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on 9 June 2017
Good book. Easy to follow.
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on 18 September 2012
I have recently bought two Python books: "Core Python Programming" by Wesley Chun, and this one. I like this one better. It's stunningly crisp, clear, and to the point. As the author says in the introduction "it has been my goal to produce a reference containing everything I have needed to use Python and its large collection of modules" and that's exactly what he does.

If you're coming to Python as a programmer with experience in other languages you'll find this book very accessible (it has a HUGE index). If you're entirely new to programming it's probably not for you.

It was published in 2009 and inevitably is (slightly) showing signs of age, particularly in the comments about the status of Python 3. But I really, really wouldn't let that put you off buying it. Mr. Beazley, you did a good job!
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on 17 March 2017
Its a big book and so I have only read a very small portion and so my 4 star reflects that"so far so good" but I may come across problems in the ufture.
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on 13 August 2009
The author of Python Essential Reference is David Beazley, who among other occupations created the open-source SWIG tool and the WAD mixed-languages debugger. His background is pervading throughout the book, in which the reader gets a clear sense of what is happening behind the Python programming language and learns how to use it efficiently instead of considering it as a black box.

The first 20 pages give an overview of the language and although it is called a "tutorial introduction", it should be understood that its purpose is for a programmer to see what Python looks like, and not for a novice to get their first programming course.

The next 156 pages offer a thorough review of the language and its environment. This is a very interesting part and should not be skipped even by people who already know Python. I said "review" but an experienced programmer should be able to learn the language by reading those chapters and putting them into practice with extra exercises.

Instead of simply describing the language, the author also hands out tricks of the trade, showing how to acquire good coding habits while using an sensible approach regarding the performance, which is often essential in a dynamic language. The fourth edition is focusing on version 2.6 but offers some historical perspective by pointing out several elements that were recently improved, or which are about to change in upcoming versions.

The first part of the book concludes with useful recommendations on program debugging and profiling.

The second part contains 388 pages and goes through the Python library, presenting the essential modules together with examples, notes and advices. After all, this is a reference, so we shouldn't expect any less.

Last but not least, the third part comprises 30 pages of precious information on Python/C interface for extending the language or embedding it in larger applications.

An appendix introduces version 3 for those who are ready to make the leap.

For the sake of completeness, if I were to make any reproach or wish for improvement, it would probably be on the overall presentation (and would be a very minor one). The style in the code excerpts could be more consistent in the first part of the book, and the second part could do with more emphasis on the ... reference ... character of the text, perhaps by providing a more convenient way to navigate through the different modules and by using more obvious styles for the different parts. I sometimes had the impression of reading a long listing of modules and methods instead of looking through a reference book. While the contents is superior to other references like "Python in a Nutshell", I found it easier to retrieve what I needed with the latter - a bit on the brink of obsolescence today - than I do now with the former.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone desirous of improving their programming skills in Python, or having to write optimized code because performance is an issue.
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on 5 September 2011
I rarely feel the need to praise excellence, coz there ain't much of it about.

This book is a lovely example of it. Python does not contain thousands of classes, like Java, so it seems more possible to put the whole thing, i.e. pretty much all you need to know, in a book of 600-odd pages.

I'm a new user of Python, but very experienced in Java. This book is exactly what I need: it's concise, it's well-ordered, and no doubt much of the satisfaction and beauty of using it is also due to the magnificence of the Python language. But the latter needed its prophet and guide, and Beazley is it. I even like the rather exciting smell of the pages... they're not flimsy, and the book has *weight*, literally and figuratively (although it's not a doorstopper of the Que variety - much more practical).

In fact I'm using Jython, which sort of is Python, but gives you almost magical access to everything you have learnt to use over the years in the way of Java functionality... as well as Python - result: amazing power and concision.

But in fact this brings me to one aspect of the book which I find slightly puzzling: the lack of GUI coverage. A Jython Java user accustomed to using javax.swing classes can simply continue to use the latter... and amazingly, use all the hidden "private", supposedly off-limit, inaccessible workings of these classes... it really is quite amazing to find out how strait-laced Java classes start to throw off their inhibitions and let it all hang out in a Jython context.

But what would you do for GUI if you were using non-Jython Python, or didn't know Swing? By its nature GUI is non-trivial: it involves multi-threading, which is touched on here ... to explain a substantial degree of the issues involved in multi-threading and multi-process computing you'd need another book, of course.

As things stand I don't know whether equivalents to the mature, powerful JTree and JTable classes exist in any flavour of Python GUI which might be around. But this isn't really an accusation to level at this book: it really is wonderful, and an absolute must for anyone thinking of using any flavour of Python... for years to come.
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on 2 July 2011
This 4th edition is my 3rd acquisition of this title. I still own the 1st and 2nd editions. I have several other good books about Python (recently I got the two books from Langtangen (Python Scripting for Computational Science (Texts in Computational Science and Engineering) and A Primer on Scientific Programming with Python (Texts in Computational Science and Engineering), but there is a newer edition of this one), I also own one book from Martelli (Python in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference (In a Nutshell (O'Reilly))), which is a little dated but still is useful, and a few others (one from Mark Summerfeld, the Jython book from O'Reilly, etc). This said, the Beazley's book is the one that travels in my backpack whenever I have to code in Python, and often a few of its pages are read in bed, before I go to sleep. It is my only Python book which often has this privilege. This book stands for Python as a Japanese garden stands for gardening: it is elegantly written, has all the (reasonable) info, and all the "information fatness" is removed. It is not for the virgin programmer, but it is the most time-effective book for learning Python seriously.
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on 22 July 2010
This book pretty much gives you all you need to know to learn Python assuming you have done some programming before. Short, concise and well written it contains a decent explanation of just about everything you need.

The short language introduction can get you going in an hour or two. The rest just explains in more depth and gives information on more specific parts of the Python library.
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on 20 January 2010
I ordered this the other day from Amazon but I've been using it on Safari Books Online as well. It's rare to find a decent programming book these days that have quality examples within the book rather than making you reference their source code in a download from their site.

If you're interested in Python, I'd recommend checking out the Python website's tutorial and if you like it most definitely pick up this book.

The fourth edition has also removed the outdated version 2 only code and does a nice job of telling you what you'll have to do in Python 3. In my opinion you'll want to stick to Python 2 for now but it's nice to have a book that's slightly future proof and will help you out when you find you're going to have to make that move to Python 3.
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on 15 February 2011
This is one of my favourite books. It contains everything I have needed to check up on so far. I highly recommend buying this book if you need a reference. It is however not a learning book, for that you need another to get started. This book is not supposed to teach you, but to show you solutions for problems that might arise.
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on 24 October 2013
Its not only a reference book, I used this book for learning python from scratch. I dont use python that often at work but I use it a lot for writing custom scripts for my personal development.

A must have book for any developer.
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