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Python Development Environments

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ABC designers from which Python borrowed this feature decided to imitate FORTRAN 4 to use an indentation to a part of syntax -- this time to denote nesting. Which is not that different from  the way Fortran 4 used it to distinguish between labels and statements ;-). All-in-all this desition proved to bea success as Python popularity can attest, but it creates some unanticipated side effect as soon as we leave the area of for teaching programming language for beginners and enter professional programming field.

First of all you can't simply cut and pasted fragment from the Web page into an editor and execut successfully, if there is any indention/code grouping at all. Such operation often  does not preserve correct spacing. Look at the fragment below that was pasted from the web:

if foo:
x = y+foo
if x > 4:
foo =3

Was the original block formatted like?

if foo:
    x = y+foo
if x > 4:
    foo =3


if foo:
    x = y+foo
    if x > 4:
       foo =3

What happens if the editor 'helpfully' fixes things to one of those 2 choices? and it picks the wrong formatting. If we deal with a big enough block of code, and are in a hurry this error will not be caught.

If your source has mixture of tabs and leading spaces you can get into another trouble. Different editors have different default setting for tabs and this way your nesting can became incorrect without you knowing it. Python interpreter has an option to warn you about this situation but you need to use it to get the warnings. Mixing tabs and space are invitation to disaster. Which simply means that tabs should never be  use while writing Python code.

Using nesting as syntax element creates problems with diffs. 

With regular languages editor usually implement a command using which you can find matching  parenthetic. Usually this is Ctrl-} command. Using Python with regular editor deprives you of this possibility. You are looked at specialize Python editors and IDE. If you program in multiple language this might be  not an acceptable choice.

Another side effect that if you want to write statement on level of nesting equal to zero you can't  put any leading spaces before. Python forces you to  start at column one. Which for me is pretty annoying. Of course there is a way around this limitation (you can always put statements into a subroutine, and that's how Python programs are usually structured with main being  yet another subroutine) , but  still this is a drawback.

By relegating block brackets to the lexical level of blank space and comments Python failed to make a necessary adjustment and include pretty printer into interpreter (with the possibility of creating pretty printed program from pseudo-comments like #fi #while, etc ). Such a pretty printer actually is  needed to understand larger Python programs: format of comments can be Algol-68 style (or Bash style if you wish for people who never heard of Algol-68; that's the only feature that Borne shell inherited from algol-68 and Bourne was a member of Algol-68 development team before writing this program ;-). For example:

if a > b :

and the current number of spaces in the tab like  pragma tab = 4. The interesting possibility is that in pretty printed program those comments can be removed and after a reading pretty printed program into the editor reinstated automatically. Such feature can be implemented in any scriptable editor.

My impression is that few people understand that C  solution for blocks ({ } blocks) was pretty weak in comparison with its prototype language (PL/1): it does not permit nice labeled closer of blocks like

end A1; 

in PL/1. IMHO introduction of a pretty printer as a standard feature of both a compiler and a GUI environment is long overdue.

but there is silver lining in each dark cloud: by adding indentation as the proxy for nesting Python actually encourages a programmer to use a decent editor (which mean not nano/notepad family ;-), but we knew that already, right? 

Theoretically this design decision also  narrows down the possible range of coding styles and  automatically leads to more compact (as for the number of lexical tokens) programs (deletion of curly brackets usually help to lessen the number of lines in C or Perl program by 20% or more).  But in practice Python programs tend to be  more verbose then Perl due to abuse of modularization and OO.

The Python interpreter’s built-in interactive mode is the simplest development environment for Python. It is a bit primitive, but it is lightweight, has a small footprint, and starts fast. Together with an appropriate text editor (as discussed in “Free Text Editors with Python Support”), and line-editing and history facilities, the interactive interpreter (or, alternatively, the much more powerful IPython/Jupyter command-line interpreter) offers a usable and popular development environment. However, there are a number of other development environments that you can also use.


Python's Integrated DeveLopment Environment (IDLE) comes with the standard Python distribution on most platforms. IDLE is a cross-platform, 100 percent pure Python application based on the Tkinter GUI toolkit. IDLE offers a Python shell similar to interactive Python interpreter sessions but richer in functionality. It also includes a text editor optimized to edit Python source code, an integrated interactive debugger, and several specialized browsers/viewers.

For even more functionality in IDLE, you can download and install IdleX, a substantial collection of free third-party extensions to it.

To install and use IDLE in macOS, follow these specific instructions.

Python programming environment

Python IDEs

IDLE is mature, stable, easy to use, fairly rich in functionality, and extensible. There are, however, many other IDEs-cross-platform and platform-specific, free and commercial (including commercial IDEs with free offerings, especially if you're developing open source software yourself), standalone and add-ons to other IDEs.

Some of these IDEs sport features such as static analysis, GUI builders, debuggers, and so on. Python's IDE wiki page lists over 30 of them, and points to over a dozen external pages with reviews and comparisons. If you're an IDE collector, happy hunting!

We can't do justice to even a tiny subset of those IDEs, but it's worth singling out the popular cross-platform, cross-language modular IDE Eclipse: the free third-party plug-in PyDev for Eclipse has excellent Python support. Steve is a long-time user of Wingware IDE by Archaeopteryx, the most venerable Python-specific IDE. The most popular third-party Python IDE today may be PyCharm.

If you use Visual Studio, check out PTVS, an open source plug-in that's particularly good at allowing mixed-language debugging in Python and C as and when needed.

Free Text Editors with Python Support

You can edit Python source code with any text editor, even simplistic ones such as Notepad on Windows or ed on Linux. Powerful free editors support Python with extra features such as syntax-based colorization and automatic indentation. Cross-platform editors let you work in uniform ways on different platforms. Good programmers' text editors also let you run, from within the editor, tools of your choice on the source code you're editing. An up-to-date list of editors for Python can be found on the Python wiki, which currently lists many dozens of them.

The very best for sheer editing power is probably still classic Emacs (see the Python wiki for many Python-specific add-ons). However, Emacs is not easy to learn, nor is it lightweight. Alex's personal favorite is another classic, vim, Bram Moolenaar's modern, improved version of the traditional Unix editor vi, perhaps not quite as powerful as Emacs, but still well worth considering-fast, lightweight, Python-programmable, runs everywhere in both text-mode and GUI versions. See the Python wiki for Python-specific tips and add-ons. Steve and Anna also use vim. When it's available, Steve also uses the commercial editor Sublime Text 2, with good syntax coloring and enough integration to run your programs from inside the editor.

Tools for Checking Python Programs

The Python compiler does not check programs and modules thoroughly: the compiler checks only the code's syntax. If you want more thorough checking of your Python code, you may download and install third-party tools for the purpose. Pyflakes is a very fast, lightweight checker: it's not thorough, but does not import the modules it's checking, which makes using it safer. At the other end of the spectrum, PyLint is very powerful and highly configurable. PyLint is not lightweight, but repays that by being able to check many style details in a highly configurable way based on customizable configuration files.

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Old News ;-)

[Mar 12, 2008] Terminator - Multiple GNOME terminals in one window

Rewrite of screen in Python?

This is a project to produce an efficient way of filling a large area of screen space with terminals. This is done by splitting the window into a resizeable grid of terminals. As such, you can produce a very flexible arrangements of terminals for different tasks.

Read me

Terminator 0.8.1
by Chris Jones <>

This is a little python script to give me lots of terminals in a single window, saving me valuable laptop screen space otherwise wasted on window decorations and not quite being able to fill the screen with terminals.

Right now it will open a single window with one terminal and it will (to some degree) mirror the settings of your default gnome-terminal profile in gconf. Eventually this will be extended and improved to offer profile selection per-terminal, configuration thereof and the ability to alter the number of terminals and save meta-profiles.

You can create more terminals by right clicking on one and choosing to split it vertically or horizontally. You can get rid of a terminal by right clicking on it and choosing Close. ctrl-shift-o and ctrl-shift-e will also effect the splitting.

ctrl-shift-n and ctrl-shift-p will shift focus to the next/previous terminal respectively, and ctrl-shift-w will close the current terminal and ctrl-shift-q the current window

Ask questions at:
Please report all bugs to

It's quite shamelessly based on code in the from the vte widget package, and on the gedit terminal plugin (which was fantastically useful). is not my code and is copyright its original author. While it does not contain any specific licensing information in it, the VTE package appears to be licenced under LGPL v2.

the gedit terminal plugin is part of the gedit-plugins package, which is licenced under GPL v2 or later.

I am thus licensing Terminator as GPL v2 only.

Cristian Grada provided the icon under the same licence.

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