The Quick Python Book
Second edition of this book is now available

Daryl Harms and Kenneth McDonald

1999 | 444 pages | B&W
ISBN: 1884777740

Out of Print $39.95 Softbound print + PDF eBook
$31.99 eBook edition (PDF only)



The Quick Python Book is a clear, concise introduction to Python, one of the most elegant programming languages in existence. The book is aimed at readers who know programming but for whom the Python language is new.

This book is designed so that you can use it to quickly become proficient in Python. However, it provides more than just a beginners tutorial. Even once you've become more experienced, it should continue to be quite valuable to you as an indexed cache of information on the bulk of the Python concepts and constructs of which you will find yourself wanting to refresh or augment your knowledge.

It first covers the core features of Python (syntax, control flow, basic data structures, etc.) and provides the knowledge to write basic but useful scripts. Features in Python common to other languages are covered very concisely, while features unique to Python are explained in detail.

It next discusses Python features which would be useful to anyone using Python in larger applications, including facilities for managing large collections of code, object-oriented programming, advanced string handling, etc.

The last section of the book discusses advanced topics: Windows/COM programming with Python, integrating Python and Java (Python is one of the few languages other than Java which can be compiled into Java bytecode), extending the Python language with C, and an introduction to some of the advanced web site building tools that are available for Python.

The new integrated development environment bundled with Python release 1.5.2 (IDLE) is undergoing rapid evolution. Therefore the authors are maintaining an online tutorial in HTML format which will be updated for new releases of IDLE. This can be downloaded from:

In order to assist with the continued development of Python, the authors are donating 24% of the royalties earned by this book to Python Software Activity.

Translation rights for The Quick Python Book have been granted for German and Czechoslovakian editions of this book. If you are interested in learning where to buy this book in a language other than English, please inquire at your local bookseller.


Daryl Harms holds a Ph.D. in computer science. He has been working on the design and the development (or the management of the development) of small and large software systems since the mid-1980's. He is currently a software development consultant working out of Calgary, Alberta. Kenneth McDonald is a longtime programmer/analyst and advocate for free software. He holds the B.Sc. and M.Sc. in computer science and has been, at various times, a Unix system administrator, independent software developer, and investor. His most recent position was with the Washington University School of Medicine, where he worked as part of the Human Genome Project as a programmer/analyst.

Sample Chapters

Chapters 11 and 13 of The Quick Python Book are available here in Portable Document Format (PDF); you need Adobe's free Acrobat Reader software to view them. You may download Acrobat Reader here.

Download Chapter 11
Download Chapter 13


Thom Gillespie writes in his computer books column "Harms & McDonald offer a very good book for new Python users. They cover basic programming with Python, data structures, Python & Windows, Java and the CGI. Recommended for all libraries."
     --The Library Journal, January 2000

"A clear and concise description of the Python language aimed at readers who are already familiar with programming in at least one other language. A portion of the royalties from this book are donated to the PSA." (Accompanied by two sample chapters).

Described in the March 2000 issue of SciTech Book News.

"If you have made the decision to try Python, your next problem will be to find a book that will answer your needs. There are already several books on the market. This latest edition is very welcome."
     --Francis Glassborough, Editor of C Vu

"A lot of time was put into not just teaching a language but also showing how it interacts with the operating system and what one can do with it...I highly recommend it for the beginning and intermediate Python audience. It is the best book I have seen for getting beginners up to speed."
     --Phil Hughes, Publisher of Linux Journal

"This book first introduces the core features of the Python programming language: syntax, control flow, and basic data structures. It then discusses Python features useful in larger applications, such as managing large collections of code, object- oriented programming, and advanced string handling. The concluding chapters on special topics were contributed by Python experts including the inventor of the language."
     --SciTech Book News, March 2000

"!!! Very Good."
     --Today's Books/Public News Service

Source Code

Source code from The Quick Python Book is freely available and is contained in a single ZIP file, size 26 kilobytes. Free unzip programs for most platforms are available from Info-Zip.

Download the source code.