Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies (2014)
The Part of Tens
Ten Libraries You Need
to Know About
In This Chapter
▶ Securing your data using cryptology
▶ Working with databases
▶ Getting to where you’re going and finding new locations
▶ Presenting the user with a GUI
▶ Creating tables that users will enjoy viewing
▶ Working with graphics
▶ Finding the information you need
▶ Allowing access to Java code from your Python application
▶ Obtaining access to local network resources
▶ Using resources found online
P ython provides you with considerable power when it comes to creating average applications. However, most applications aren’t average and
require some sort of special processing to make them work. That’s where
libraries come into play. A good library will extend Python functionality so that it supports the special programming needs that you have. For example, you might need to plot statistics or interact with a scientific device. These sorts of tasks require the use of a library.
One of the best places to find a library listing online is the UsefulModules site at https://wiki.python.org/moin/UsefulModules. Of course, there are
many other places to look for libraries as well. For example, the article entitled
“7 Python Libraries you should know about” (http://doda.co/7-python-
libraries-you-should-know-about) provides you with a relatively com-
plete description of the seven libraries its title refers to. If you’re working on a specific platform, such as Windows, you can find platform-specific sites, such as Unofficial Windows Binaries for Python Extension Packages (http://www.
lfd.uci.edu/~gohlke/pythonlibs/). The point is that you can find lists
of libraries everywhere.
358 Part V: The Part of Tens
The purpose of this chapter isn’t to add to your already overflowing list of potential library candidates. Instead, it provides you with a list of ten libraries that work on every platform and provide basic services that just about everyone will need. Think of this chapter as a source for a core group of libraries to use for your next coding adventure.
Developing a Secure Environment
Data security is an essential part of any programming effort. The reason that applications are so valued is that they make it easy to manipulate and use data of all sorts. However, the application must protect the data or the efforts to work with it are lost. It’s the data that is ultimately the valuable part of a business — the application is simply a tool. Part of protecting the data is to ensure that no one can steal it or use it in a manner that the originator didn’t intend, which is where cryptographic libraries such as PyCrypto (https://
www.dlitz.net/software/pycrypto/) come into play.
The main purpose of this library is to turn your data into something that others can’t read while it sits in permanent storage. The purposeful modification of data in this manner is called encryption. However, when you read the data into memory, a decryption routine takes the mangled data and turns it back into its original form so that the application can manage it. At the center of all this is the key, which is used to encrypt and decrypt the data. Ensuring that the key remains safe is part of your application coding as well. You can read the data because you have the key; no others can because they lack the key.
Interacting with Databases
A database is essentially an organized manner of storing repetitive or structured data on disk. For example, customer records (individual entries in the database) are repetitive because each customer has the same sort of information requirements, such as name, address, and telephone number. The precise organization of the data determines the sort of database you’re using. Some database products specialize in text organization, others in tabular information, and still others in random bits of data (such as readings taken from a scientific instrument). Databases can use a tree-like structure or a flat-file configuration to store data. You’ll hear all sorts of odd terms when you start looking into DataBase Management System (DBMS) technology — most of which mean
something only to a DataBase Administrator (DBA) and won’t matter to you.
Chapter 20: Ten Libraries You Need to Know About 359
The most common type of database is called a Relational DataBase Management System (RDBMS), which uses tables that are organized into records and fields (just like a table you might draw on a sheet of paper). Each field is part of a column of the same kind of information, such as the customer’s name. Tables are related to each other in various ways, so creating complex relationships is possible. For example, each customer may have one or more entries in a purchase order table, and the customer table and the purchase order table are therefore related to each other.
An RDBMS relies on a special language called the Structured Query Language (SQL) to access the individual records inside. Of course, you need some means of interacting with both the RDBMS and SQL, which is where SQLAlchemy
(http://www.sqlalchemy.org/) comes into play. This product reduces the
amount of work needed to ask the database to perform tasks such as returning a specific customer record, creating a new customer record, updating an existing customer record, and deleting an old customer record.
Seeing the World Using Google Maps
Geocoding (the finding of geographic coordinates, such as longitude and latitude from geographic data, such as address) has lots of uses in the world today. People use the information to do everything from finding a good
restaurant to locating a lost hiker in the mountains. Getting from one place to another often revolves around geocoding today as well. Google Maps
(https://pypi.python.org/pypi/googlemaps/) lets you add direc-
tional data to your applications.
In addition to getting from one point to another or finding a lost soul in the desert, Google Maps can also help in Geographic Information System (GIS)
applications. The “Helping People Decide on Location” section of Chapter 18
describes this particular technology in more detail, but essentially, GIS is all about deciding on a location for something or determining why one location works better than another location for a particular task. In short, Google Maps presents your application with a look at the outside world that it can use to help your user make decisions.
Adding a Graphical User
Interface Using TkInter
Users respond to the Graphical User Interface (GUI) because it’s friendlier and requires less thought than using a command-line interface. Many products out there can give your Python application a GUI. However, the most
360 Part V: The Part of Tens
commonly used product is TkInter (https://wiki.python.org/moin/
TkInter). Developers like it so much because TkInter keeps things simple.
It’s actually an interface for the Tool Command Language (Tcl)/Toolkit (Tk) found at http://www.tcl.tk/. A number of languages use Tcl/Tk as the
basis for creating a GUI.
You might not relish the idea of adding a GUI to your application. Doing so tends to be time consuming and doesn’t make the application any more functional (it also slows the application down in many cases). The point is that users like GUIs, and if you want your application to see strong use, you need to meet user requirements.
Providing a Nice Tabular Data
Presentation Using PrettyTable
Displaying tabular data in a manner the user can understand is important.
From the examples you’ve seen throughout the book, you know that Python
stores this type of data in a form that works best for programming needs.
However, users need something that is organized in a manner that humans
understand and that is visually appealing. The PrettyTable library (https://
pypi.python.org/pypi/PrettyTable) makes it easy to add an appealing
tabular presentation to your command-line application.
Enhancing Your Application
with Sound Using PyAudio
Sound is a useful way to convey certain types of information to the user. Of course, you have to be careful in using sound because special-needs users might not be able to hear it, and for those who can, using too much sound can interfere with normal business operations. However, sometimes audio is an important means of communicating supplementary information to users
who can interact with it (or of simply adding a bit of pizzazz to make your application more interesting).
One of the better platform-independent libraries to make sound work with
your Python application is PyAudio (http://people.csail.mit.edu/
hubert/pyaudio/). This library makes it possible to record and play back
sounds as needed (such as a user recording an audio note of tasks to perform later and then playing back the list of items as needed).
Chapter 20: Ten Libraries You Need to Know About 361
Classifying Python sound technologies
It’s important to realize that sound comes in can see a list of these libraries at https://
many forms in computers. The basic multimewiki.python.org/moin/Audio.
dia services provided by Python (see the docu
However, these libraries usually focus on busimentation at https://docs.python.
ness needs, such as recording notes and playorg/3/library/mm.html) provide ing them back later. Hifidelity output isn’t part essential playback functionality. You can also of the plan for these libraries.
write certain types of audio files, but the selection of file formats is limited. In addition, some Gamers need special audio support to ensure modules, such as winsound (
that they can hear special effects, such as a
monster walking behind them. These needs
d o c s . p y t h o n . o r g / 3 / l i b r a r y /
are addressed by libraries such as PyGame
winsound.html), are platform dependent, so you can’t use them in an application (http://www.pygame.org/news.
designed to work everywhere. The standard html). When using these libraries, you need Python offerings are designed to provide basic higherend equipment and have to plan to spend multimedia support for playing back system considerable time working on just the audio feasounds.
tures of your application. You can see a list of
these libraries at https://wiki.python.
The middle ground, augmented audio functionorg/moin/PythonGameLibraries.
ality designed to improve application usability,
is covered by libraries such as PyAudio. You
Working with sound on a computer always involves trade-offs. For example, a platform-independent library can’t take advantage of special features that a particular platform might possess. In addition, it might not support all the file formats that a particular platform uses. The reason to use a platform-independent library is to ensure that your application provides basic sound support on all systems that it might interact with.
Manipulating Images Using PyQtGraph
Humans are visually oriented. If you show someone a table of informa-
tion and then show the same information as a graph, the graph is always
the winner when it comes to conveying information. Graphs help people
see trends and understand why the data has taken the course that it has.
However, getting those pixels that represent the tabular information onscreen is difficult, which is why you need a library such as PyQtGraph (http://
www.pyqtgraph.org/) to make things simpler.
362 Part V: The Part of Tens
Even though the library is designed around engineering, mathematical, and scientific requirements, you have no reason to avoid using it for other purposes. PyQtGraph supports both 2D and 3D displays, and you can use it to
generate new graphics based on numeric input. The output is completely
interactive, so a user can select image areas for enhancement or other sorts of manipulation. In addition, the library comes with a wealth of useful widgets (controls, such as buttons, that you can display onscreen) to make the coding process even easier.
Unlike many of the offerings in this chapter, PyQtGraph isn’t a free-standing library, which means that you must have other products installed to use it.
This isn’t unexpected because PyQtGraph is doing quite a lot of work. You need these items installed on your system to use it:
✓ Python version 2.7 or above
✓ PyQt version 4.8 or above (https://wiki.python.org/moin/PyQt)
or PySide (https://wiki.python.org/moin/PySide)
✓ numpy (http://www.numpy.org/)
✓ scipy (http://www.scipy.org/)
✓ PyOpenGL (http://pyopengl.sourceforge.net/)
Locating Your Information Using IRLib
Finding your information can be difficult when the information grows to a certain size. Consider your hard drive as a large, free-form, tree-based database that lacks a useful index. Any time such a structure becomes large enough, data simply gets lost. (Just try to find those pictures you took last summer and you’ll get the idea.) As a result, having some type of search capability built into your application is important so that users can find that lost file or other information.
A number of search libraries are available for Python. The problem with most of them is that they are hard to install or don’t provide consistent platform support. In fact, some of them work on only one or two platforms. However, IRLib (https://github.com/gr33ndata/irlib) is written in pure Python,
which ensures that it works on every platform. If you find that IRLib doesn’t meet your needs, make sure the product you do get will provide the required search functionality on all the platforms you select and that the installation requirements are within reason.
Chapter 20: Ten Libraries You Need to Know About 363
IRLab works by creating a search index of whatever information you want
to work with. You can then save this index to disk for later use. The search mechanism works through the use of metrics — you locate one or more
entries that provide a best fit for the search criteria.
Creating an Interoperable Java
Environment Using JPype
Python does provide access to a huge array of libraries, and you’re really unlikely to use them all. However, you might be in a situation in which you find a Java library that is a perfect fit but can’t use it from your Python application unless you’re willing to jump through a whole bunch of hoops. The
JPype library (http://jpype.sourceforge.net/) makes it possible to
access most (but not all) of the Java libraries out there directly from Python.
The library works by creating a bridge between the two languages at the
byte-code level. Consequently, you don’t have to do anything weird to get your Python application to work with Java.
Converting your Python application to Java
There are many different ways to achieve access to some Java libraries. In addition, interoperability between two languages. Creating there is a speed penalty in using this approach a bridge between them, as JPype does, is one because the JPype bridge is constantly conway. Another alternative is to convert the code verting calls and data. The problem with Jython created for one language into code for the other is that you lose the ability to modify your code language. This is the approach used by Jython after conversion. Any changes that you make (https://wiki.python.org/jython/). will create an incompatibility between the origi
This utility converts your Python code into Java nal Python code and its Java counterpart. In code so that you can make full use of Java funcshort, no perfect solutions exist for the problem tionality in your application while maintaining the of getting the best features of two languages features that you like about Python.
into one application.
You’ll encounter tradeoffs in language interoperability no matter
which solution you use. In the
case of JPype, you won’t have
364 Part V: The Part of Tens
Accessing Local Network Resources
Using Twisted Matrix
Depending on your network setup, you may need access to files and other
resources that you can’t reach using the platform’s native capabilities. In this case, you need a library that makes such access possible, such as Twisted Matrix (https://twistedmatrix.com/trac/). The basic idea behind this
library is to provide you with the calls needed to establish a connection, no matter what sort of protocol is in use.
The feature that makes this library so useful is its event-driven nature. This means that your application need not get hung up while waiting for the network to respond. In addition, the use of an event-driven setup makes asyn-chronous communication (in which a request is sent by one routine and then handled by a completely separate routine) easy to implement.
Accessing Internet Resources
Although products such as Twisted Matrix can handle online communica-
tion, getting a dedicated HTTP protocol library is often a better option when working with the Internet because a dedicated library is both faster and more feature complete. When you specifically need HTTP or HTTPS support, using a library such as httplib2 (https://github.com/jcgregorio/httplib2)
is a good idea. This library is written in pure Python and makes handling HTTP-specific needs, such as setting a Keep-Alive value, relatively easy. (A Keep-Alive is a value that determines how long a port stays open waiting for a response so that the application doesn’t have to continuously re-create the connection, wasting resources and time as a result.)
You can use httplib2 for any Internet-specific methodology — it provides
full support for both the GET and POST request methods. This library also includes routines for standard Internet compression methods, such as deflate and gzip. It also supports a level of automation. For example, httplib2 adds ETags back into PUT requests when resources are already cached.