all the information for maximum clarity, pulled things together from different sources, removed redundancies, clarified ambiguities, added better examples, and so on. He also had a benefit that few readers of the Web site have: direct access to my brain! This summer, David spent a few weeksvisiting CNRI, the research lab in Reston that Python calls home. During this time we had many interesting and fruitful discussions about Python, this book, the meaning of life, southwestern cooking, the joys and pains of teaching computer science to noncomputer scientists, and the Spanish Inquisition. (Remember? Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

I hope that you will enjoy using this book, and that it will serve you well. I also hope that you will continue to enjoy using Python, and that it will serve you well. Python is a great programming language, and I would like to use this opportunity to thank the entire Python community for making Python what it is today. Without the thousands of believers, users, contributors, entrepreneurs, and developers who make up the Python community, my own energy directed toward Python would have dried up long ago. I see this as the essence of open source projects: The energy and creativity of many people with diverse goals together can work miracles!

-Guido van Rossum
Baltimore, MD

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Customer Reviews

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( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    The Best Python Reference

    Straight to the point, no B.S. Python Desktop reference.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    The One Book You Need

    I have programmed in Python for over 6 years and I still consult this book. The best book on Python bar none. It is worth the price just for the section on multiprocessing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2010

    Recommended for the Advanced Python Programmer

    I bought this book after listening to a talk by Beazley on Python's Global Interpreter Lock. I was impressed with the clarity of his presentation and decided to buy the book. The book covers a broad range of topics and is useful as a reference. The writing is generally very good. I give it 4 stars only because of two minor complaints. (1) The formatting of the programs is not as pretty as it can be, and sometimes incorrect (Python programs depend on indentation, so dear publisher: please be careful with typesetting code). (2) I wish some of the advanced topics could be covered in more detail, e.g., method resolution order, properties, etc. (material in Chapter 7). Also, topics like multiprocessing deserve more in-depth treatment than is given in the book. For a book like this, more basic stuff can be omitted to make room for the advanced material. Also, the book has almost no diagrams, which would be tremendously helpful in explaining how things are implemented and how accordingly to write efficient code.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 24, 2011

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    Posted August 1, 2011

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    Posted December 23, 2010

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    Posted December 8, 2009

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