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Python will be our primary programming language. Thus we assume the readers have a good understanding of the Python language in this section. We will cover the following topics.

  • Environment management;
  • Dependency management;
  • pre-commit.

Environment Management

Python is notorious in environment management. The simple and out-of-the-box solution is conda for environment management.

conda cheatsheet

The most useful commands for conda are the following.

  1. Create an environment: conda create -n my-env-name python=3.9 pip, where
    1. my-env-name is the name of the environment,
    2. python=3.9 specifies the version of Python,
    3. pip is telling conda to install pip in this new environment.
  2. Activate an environment: conda activate my-env-name
  3. List all available environments: conda env list

Anaconda provides a nice cheatsheet.

pyenv is a good alternative to conda

pyenv is also a good tool for managing different versions and environments of python. However, pyenv only provides python version management. It is to be combined with venv to create local python environments.

Dependency Management

We have a few choices to specify the dependencies. The most used method at the moment is requirements.txt + pip.

conda's environment.yml is an alternative to requirements.txt

Alternatively, conda provides its own requirement specification using environment.yaml. However, this method doesn't make things better. If we ever need to make it more complicated than requirements.txt, pyproject.toml is the way to go.

Modern Python with pyproject.toml and poetry

Python introduced pyproject.toml in PEP518 which can be used together with poetry to sepcify dependencies.

Both conda and pyenv have trouble solving the actual full dependency graphs of all the packages used, sometimes. This problem is solved by poetry. However, this also means poetry can be very slow as it has to load many different versions of the packages to try out 5.

While tutorials on how to use poetry are not within the scope of this book, we highly recommend using poetry in a formal project.

Python Styles and pre-commit

In a Python project, it is important to have certain conventions or styles. To be consistent, one could follow some style guides for python. There are official proposals, such as PEP8, and "third party" style guides, such as Google Python Style Guide 34.

We also recommend pre-commit. pre-commit helps us manage git hooks to be executed before each commit. Once installed, every time we run git commit -m "my commit message here", a series of commands will be executed first based on the configurations.

pre-commit officially provides some hooks already, e.g., trailing-whitespace 2.

We also recommend the following hooks,

  • black, which formats the code based on pre-defined styles,
  • isort, which orders the Python imports1,
  • mypy, which is a linter for Python.

The following is an example .pre-commit-config.yaml file for a Python project.

- repo:
    rev: v4.2.0
    - id: check-added-large-files
    - id: debug-statements
    - id: detect-private-key
    - id: end-of-file-fixer
    - id: requirements-txt-fixer
    - id: trailing-whitespace
- repo:
    rev: v0.960
    - id: mypy
        - "--no-strict-optional"
        - "--ignore-missing-imports"
- repo:
    rev: 22.6.0
    - id: black
    language: python
        - "--line-length=120"
- repo:
    rev: 5.10.1
    - id: isort
        name: isort (python)
        args: ["--profile", "black"]

Write docstrings

Writing docstrings for functions and classes can help our future self understand them more easily. There are different styles for docstrings. Two of the popular ones are

Test Saves Time

Adding tests to our code can save us time. We will not list all these benefits of having tests. But tests can help us debug our code and ship results more confidently. For example, suppose we are developing a function and spot a bug. One of the best ways of debugging it is to write a test and put a debugger breakpoint at the suspicious line of the code. With the help of IDEs such as Visual Studio Code, this process can save us a lot of time in debugging.

Use pytest

Use pytest. RealPython provides a good short introduction. The Alan Turing Institue provides some lectures on testing and pytest.

  1. Pre Commit. In: isort [Internet]. [cited 22 Jul 2022]. Available: 

  2. pre-commit-config-pre-commit-hooks.yaml. In: Gist [Internet]. [cited 22 Jul 2022]. Available: 

  3. Guido van Rossum, Barry Warsaw, Nick Coghlan. PEP 8 – Style Guide for Python Code. In: [Internet]. 5 Jul 2001 [cited 23 Jul 2022]. Available: 

  4. Google Python Style Guide. In: Google Python Style Guide [Internet]. [cited 22 Jul 2022]. Available: 

  5. Poetry is extremely slow when resolving the dependencies · Issue #2094 · python-poetry/poetry. In: GitHub [Internet]. [cited 23 Jul 2022]. Available: 

Contributors: LM