Python is a popular programming language used in many different ways, like creating websites, working with data, or building artificial intelligence. It’s known for being easy to learn, making it great for beginners and experienced developers.
If you are new to programming with Python, you might wonder: “Which Python version should I use?”
The simplest approach for beginner Python developers is to download the latest version of Python 3 available on the official Python website. Make sure to download the version specific to your operating system (Windows, Linux/UNIX, macOS).
In this guide, I will help you understand the different Python versions available and why one is better than another.
Does the Python Version I Use Matter?
When you are just starting programming in Python, you may wonder if the choice of Python version truly matters.
Let’s explore the Python versions available and help you make an informed decision about which one suits your needs best.
Understanding Python Versions
Python has evolved over the years, and currently, two major versions are available: Python 2 and Python 3.
While Python 2 was prevalent for many years, Python 3 has now become the standard choice.
Here’s why it matters:
The Python Dilemma: Python 2 vs. Python 3
Python’s evolution led to two major versions: Python 2 and Python 3. For many years, both versions coexisted, causing a certain level of confusion among beginner developers. However, this dual existence came to an end at the beginning of 2020.
Python 2 is now officially retired, it reached its end of life on January 1, 2020.
This means Python 2 no longer receives updates or security patches. This change has profound implications for anyone looking to embrace Python as a programming language.
The Rise of Python 3
So, why should beginners opt for Python 3?
The answer lies in its design philosophy and the substantial improvements it brings to the table.
For each of the following aspects, if applicable, I will share examples of Python code to make this tutorial more practical.
Consistency and Readability: Python 3 adheres to PEP 8 coding style guidelines, which standardizes various aspects of coding to improve consistency and readability. This makes it easier for beginner Python developers to learn the language’s fundamentals.
This is an example of readable code easy to remember and consistent even when working with different data types:
print(items) # "items" could be a list, tuple or set. This code prints all its elements.
Error Handling: Error messages and handling in Python 3 are more informative and helpful than in Python 2. This means that if you encounter an issue in your code, Python 3 is more likely to provide clear guidance on how to resolve it.
Here is an example of an error that is explained better when using Python 3. You get back a more specific error message that suggests the solution to the problem:
# Python 2 TypeError: cannot concatenate 'str' and 'int' objects # Python 3 TypeError: can only concatenate str (not "int") to str
Unicode Support: Working with text in various languages is a common requirement in today’s globalized world. Python 3 enhances Unicode support, which helps you when developing internationalized applications.
The following code converts and prints a string of lowercase Greek characters into uppercase format. This is a simple example of great Unicode support in Python 3:
greek_string = "αβγδεζηθικ" print(greek_string.upper()) [output] ΑΒΓΔΕΖΗΘΙΚ
Future-Oriented Choice: By choosing Python 3, you align with the future of the language. As Python continues to evolve, all new features and improvements will be introduced in Python 3, not Python 2.
As a Python beginner, you will immediately experience the evolution between Python 2 and Python 3 when using the print function. This function with Python 3 requires the use of parentheses to align with the standard used by other Python functions:
# Python 2 print "Codefather" # Python 3 print("Codefather")
This is what happens if you don’t pass the parentheses to the print function in Python 3:
print "Codefather" [output] File "<stdin>", line 1 print "Codefather" ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ SyntaxError: Missing parentheses in call to 'print'. Did you mean print(...)?
Once again, Python is suggesting what the solution to this error would be.
Vibrant Community: Python 3 has a vibrant and active community of developers, educators, and enthusiasts. This translates into a wealth of resources, tutorials, and forums where developers at every level can seek help and guidance as they learn the language.
Is Python 3 Good for Beginners?
Python 3 is an excellent choice for beginners, as it offers a more refined and consistent language than Python 2. It’s also the version that has an active community, which means more resources, libraries, and support are available for learners.
Python 3 brings many improvements over Python 2, including enhanced syntax and improved handling of errors. These changes make Python 3 more powerful and easier to understand and use for beginner programmers.
An important aspect is also that by writing programs using Python 3 from the beginning, you will make your code easier to maintain when you have to move to future versions of Python 3 (for example if you want to move from Python 3.9 to Python 3.11).
On the other side, migrating a program from Python 2 to Python 3 can be harder due to a bigger number of syntax changes between the two versions.
Additionally, Python 3 provides better memory management and performance compared to Python 2, making it a more efficient choice for writing code that can handle large datasets or complex calculations. This is especially important if you plan to work on data science or machine learning projects.
Which One is Better Python 3.10 or 3.11?
Python is continuously evolving, with new versions being released regularly. Choosing between Python 3.10 and 3.11 (or any future versions) for beginners depends on several factors:
- Stability: Newer versions may introduce exciting features, but they might also have some bugs or compatibility issues. If stability is your primary concern, you might want to stick with the latest stable release (whichever version that may be at the time of your reading).
- Features: If you want to take advantage of the latest Python features and improvements, using the latest version makes sense. However, be prepared to adapt to changes in syntax or behavior.
- Library Support: Some third-party libraries and packages might not be updated immediately to work with the latest Python versions. If you rely on specific libraries, check their compatibility before upgrading. To check compatibility for a module you can check the PyPI page for that module. For example, this page shows you that the Pandas package requires Python >=3.9 (see the left column in the “Meta” section on the PyPI page).
In general, for beginners, it’s often a good idea to start with the latest stable version available. Python’s release notes and community forums can provide insights into the changes and improvements in each version.
What is the Current Latest Version of Python?
To keep you informed, I created a table that shows the latest Active Python Releases available:
|Python version||Maintenance status||Release date||Release schedule|
|3.13||prerelease||2024-10-01 (planned)||PEP 719|
These are the active Python versions, each with its own maintenance status, and release date, including a link to Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs) for each release schedule.
I suggest checking some of the PEP links in the table to understand the structure of these documents that describe the development and release schedule for specific Python versions.
By reading the PEP documents above you will understand what type of work and planning are behind the release of every Python version.
When choosing a Python version for your projects, consider factors such as the specific requirements of your work, compatibility with libraries and frameworks, and your willingness to adapt to the latest enhancements and changes.
In conclusion, if you are new to Python, definitely start with Python 3. It’s the future of the language and offers a more consistent and user-friendly experience compared to Python 2.
The best option for beginners is to simply download the latest version of Python 3 available on the official Python website.
Remember that the most important action is to start coding and learning, regardless of the Python 3.x version you choose. You will be able to move to the latest Python 3 version once it becomes available if it is a requirement for you at that specific moment in time.
And now let’s move to the next step to learn Python programming. Here is a tutorial that shows you where to start with Python coding once you have installed a version of Python on your computer.
Claudio Sabato is an IT expert with over 15 years of professional experience in Python programming, Linux Systems Administration, Bash programming, and IT Systems Design.
With a Master’s degree in Computer Science, he has a strong foundation in Software Engineering and a passion for Robotics with projects that include Raspberry Pi and Arduino platforms.