Python is a powerful programming language that’s good for a lot of things. I mainly use it for data scraping, parsing, munging, etc, and more recently, for the Web, and I’ve left visualization up to other languages.
But why not use Python for visualization too? That way you can have everything in one language and all the gears can fit together a little easier. Beginning Python Visualization (BPV) by Shai Vaingast is a guide to help you do this.
While you might need a little bit of programming experience to fully make use of this book, Vaingast provides plenty of examples and explanations for you to easily learn how to use Python’s visualization options.
What Beginning Python Visualization Covers
I should back up a little bit first. BPV doesn’t just cover the actual visualization options. It starts from the very beginning (well, close to it at least) – at the data. It goes into some about how to collect data and then goes deeper into reading, parsing, and formatting your data once you’ve got it.
There are a lot of online tutorials on how to do that stuff, but it was good to have everything in one place and to find out the right way to do things from an expert.
After the data munging section, BPV gets into the visualization topics you’d expect. It starts with your basic graphs and how to draw in Python. It then covers more scientific visualization with splines, interpolation, and some signal processing.
You can look at the table of contents on the Amazon page for more details on book content.
Who this is For
BPV is for a semi-technical audience. If you have absolutely no programming experience, then this book probably isn’t for you.
My main reason for saying this is not because the examples are confusing – they’re pretty straightforward; rather, a lot of the code and explanations in BPV rely on Python packages like SciPy, NumPy, and Matplotlib. That means you have to install these before you can go through the examples, which took a while for me to get working, but maybe that’s just me.
The Bottom Line
Once I got the packages installed correctly though, it was smooth sailing. Everything is explained clearly, and I’m sure I’ll be referring back to it as I use Python more.
Bottom line: If you’re a coding beginner, this book could be useful to you if you can get someone to install a few Python packages on your system. If you do know a little bit of Python though and want to use it to visualize data, Beginning Python Visualization is a good book to have that can serve as a guide and a handy reference.
UPDATE: Get a free copy
Leave a comment below by this Sunday at 8pm EST, and I’ll select someone at random for a free e-copy of Beginning Python Visualization. Make sure you use a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Thanks, Apress!