For this course you can use either CoCalc or Anaconda. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but both contain all the data processing software needed for this course: the Python programming language, the data analysis module Pandas, the Jupyter notebook application, and the IPython environment for executing Python code in a Jupyter notebook.
CoCalc is a free online service. The advantages are that you don't have to install any software and you can work on the course exercises from anywhere there is an internet connection. The disadvantages are that you need a good internet connection, running the code in your notebook may take time if there are many simultaneous users on CoCalc, and you may occasionally lose the latest changes you did to your notebook because the service will periodically reset. However, notebooks are regularly saved automatically and you can also save after each change, so the risk of losing work should be rather small. CoCalc offers a paid plan that has better performance and stability than the free plan. The Open University, Futurelearn and the educators have no commercial affiliation with CoCalc.
The other option is to install on your laptop or desktop the free Anaconda package. The disadvantages are that you will need about 3GB of disk space, and that you might run into installation problems, especially on older Windows versions. The advantage is that Anaconda runs locally on your machine and therefore doesn't have the limitations of CoCalc . We recommend you use Anaconda if you are always going to work on this course from the same computer. If you plan to work on this course from multiple computers, you will need to install Anaconda on each one. You can use cloud storage, like Dropbox, to keep your notebooks in sync across machines.
When you’ve decided whether to use CoCalc or Anaconda, please follow the corresponding instructions below. Note that this installation page, CoCalc, notebooks and other things may now look slightly different to how they looked when the videos were produced.
To use CoCalc (formerly known as SageMathCloud) you need a modern web browser and this notebook to test your installation. To create a CoCalc account and test everything is working, follow the instructions on this video:
Download the latest version of Anaconda from here.
Make sure you download the version for your operating system (Windows Vista or more recent, Mac OS 10.9 or more recent, or Linux). Make sure you download the Python 3.6 version (or higher), not the Python 2.7 version.
If you need further help, consult the installation documentation.
Testing your Anaconda installation
Before closing Anaconda you should check that it is working correctly. After following the steps above, you should have a web browser window with the Jupyter logo and a list of the folders in your home directory, which is typically C:\users\<your username> on Windows, and /Users/<your username> on a Mac.
- Within the web browser window, navigate to a folder of your choice (e.g. ‘Documents’) and create there a new folder for this course, by clicking on ‘New’ and then ‘Folder’ on the right side of the window. The new folder should not be on an external or virtual drive as Jupyter might not be able to find it later.
- Click the checkbox next to the new folder, click ‘Rename’ and give the folder an appropriate name, e.g. ‘Learn to Code’. Then click on the new folder name to go into that folder.
- Download this test notebook to the newly created folder. Do not attempt to open the file, e.g. by double-clicking it. If the file hasn’t the .ipynb extension, click on the checkbox and the ‘Rename’ button to give it the correct extension.
- In the Jupyter web browser window, click on the test notebook to open it and follow the instructions in the notebook.
- After closing the notebook, close the Jupyter web browser window and finally close the terminal window.
The following video illustrates the above steps on a Mac.
- When you open a notebook you might see an error ‘Failed to retrieve MathJax from ‘https://cdn.mathjax.org.mathjax/latest/MathJax.js’’, you should close the notebook, connect to the internet then reopen the notebook.
If you have followed the instructions for your operating system and are still having problems installing Anaconda, you could try asking for help in the public support forum for Anaconda (if you can't access this forum you can try this support forum instead).