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A.3 Python Documentation and Books

There are three kinds of sources of published information on Python: the standard Python documentation set, published books, and online material.

A.3.1 The Standard Python Documentation Set

The standard Python documentation set includes five separate documents. They are all available in various formats (HTML, PDF, and PostScript, among others) at http://www.python.org/doc/. They are:

The Tutorial

A fast-paced introduction to the language that most current Python programmers used to learn Python. It assumes a fair bit of previous programming knowledge, so novices tend to find it overwhelming in places, and it doesn't give Python's object-oriented features their due.

The Library Reference

The most important of the Python books. It lists all the built-in functions and what the built-in type methods and semantics are, and describes almost all the modules that make up the standard distribution. It's well worth keeping on your local hard disk and consulting when in doubt about a specific function's interface or semantics, or when you can't remember specific method names for the built-in objects.

The Language Reference

The most formal specification of the language itself. It gives the precise definition of syntactic operations, precedence rules, etc. Most users happily ignore it, but it does give the final word on intricate details of the language.

Extending and Embedding

A document describing the precise rules of interaction between Python and C extensions (and the simpler case of embedding, when Python is being called by an existing C or C++ program). If you wish to write an extension module for Python, this book defines just what to do. The section on keeping track of references is especially important for tracking bugs in such modules.

The Python/C API

A document describing the routines Python uses internally. You can also use these routines to manipulate Python objects from within C/C++ programs, usually in extension modules.

A.3.2 The FAQ

Like many other topics of interest on the Internet, Python has developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions. It's available at http://www.python.org/doc/FAQ.html, and covers everything from general information about Python (its name, origins, design choices, etc.) to issues arising when compiling or installing Python, programming questions, and more. The Python FAQ is maintained by the community at large. Any PSA member can log onto a web-driven program (a CGI program, like the one we saw in Chapter 10) and update existing entries or add new entries. As a result, the FAQ is both quite large and very current.

A.3.3 Other Published Books

There are three books besides the one you're holding that are available in bookstores. These are:

A.3.4 Other Sources of Documentation

The number of web pages describing Python modules, howto's, guides for novices, common tasks, etc., makes it impossible to list them all here. Instead, we'll encourage you to browse the Web, starting at the main Python web site. The PSA volunteers (Ken Manheimer, Andrew Kuchling, Barry Warsaw, and Guido van Rossum, to be precise) spend considerable effort making sure the web site is both comprehensive and well organized, so you shouldn't have a problem finding what you need. Most significant packages and modules have associated web pages and documentation for them.

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