This chapter discusses Python capabilities that are likely to be used in text processing applications. For an introduction to Python syntax and semantics per se, readers might want to skip ahead to Appendix A (A Selective and Impressionistic Short Review of Python); Guido van Rossum's Python Tutorial at <http://python.org/doc/current/tut/tut.html> is also quite excellent. The focus here occupies a somewhat higher level: not the Python language narrowly, but also not yet specific to text processing.
In Section 1.1, I look at some programming techniques that flow out of the Python language itself, but that are usually not obvious to Python beginners and are sometimes not obvious even to intermediate Python programmers. The programming techniques that are discussed are ones that tend to be applicable to text processing contexts other programming tasks are likely to have their own tricks and idioms that are not explicitly documented in this book.
In Section 1.2, I document modules in the Python standard library that you will probably use in your text processing application, or at the very least want to keep in the back of your mind. A number of other Python standard library modules are far enough afield of text processing that you are unlikely to use them in this type of application. Such remaining modules are documented very briefly with one- or two-line descriptions. More details on each module can be found with Python's standard documentation.