Chapter -1. 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.
In Files, you’ll learn the difference between reading files in “binary” and “text” mode. Reading (and writing!) files in text mode requires an encoding parameter. Some text file methods count characters, but other methods count bytes. If your code assumes that one character == one byte, it will break on multi-byte characters.
In http Web Services, the httplib2 module fetches headers and data over http. http headers are returned as strings, but the http body is returned as bytes.
In Serializing Python Objects, you’ll learn why the pickle module in Python 3 defines a new data format that is backwardly incompatible with Python 2. (Hint: it’s because of bytes and strings.) Also, Python 3 supports serializing objects to and from json, which doesn’t even have a bytes type. I’ll show you how to hack around that.
In Case study: porting chardet to Python 3, it’s just a bloody mess of bytes and strings everywhere.
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.Dive into python 3. chapter -1