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What’s New In “Dive Into Python 3”

Isn’t this where we came in?
— Pink Floyd, The Wall


a.k.a. “the minus level”

Are you already a Python programmer? Did you read the original “Dive Into Python”? Did you buy it on paper? (If so, thanks!) Are you ready to take the plunge into Python 3? … If so, read on. (If none of that is true, you’d be better off starting at the beginning.)

Python 3 comes with a script called 2to3. Learn it. Love it. Use it. Porting Code to Python 3 with 2to3 is a reference of all the things that the 2to3 tool can fix automatically. Since a lot of those things are syntax changes, it’s a good starting point to learn about a lot of the syntax changes in Python 3. (print is now a function, `x` doesn’t work, &c.)

Case Study: Porting chardet to Python 3 documents my (ultimately successful) effort to port a non-trivial library from Python 2 to Python 3. It may help you; it may not. There’s a fairly steep learning curve, since you need to kind of understand the library first, so you can understand why it broke and how I fixed it. A lot of the breakage centers around strings. Speaking of which…

Strings. Whew. Where to start. Python 2 had “strings” and “Unicode strings.” Python 3 has “bytes” and “strings.” That is, all strings are now Unicode strings, and if you want to deal with a bag of bytes, you use the new bytes type. Python 3 will never implicitly convert between strings and bytes, so if you’re not sure which one you have at any given moment, your code will almost certainly break. Read the Strings chapter for more details.

Bytes vs. strings comes up again and again throughout the book.

Even if you don’t care about Unicode (oh but you will), you’ll want to read about string formatting in Python 3, which is completely different from Python 2.

Iterators are everywhere in Python 3, and I understand them a lot better than I did five years ago when I wrote “Dive Into Python”. You need to understand them too, because lots of functions that used to return lists in Python 2 will now return iterators in Python 3. At a minimum, you should read the second half of the Iterators chapter and the second half of the Advanced Iterators chapter.

By popular request, I’ve added an appendix on Special Method Names, which is kind of like the Python docs “Data Model” chapter but with more snark.

When I was writing “Dive Into Python”, all of the available XML libraries sucked. Then Fredrik Lundh wrote ElementTree, which doesn’t suck at all. The Python gods wisely incorporated ElementTree into the standard library, and now it forms the basis for my new XML chapter. The old ways of parsing XML are still around, but you should avoid them, because they suck!

Also new in Python — not in the language but in the community — is the emergence of code repositories like The Python Package Index (PyPI). Python comes with utilities to package your code in standard formats and distribute those packages on PyPI. Read Packaging Python Libraries for details.

© 2001–11 Mark Pilgrim