Setting up Python in Windows 7
Note: Also see my guide for setting up Python under Windows 10!
An all-wise journalist once told me that “everything is easier in Linux,” and after working with it for a few years I’d have to agree — especially when it comes to software setup for data journalism. But …
Many newsroom types spend the day in Windows without the option of Ubuntu or another Linux OS. I’ve been planning some training around Python soon, so I compiled this quick setup guide as a reference. I hope you find it helpful.
Set up Python on Windows 7
- Visit the official Python download page and grab the Windows installer. Choose the 32-bit version. A 64-bit version is available, but there are compatibility issues with some modules you may want to install later. (Thanks to commenters for pointing this out.)
Note: Python currently exists in two versions, the older 2.x series and newer 3.x series (for a discussion of the differences, see this). This tutorial focuses on the 2.x series.
- Run the installer and accept all the default settings, including the “C:\Python27” directory it creates.
3. Next, set the system’s PATH variable to include directories that include Python components and packages we’ll add later. To do this:
- Right-click Computer and select Properties.
- In the dialog box, select Advanced System Settings.
- In the next dialog, select Environment Variables.
- In the User Variables section, edit the PATH statement to include this:
- Now, you can open a command prompt (Start Menu|Accessories or Start Menu|Run|cmd) and type:
That will load the Python interpreter:
Python 2.7.3 (default, Apr 10 2012, 14:24) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32 Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or license for more information. >>>
Because of the settings you included in your PATH variable, you can now run this interpreter — and, more important, a script — from any directory on your system.
Press Control-Z plus Return to exit the interpreter and get back to a C: prompt.
Set up useful Python packages
- setuptools offers the helpful easy_install utility for installing Python packages. Grab the appropriate version for your system and install.
- pip is another package installer that improves on setuptools. Having pip and setuptools will cover most of your installation needs, so go ahead and add pip. Now that you’ve installed setuptools, you can add pip by typing the following at any Windows command prompt (not in the Python interpreter):
C:\> easy_install pip
Notice that easy_install executes without needing to be told where on the system it’s located. That’s the benefit of adjusting your PATH variable earlier.
C:\> pip install mechanize C:\> pip install beautifulsoup4
- csvkit, which I recently covered here, is a great tool for dealing with comma-delimited text files. Add it:
C:\> pip install csvkit
You’re now set to get started using and learning Python under Windows 7. If you’re looking for a handy guide, start with the Official Python tutorial.
Need to set up on Windows 8.1? Here’s my guide.