Automate the Boring Stuff with Python - PDF

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Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart

“You’ve just done in two hours what it takes the three of us two days to do.” My college roommate was working at a retail electronics store in the early 2000s. Occasionally, the store would receive a spreadsheet of thousands of product prices from its competitor. A team of three employees would print the spreadsheet onto a thick stack of paper and split it among themselves. For each product price, they would look up their store’s price and note all the products that their competitors sold for less. It usually took a couple of days.


“You know, I could write a program to do that if you have the original file for the printouts,” my roommate told them, when he saw them sitting on the floor with papers scattered and stacked around them.


After a couple of hours, he had a short program that read a competitor’s price from a file, found the product in the store’s database, and noted whether the competitor was cheaper. He was still new to programming, and he spent most of his time looking up documentation in a programming book. The actual program took only a few seconds to run. My roommate and his co-workers took an extra-long lunch that day.


This is the power of computer programming. A computer is like a Swiss Army knife that you can configure for countless tasks. Many people spend hours clicking and typing to perform repetitive tasks, unaware that the machine they’re using could do their job in seconds if they gave it the right instructions.


Whom Is This Book For?

Software is at the core of so many of the tools we use today: Nearly everyone uses social networks to communicate, many people have Internet-connected computers in their phones, and most office jobs involve interacting with a computer to get work done. As a result, the demand for people who can code has skyrocketed. Countless books, interactive web tutorials, and developer boot camps promise to turn ambitious beginners into software engineers with six-figure salaries.


This book is not for those people. It’s for everyone else.


On its own, this book won’t turn you into a professional software developer any more than a few guitar lessons will turn you into a rock star. But if you’re an office worker, administrator, academic, or anyone else who uses a computer for work or fun, you will learn the basics of programming so that you can automate simple tasks such as the following:

- Moving and renaming thousands of files and sorting them into folders

- Filling out online forms, no typing required

- Downloading files or copy text from a website whenever it updates

- Having your computer text you custom notifications

- Updating or formatting Excel spreadsheets

- Checking your email and sending out prewritten responses


These tasks are simple but time-consuming for humans, and they’re often so trivial or specific that there’s no ready-made software to perform them. Armed with a little bit of programming knowledge, you can have your computer do these tasks for you.


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