Monday, August 31, 2009

Jonathan Hartley and Brett Cannon Review IronPython in Action

It's good to have friends in high places, and two of them have reviewed IronPython in Action. Both Jonathan Hartley and Brett Cannon are experienced Python developers.

Jonathan Hartley is a colleague of mine at Resolver Systems where we have been working full time with IronPython for the last few years. I finally managed to blackmail him into actually reading IronPython in Action. Despite this he seemed to genuinely enjoy it and has posted a glowing review. The first paragraphs of the review have some interesting things to say about the place of IronPython in the Python world, which is the section I've quoted below:
Having spent some years working with .NET, and with a series of intriguing personal experiments in Python under my belt, I originally approached IronPython some years ago with a modicum of of trepidation. I feared that the weld between the two would be intrusively visible, forming distracting differences from regular Python. I feared for the execution environment, the data types, and perhaps even the syntax itself.

Experience with IronPython showed these worries were needless. I have found IronPython to be a remarkably pleasant marriage – the same elegant language we know and love, given first-class status in the .NET runtime. Gifted with seamless interoperability with other .NET languages, the dowry from such an alliance turns out to be all the .NET libraries in the world, including the substantial and highly capable .NET standard libraries themselves.

IronPython is, to some extent, a niche implementation of a niche language. However, its position seems to potentially be one of importance and strength. Not only does it allow Python programmers to use .NET libraries – and does so admirably, but it also allows the existing legions of .NET programmers to be introduced to the joys of Python. They will fall in love with it, and will be able to introduce it into their workplaces in a way that is politically acceptable. After all, it is now simply another .NET language. Since .NET is orders of magnitude more popular than Python, this could yet turn out to be the most important source of future Python adoption.
Brett Cannon is one of the core Python developers, and despite not developing on Windows he has a keen interest in alternative implementations of Python and has reviewed IronPython in Action:
To the point: if you need to program for Windows and you want to use Python, you should get IronPython in Action. The book does a good job of walking you through examples covering all the major APIs and tools a Windows programmer will end up using for whatever project they are working on.

I actually read this book while I ate breakfast most mornings. Now that's nothing special, but considering I actually continued to read/skim this book even though I have not actively used a Windows box since 2001 should tell you something. This book is clearly written, and does a good job to point out gotchas you might run into through example. But it also does a good job of not overloading you with extraneous info that you could get from other reference sources (every computer book should have something like Appendix C that is nothing more than a list of URLs for reference material). And as an added perk the authors try to be humorous when possible and are even willing to poke fun at Windows.

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