Installing Python

Without further adieu, we now provide instructions for installing Python and other useful Python libraries on your machine via the Anaconda platform. Installing the Anaconda platform will install the following:

  • Python; specifically the CPython interpreter that we discussed in the previous section.
  • A number of useful Python packages, like matplotlib, NumPy, and SciPy.
  • Jupyter, which provides an interactive “notebook” environment for prototyping code.
  • conda: a package manager that will allow you to install and update Python and additional Python packages, while handling all compatibility issues for you.

Some of the packages provided by Anaconda, like NumPy, have been optimized and will run significantly faster than if you installed them manually.

conda is not only a package manager, but also an environment manager. It is typically a big pain to have different versions of Python installed simultaneously. conda makes it easy to create independent environments with respective versions of Python installed in them. For this online class, you will want to install Python version 3 on your computer. Later, you may need Python version 2 in order to run older software; you will simply create a new environment using conda that has Python 2 installed in it.


“Anaconda” is a collection of the CPython interpreter and a number of very popular Python libraries for doing data science-related work. It also provides a package manager for downloading/updating Python packages, and an environment manager for maintaining independent installations of Python side-by-side.

Installing Anaconda

  1. Navigate to this page, and click the “Download” button for Python 3 (depending on when you read this, it may say Python 3.6 or Python 3.7, etc.)
  2. After the download is complete, begin the installation process. There will be an installation option: Add Anaconda to the system PATH environment variable; we advise you to enable this installation option.
  3. Complete the 30 minute “Getting Started” tutorial to familiarize yourself with conda. This is very important!

You will need to know how to open a terminal (cmd.exe for Windows users) on your computer, and how to navigate between directories in the terminal. If you do not know how to do this, read a ‘how-to’ for whatever operating system you are using.